Manager Performance Survey: How to Rate What Truly Counts

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "When They Win, You Win" by Russ Laraway. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you an effective manager? What would the people on your team say? What score would they give you?

Employee engagement in the workforce is at an all-time low. Russ Laraway says the solution is better management. He argues that managers must focus on goals, coaching, and career development, and he says that employees should rate the manager’s effectiveness in each of these areas.

Read more to get Laraway’s ideas for a manager performance survey that will help you know how you’re doing where it really counts.

Manager Performance Survey

Laraway, an employee experience expert, says that good managers focus on three key areas: setting goals and helping employees reach them, coaching team members to improve performance and build trust, and supporting employees in realizing their career goals. He recommends that you create and implement a manager performance survey that your employees can use to provide you with valuable feedback.


To see how well you’re doing at setting clear and reasonable goals as a manager, Laraway suggests sending an anonymous survey to your team. Ask your team members to rate you in the following goals-related areas.

(Shortform note: Some experts argue that despite the rapid growth of employee monitoring and data analysis tools, surveys remain one of the simplest and most effective ways to measure employee engagement. Surveys have other benefits as well: They give employees a chance to share their thoughts and feel like someone’s listening, and the questions you ask may prompt employees to think about their own behavior and performance. In other words, surveys don’t just measure engagement, they can actually help increase it.)


For example, ask: How clearly does your manager communicate with you? How well do you know what’s expected of you, and when it’s expected? How well does your manager explain changes in the company—what’s changing, why it’s changing, and how those changes will impact your job? How well do you understand how your work supports the company’s long-term or large-scale goals? 

(Shortform note: Laraway gives clear and specific examples of how you can talk to your team, but remember that communication is a two-way street; make sure your workers know that they can also talk to you when needed. One simple way to do this is to have a fixed time each day or each week when you leave your office door open; let your team members know they’re welcome to stop by during that time for anything they need to talk about.)


For example, ask these questions: How closely does your manager work with you when setting individual and team goals? How well does your manager help you prioritize your tasks so you can achieve those goals?

(Shortform note: Although collaboration—helping your employees to set and achieve their goals—is a key part of management, it’s important not to come across as overbearing or intimidating. Make it clear that your aim is collaboration, not control or punishment. In other words, let your employees know that you’re only there to help. This is important because of the power dynamic between employees and their manager; it’s often nerve-wracking when “the boss” gets directly involved because it creates the feeling that someone made a serious mistake and is about to be punished, or that you don’t trust your team to accomplish their goals.)


Again, Laraway says that the best way to judge your effectiveness as a coach is to survey your team. To see how well you’re doing as a teacher, ask your employees to rate you in the following three categories.


For example, ask: How useful is the feedback you get from your manager? Do you receive a good mix of positive and negative feedback?  

(Shortform note: Laraway talks a lot about how to give feedback, but he doesn’t say much about when or how often to give it. In No Rules Rules, Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings says that feedback should be given frequently and as soon as possible. In other words, provide praise and criticism as issues arise; for example, don’t wait for a scheduled coaching session when it’s feedback that your employee could use now.)


For example, ask: How comfortable are you with bringing problems and concerns to your manager? Do you feel like your manager is someone you can easily talk to? 

(Shortform note: Some leadership experts argue that an approachable manager isn’t necessarily one who’s always warm and friendly, but rather, one who’s reliable. Therefore, to show your employees that you’re approachable, help them to understand how you reach your decisions, and make sure your rationale is as consistent as possible; if you have a reputation for unpredictability, your employees will try to avoid you. Also, show compassion for your employees by asking questions about their work before you step in to help so that your assistance is effective. Finally, while management sometimes requires “tough love,” your employees should understand that your goal is always to support them, not to scold or punish them.)  


For example, ask: How often does your manager ask for your feedback? How well does your manager address your concerns?

(Shortform note: Asking for feedback as well as giving it creates bidirectional feedback (feedback that goes both ways). Bidirectional feedback creates an ongoing conversation between you and your employees and shows that you care about their concerns as well as the company’s business concerns. Taking employee feedback doesn’t necessarily mean doing what they say, but it does create opportunities for open, honest communication between you and your team. In other words, if an employee’s feedback isn’t practical or relevant, that’s a chance for you to explain your position and come to an understanding with that employee, instead of carelessly brushing aside their concerns.)

Career Development

To find out how effectively you’re helping your workers with their career development, Laraway suggests asking employees to rate you in two categories.


Ask: How well does your manager support your career development? How helpful is your manager’s advice about your career? How frequently does your manager encourage you to take on new challenges or learn new skills that may help you in the future? 

(Shortform note: One thing Laraway doesn’t discuss in this section is the importance of helping your employees play to their strengths. Ideally, someone’s dream job will be something they have a natural aptitude for, but that’s not always the case—and sometimes they don’t even realize what they’re good at. An attentive manager can help by recognizing and highlighting what the employee does well and what they seem to enjoy. Then, as you continue working with that employee, you might find opportunities to tweak the career plan you’ve created to better suit their talents and interests.) 


How strongly do you agree with the statement, “My manager cares about me as a human being, not just as an employee?”

(Shortform note: In Radical Candor, Kim Scott writes that in order to truly care about your employees, you have to practice self-care first. Her reasoning is that it’s hard, if not impossible, to truly care about other people when your own needs aren’t being met or you’re distracted by your own problems. She adds that self-care looks different for each person: Some people need to meditate quietly in the morning to prepare for the day, while others need to go to the bar with friends after work. In short, doing whatever keeps you happy, healthy, and focused will be good for you and for your team.)

Manager Performance Survey: How to Rate What Truly Counts

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Here's what you'll find in our full When They Win, You Win summary:

  • Why managers are to blame for employees' lack of engagement
  • How to improve your team's morale and performance
  • Tools for gauging your effectiveness as a manager

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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