We hear it every weekend during football season. The losing team did not execute the fundamentals.
"Didn't take care of the football."
"Didn't wrap their arms on tackles."
Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Excellence is achieved by mastery of the fundamentals." The same is true in the working world. Management is complex, but here are the five fundamentals to make sure you get it right:
1. Set clear expectations. It makes common sense and it is backed up by research ("First, Break All the Rules," by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, 1999). Make sure that your direct reports are perfectly clear about what you expect of them. This includes job descriptions and lists of responsibilities, but also those often unwritten expectations. Write them down. Review responsibilities and expectations at least twice a year just to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
2. Set goals. Setting goals that are connected to expectations improves performance. This is also backed up by research ("A Theory of Goal Setting & Task Performance," by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, 1990), but it is truly remarkable how often managers don't do this with direct reports. Set them annually and quarterly, then follow-up. It is ideal to set goals for performance and for development. Make sure that performance goals are connected to the most important goals of the organization. Support each person's development goals with resources.
3. Provide encouragement and appreciation. It is the right thing to do, and guess what? Research on leadership and management demonstrates that it leads to higher levels of performance ("The Leadership Challenge," by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, 2012). This does not have to be complicated. At every staff meeting, for example, you can ask every person for their most recent proud accomplishment. Appreciation needs to be sincere and given on a regular basis.