Performance management

Apr 28, 2024

This strategy empowers leaders to align their teams with organizational goals, provide feedback and recognition, and foster a culture of growth.

The transition from individual contributor to having direct reports can be incredibly challenging, and one of the most difficult components of leading people is performance management. This continues to be evident as even seasoned managers have difficulties when it comes to performance management, and this has only become more trying as the pace of our industry has accelerated and people interact face-to-face less.

Successful performance management looks different depending on the individual, but putting one’s own authentic twist on the general format spelled out below will lead to more consistently successful performance management within the groups you oversee. It is critical to remember that performance management helps managers align their teams with the organizational goals, provide feedback and recognition, and foster a culture of growth. Let’s take a look at some of the effective strategies for performance management for technical teams, and how they can help you achieve better results and satisfaction for your team members:

  • Set clear expectations. Setting clear expectations is a crucial aspect of managing a team effectively. This establishes the foundation of the manager/direct report relationship and any discrepancy between what the manager expects, and what the direct report thinks is expected of them can lead to misaligned views of their performance. Therefore, it is important to communicate your expectations clearly and concisely, ideally in writing, so that team members understand what is expected of them and can work toward meeting those expectations.
    For example, if senior engineers are expected to win their own work, put it in the job description and provide measurable goals such as pipeline and orders. This is one area where I see companies being vague which can lead to friction between the manager and the senior engineer. Sharing expectations tailored to the roles and responsibilities of the position, with as much specificity as possible is important in eliminating any grey area. Providing these expectations for all levels can also be a transparent way to allow individuals to work toward their next position. By setting clear expectations, you can help to create a more productive and harmonious work environment.
  • Provide timely and constructive feedback. Feedback is the next essential component of performance management, as it helps your team members know how they are doing, what they are doing well, and what they need to improve upon. Providing feedback that is both timely and constructive will also help build trust and rapport with your team. However, occasional, or inconsistent feedback that is critical in nature or focused solely on shortcomings can negatively impact employee morale. This can best be facilitated during recurring touch base meetings, not by waiting for formal performance reviews. Constructive feedback means that you provide your team members with specific, actionable, and balanced feedback, not just vague, generic, or harsh feedback. It is also important to remember to give feedback about the action not the person. This will help avoid the tendency of the individual receiving feedback to get defensive. One particularly effective method for delivering feedback is the STAR method. This involves describing the Situation, Task, Action, and Result of the feedback.
  • Recognize positive contributions. It is important to remember to intentionally take the time to recognize the positive contributions team members make. This is one way to help team members feel valued and appreciated, while also increasing motivation and engagement. Another critical component of providing positive feedback is avoiding the appearance of only recognizing negative instances of performance. People are not inspired or motivated by someone they view as overly negative. Recognition and reward can also help you create a positive and supportive work environment and foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration. Recognition and reward can take various forms:
    • It can be as simple as verbal praise. There is power in saying “thank you” to someone doing the small things correctly.
    • Public recognition, such as announcing or showcasing your team’s achievements in a meeting, a newsletter, or a social media platform.
    • Tangible rewards, such as bonuses, incentives, gifts, or certificates.
    • Career development opportunities like training or mentoring.
  • Use available resources. The last strategy for effective performance management is to use the resources you have available. When preparing for a potentially difficult conversation or review, talk through the situation with your human resources representative, if possible, or a peer to gain an outsider’s perspective. This can often help fine-tune the feedback to ensure that you maximize its effectiveness. Connect with your human resources representative to support your preparation as this will help ensure you are in compliance with your company’s policies and procedures.

Whether a new or seasoned leader of people, if you set clear expectations, provide timely feedback in a constructive manner, recognize the wins of your team members, and use the resources you have at your disposal in preparation for challenging conversations, you will be more effective at performance management. Not only will you be more effective when managing the performance of your team, they will be more engaged leading to higher levels of performance. 

John Butt, MBA is interim civil director at Ulteig. Contact him at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.