By Sarah Sims
Performance management can dominate our time in the office and can drain our leadership if not balanced well. I myself struggle at times to walk the line of being a hands-on boss with no shortage of ideas and opinions to share, with also being a leader who gets out of my staff members’ way and allows them to flourish in their own work. We want it all—information, insight, accountability, but also happy, empowered employees who aren’t hamstringed with too much management. (There is a BIG difference between management and leadership, but that’s a topic for another day.)
As a result of this delicate balance, I have instituted a simple information gathering mechanism with my teams. Every Friday afternoon, each team member submits a bulleted list of projects or initiatives they completed that week. Not every task on their to-do list. Not standard, every day work such as pulling reports, writing content, or answering emails. Not a detailed recording of how they spent their time. But a bulleted list of projects they actively moved forward that week and delivered to a constituent—whether it be an internal partner or an external donor. Action items that moved a donor, the team, or the organization forward in some manner—whether in large or small ways. Sometimes this is one or two bullets, others it’s eight or nine depending on the complexity of the work at hand. Our team coordinator compiles all submissions in a word document and sends to me by end of day on Friday.
I will admit, this was born out of a place of frustration many years ago when I was new and couldn’t put my finger on how the team was spending their time. I was having trouble articulating to my leadership and the rest of our organization the day-to-day impact our work was having on the organization. I was also spending way too much time tracking down individuals to attain status reports and to be briefed on projection completion.
This heightened accountability and transparency wasn’t comfortable at first—it felt awkward, stilted, and prescribed. But now, with a stellar, well-seasoned team, the report happens like clock-work and is simple for the team to contribute. I read each and every one of these reports and while unsophisticated in nature, they provide a wealth of information and insight:
Key project updates and dissemination of results
Trends in workloads and busy seasons (allows me to address proactively or reallocate as necessary)
Patterns in individual performance
Patterns in collaboration and responsibility cross-over
Where team members may be prioritizing their time and if that’s in alignment with team and organization objectives
Allows me to see in real time the end-products we are providing to our key constituents each week
Gives me timely data and bragging points to utilize when talking with my leadership
It’s not rocket science, but it’s effective. I still have many opportunities for more personal connections with team and 1:1 meetings, but this report is a simple communication tool anyone can implement. I encourage you to consider it when developing your own leadership toolbox!
This post was written by Sarah Sims. Sarah is a consultant and educator with the DRG Group and serves as the Executive Director of Donor Relations at the University of Florida. Sarah is a leader in the donor relations field with more than 15 years’ experience. Drawing from her strengths in strategy and execution, Sarah is always looking for ways to turn challenges into opportunities.