Leadership
7 min read

How to Evaluate Manager Performance: A Guide for HR Professionals (2022)

January 28, 2022

Evaluate manager performance

When it comes to the ideal manager, they will be often have high levels of both emotional intelligence and self-awareness, they'll be great communicators, they'll be influential, and they'll be trusted by the people they lead.

Ultimately, they will have the skills and qualities to lead their teams to success.

But while this is what the ideal manager may look like, it's not always the reality.

Why? 

Because in many organizations, there is not only a lack of appropriate manager training, but there's also a lack of support and tools for evaluating these managers.

Which means that while you may indeed have some great managers within your organization, you may also have some not so great ones. You know, the kinds of managers that, at best, micromanage their teams, and at worst, are all out toxic.  

So, how can you ensure that all your managers are of the good kind? And how can you effectively monitor their performance—and the performance of the teams they lead—so that you can react to any issues before they escalate, and identify opportunities to develop them as leaders?

Well, in this article, we'll answer just that. In fact, we'll provide eight metrics you can assess to determine just how good of a job your managers are doing, and provide you with guidance on how to use this insight to develop them into world-class leaders.

Download Evaluating Manager Performance PDF

Why evaluate manager performance?

Leadership competency is key to business success, yet Gallup reports that companies choose the wrong leadership talent 82% of the time.

Which makes leadership one of the biggest issues for CEOs.

So, what's causing this problem?

Well to start with, a lack of effective leadership coaching. In other words, a lack of coaching that actually sticks.

But also a lack of insight into just how well managers (and their teams) are performing, and the specific areas they may need support on. 

Being able to effectively evaluate manager performance is therefore essential for understanding the effectiveness of leadership across the company, to learn where each manager's strengths and weaknesses are, and to identify gaps for additional L&D.

Key manager competencies

For managers to be successful, they need to have specific management competencies, for example certain skills, habits, knowledge and attitudes that enable them to effectively manage their direct reports, and contribute to workplace productivity. 

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania say the most in demand manager competencies include communication, motivation, strategic thinking, delegation, and emotional intelligence.

The problem is, these competencies can't be easily measured. 

So, what can be?

In the section below, we've outlined eight ways you can (and should) review and evaluate the performance of your managers.

Eight ways to assess leadership performance

1. Continuous performance enablement discussions

While it's important that managers are having continuous performance management discussions with their direct reports, it's also important that their own managers (whether that be a more senior manager, director, or even the CEO) are having these same conversations with them. 

Why?

Because just like their team members, they too need ongoing developmental support and regular feedback. Which is exactly what performance enablement offers. 

In fact, unlike the more traditional annual or biannual performance appraisals, this approach to performance management is based on continuous feedback conversations that take place as often as every week, typically in one-to-one meetings.

And when conducted correctly, these regular discussions can be used to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and drivers of each manager. 

2. L&D metrics

Another way to evaluate manager performance is by tracking how well your L&D programs are performing. 

After all, by measuring the impact of your learning and development initiatives, you can keep an eye—from a distance—on how well your managers and their teams are doing. Yes, L&D programs often focus on improving individual performance, but high performing teams are led by exceptional managers who implement what they've learned, and encourage their teams to develop too. 

So, what metrics should you be tracking?

The best place to start is with technology utilization, whether that be your LMS or a digital coaching platform

By understanding usage, you can begin to paint a picture of just how well your managers are using the resources available to them to develop themselves and their teams. You may specifically want to look at:

  • How often managers and their teams are consuming the learning content you're providing through your LMS
  • How frequently they're completing development courses
  • How often they're leading team exercises

3. Team outcomes

Behind every successful team is a great manager, and team outcomes can provide you with great insight into just how well the manager leading the team is performing. 

But what are the different team outcomes you should be looking at?

  • Team performance

The overall performance of a team is a great indicator of just how well a manager is (or isn't) developing their team. 

To determine team performance, you may want to start by looking at whether team goals are being met.

  • Employee engagement

What are your employee engagement scores? An employee's engagement is often a direct result of their interactions with their manager. After all, engaged employees tend to be very well supported by their managers.

You can assess employee engagement by looking at Employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS).

  • Psychological safety

Teams with psychological safety feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work everyday. They feel empowered to ask awkward questions and challenge the status quo, and they also tend to perform to the best of their ability. 

Leszek Dudkiewicz, Head of Marketing & SEO at Passport Photo Online says:

“It's important to create a positive and enthusiastic work environment where it is safe to fail. Many people are terrified of making mistakes that block their potential and value—in contrast, building a well-being workplace where celebratory, instructive, and constructive feedback is the solution. If errors are hidden, there is no space for learning and improvement, neither the employee nor the team.”

The thing is, psychological safety is often dependent on the actions of the manager. Which is why it's important that you're tracking whether or not they're developing the right habits. The habits that specifically help to build trust in teams, such as establishing behavioral norms and meeting ground rules, for example.

With the right tool, you can not only track just how well your teams are developing these habits (if at all), but also gauge an understanding of the levels of motivation each team has to make changes, as well as the levels of psychological safety within that team, for example of how comfortable they feel with raising tough issues.

In addition to providing you with this insight, a digital platform such as Saberr will provide actionable guidance to help the teams in question improve in the areas they need most support.

4. Team health checks

Team health checks are another great way to evaluate leadership performance. 

But what are they? 

At their most basic level, team health checks quite simply assess a team against the attributes found in other healthy, productive teams. They allow both HR and leadership themselves to really understand what's going on within a team. For example:

  • What are the trust and psychological safety levels like within the team?
  • How are the relationships between teammates? 
  • Is there a culture of constructive criticism and feedback?
  • Are team members able to raise issues and fix them quickly?
  • Are team members comfortable sharing feelings easily?

Ultimately, these team health checks help HR to pinpoint the teams that need additional support (and subsequently the managers that therefore need additional support in leading that team). 

A simple way to carry out a team health check is with the 3 Gets, a research driven, practical way of developing high performing teams.

It condenses a vast body of research and scientific literature into a simple framework to help every leader evaluate where they need to focus, in order to help their team perform at the top of their game.

5. 360 degree review

360 degree reviews can offer a great way to evaluate leadership performance.

Why?

Because they incorporates feedback from both the top down, and the bottom up. 

In fact, this insight can specifically help HR to identify areas where managers require additional leadership development support, helping to form the basis of an effective leadership coaching program

But if you're hoping that sending these managers to a one-time leadership training course will help, it won't. At least not without reinforcement.

Why?

Because employees that solely attend training courses will forget as much as 70% of what they learn within just 24 hours.

Which means that for managers to truly develop as great leaders they therefore need to be putting what they learn into practice. In other words, they need to continue developing as leaders on-the-job, and in the flow of work. 

6. Feedback from team members

Feedback is such an important aspect of teamwork, but the problem is that it's often only delivered top-down, from managers to their team members.

Feedback shouldn't be a one way street though. It should flow both ways. In fact, quality feedback can help the whole team work better together, while improving management leadership, and helping to identify small issues before they escalate.

Which is why as an organization, you should be actively encouraging your managers to seek regular feedback from their teams.

More specifically, you should be encouraging them to make the process of giving and receiving feedback a habit. One that's embedded into team practice. 

While tools such as Saberr can help, your managers may also want to think about actively seeking feedback from their team members during their one-to-one meetings, asking questions such as:

  • What more do you need me to bring to the team?
  • Where do you think I should be focusing more of my attention?
  • If you were in my position, what would you do differently?
  • What would you want to be different the next time we speak?

If team members aren't forthcoming with feedback, it might be a sign of low levels of psychological safety in the team.

7. Retention rates

A high turnover rate within a team should be a red flag that the manager isn't performing. After all, as the saying goes: people leave managers, not companies.

Good managers coach and develop their teams, while supporting both the personal and professional development of their direct reports. And in many instances, employees that feel supported, stay.

It is important to bear in mind, however, that retention isn't just on the manager. It's also on the L&D team who need to equip the managers with the necessary tools and skills to be successful. And for both HR and leadership to create the right culture where employees feel valued and empowered to learn.

8. Habit formation

The strongest and most effective teams are built on a foundation of good habits. Seven habits, in fact.

These habits include:

  • Holding regular one-to-one meetings
  • Having an effective team meeting cadence
  • Having a clearly defined purpose
  • Having well defined goals
  • Having agreed behaviours and providing regular feedback
  • Holding regular team retrospective meetings to reflect
  • Having regular team health checks

Ensuring your managers (and the teams they lead) are developing these habits are not only crucial, but they also indicate that the team has a great leader.

But how do you track whether or not these teams are developing these habits?

In short, with a tool that can provide regular insights into how well teams are adopting these habits, along with the areas that they may need additional support in.

Final thoughts on evaluating leadership performance

Leadership is a soft skill that can be difficult to teach, and even harder to measure.

But it can be done.

In fact, by assessing the metrics outlined in this post, you can really begin to gain insight into just how well your managers are performing. Better yet, you can use this insight to develop them into exceptional leaders.

At Saberr, we help make this as easy as possible for you.

How?

To start with, we give you the tools to truly understand just how well each team across your organization is performing. You'll see the "performance gap" between each team, along with the levels of readiness to change within each. This will specifically help you understand just how motivated these teams are to change, and just how comfortable they are in raising issues, helping you prioritize the teams (and areas) that need more support. 

Support that will help them thrive.

But that's not all we do.

Ultimately, we help teams—and the managers that lead them—develop these critical habits. We do this using a combination of experiential and digital coaching, designed not only to motivate and educate your leaders, but also reinforce their learnings so that they can become better managers in the flow of their day-to-day work. 

Want to know more? Take a look at how we can help you build bespoke leadership development programs here, or alternatively book in for a call with us at a time that suits you.   

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