Top Tips for First Time Managers: 10 Steps to Effective Performance Management

May 9, 2023

Every business should understand the importance of getting the most out of its teams; keeping them motivated and engaged as well as recognising the value of meaningful and effective performance management.

We’ve written up our top 10 tips to help first-time managers maximise the value in performance management.

Table of Contents

Understand and communicate the process

Whether you are new to the business or receiving your first line manager reports within the business, it’s vital you fully understand the organisation’s performance management process and communicate it clearly to your reports.  As a first-time manager you may have the desire to implement change if the current process doesn’t match your requirements, but this won’t happen overnight.  Diving straight in and changing the norm can lead to feelings of confusion or mistrust so it’s important to tread carefully, understand the current process and work to communicate and implement change over time.

Set the tone for working relationships

Communicate how you like to work as a manager and how you want to work and interact with your team, that way there shouldn’t be any surprises when it comes to discussing their performance on a basic level.  It’s also worthwhile letting them in on how you manage projects and deadlines and invite them to share the same detail.  All-too-often working relationships break down due to a lack of understanding on personal work styles.  If you’re taking on new reports, make sure you both understand what is expected of them and what support and guidance you will provide – setting clear expectations on work objectives is vital for effective performance management.

It’s OK to be friendly!

As a first-time manager you may think you have to put on a cold front to maintain a persona you might not fit.  Whilst it is important to keep a professional relationship, understanding and remembering personal details will help build better relationships with your team.  Making a note of children or pet’s names as well as remembering their hobbies will help you know the person behind the role they fill.  Appraisals will be much smoother if you are able to start the meeting with a quick ‘catch-up’ before moving onto the performance review.  Keeping files on every aspect of their life is clearly inappropriate, just don’t be the manager who fails to remember a long-time employee’s name.

Follow through

Performance reviews are an important part of employment, so it’s important you make time to complete them when you say you will.  Frequent rescheduling, late arrivals or turning up ill-prepared suggests to the employee that you do not value their time and will likely lead to low morale, motivation and as a result, poor performance.  If your employees don’t feel they can rely on you to conduct appraisals professionally, when it comes to more serious performance management matters, you’ll have a tough job to demonstrate you have acted appropriately with all aspects of the process.

Be honest and transparent

Let your team ‘in’ when you can and be open and honest about what’s possible – don’t make false promises or commit to things you know won’t happen or will need further authorisation for as this will only lead to reduced engagement if they don’t happen.  This applies to projects and work activities too.  Hoarding your notes, objectives and strategies for projects won’t help the wider team to share your approach and will be unlikely to achieve a successful outcome.  Sharing information lets everyone see what you want to achieve and how you want to get there, all-in-all making for a much more successful, collaborative project.

Check in – don’t check up!

Holding regular 1:2:1 style meetings is a great way to stay in touch – but it’s not always an option for regular contact.  Less formal interactions such as a quick “hello” in the morning can be expanded to a general “all OK?” check in and allows for open lines of communication to build trust both ways.  Make sure you are prepared to listen to their answer – especially if their response isn’t the usual “yes, thanks”

Build confidence – be thorough and competent

Always be prepared for meetings and reviews, getting a reputation for being late, flaky or disorganised will also leave your audience doubting your commitment and competence.  By building confidence in your approach, your employees are less likely to doubt your abilities.  Where possible, schedule meetings and send meeting invites well in advance of your meeting and when appropriate, distribute agendas ahead of time. Ensure any meeting minutes from previous sessions are updated and attached with invites as this allows your audience to arrive prepared too.  If you’re all on the same page, you are more likely to have a productive meeting.

Give meaningful reward and recognition

Endless or undue praise loses its impact and can then become irrelevant, even when given at the right time.  When provided as part of constructive feedback and review sessions, praise will be considered more genuine and have deeper meaning for the recipient.  Using it correctly also makes providing negative feedback simpler as it forms the narrative for performance management.  Employees will see straight through ‘false praise’, feeling you are ticking a box as giving positive recognition is something managers ‘need to do’.

Engage and empower, but don’t abdicate!

Allowing team members total autonomy in their role isn’t always an option but allowing employees certain freedoms in their activities will increase your overall employee experience, leading to better engagement and resulting in improved performance.


Where possible, involve your team in decision making.  On the whole, employees want to feel valued, and have people listen to and implement their suggestions.  You are unlikely to be able (or want) to implement all of their suggestions, so feeding back on negative or unsuccessful outcomes is just as important as letting them know you’ve implemented one.  Discussing why something isn’t possible – either temporarily or permanently – lets employees know you listened to their concern and have taken time out to talk them through the reasons it isn’t feasible, turning a negative situation into a more positive one.  Simply ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away and is more likely to lead to poorer performance.

Following these steps will help increase the employee experience, leading to better retention and help your organisation attract top talent.

If your company would benefit from HR support or soft skills training in this area, Vero HR can help. We can provide you with dedicated HR support services to effectively manage your workforce and assist with your small business HR requirements. Contact us to find out how we can help your organisation.

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