Why Should I Manage Up and Not Out?

Growing up in a large family, I’ve seen and experienced a variety of methods to teach, correct and reinforce behaviors. When my cousins and I would successfully recite our Easter speeches, we’d get candy. If we didn’t clean up our messes, we’d get chased with a “switch”. I’ll admit, there was more of the switching than the candy giving. Thinking back I’m like, “Man, they should have traded us in and got better kids!” They probably would have if they could have, but just like employers, they realized that it was easier to train up the ones they had rather than replacing us and starting over from scratch (and it was probably illegal). And since they were stuck with us, to get the results they desired, discipline was necessary but it did not replace the need for or replace constant teaching and development.

Present day, I have the opportunity to review the performance management processes for different companies and I’m quickly able to determine why employees are disconnected or just leaving all together and why employers don’t see the results they want. Their performance management processes aren’t structured to develop, but rather to terminate as soon as an employee misses a mark.

When managers are held accountable for production, they oftentimes get frustrated with the level of output from their teams or low performing individuals. The pressures they feel don’t afford them the luxury of patience, and effective communication goes out the window. Inconveniently for them, to get the quality results they need requires both time and patience. Something my grandmother had, some managers not so much.

So what is a manager to do when they have execs breathing down their necks expecting certain results like yesterday? Write ’em up, tell ’em to get it together, and show ’em the door….unrealistically hoping that the next person they recruit and bring in is ready made for the job.

Evaluating an under performing employee with the mindset that they already have one foot out of the door does them a disservice. If there has been no consistent and/or constructive feedback, the employee probably only knows how to do the job incorrectly or poorly. They are then expected to unlearn in a short amount of time what they haven’t been taught in the first place…or else?

Instead of coaching people out, it is imperative that employees be coached UP. Employees have to be evaluated with an end result in mind that they WILL be successful. No matter what. No team member left behind!

Managers must think:

  • I will train my people
  • I will observe them doing what has been taught
  • I will document and give feedback regularly
  • I will identify strengths and weaknesses and coach to their behaviors, not to their metrics
  • I will give timely and thorough evaluations to measure OUR progress


And if there is still a deficiency, we do it all again with a clear, reasonable, fair goal and timeline for improvement.

Successful coaching is dependent upon the manager’s attitude going in. Go in with a mindset to terminate, the results will be terminable. Enter with the desire to coach up, not only will the employee be happier and more likely to succeed, but so will the coach-er, by saving recruiting dollars, building a quality team and keeping the neck-breathing exec away by producing for the long term.


One thought on “Why Should I Manage Up and Not Out?

  1. Justin, you are right. TRAINING is very important and, in many cases, often forgotten. One thing I think we should mention: Some employees simply don’t want to remove the foot from the proverbial door. Why? They never intend to stay past a certain day/event. These can’t be coached UP because of their original intent.

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