The Power of Focused Engagement: Managing for High Performance

A manager using focused engagement to inspire her team when discussing work performance.

Managers play a critical role in the performance of their employees. In this post, we’ll look at how managers can improve their employees’ performance through the process of focused engagement. 

Driving Engagement

The first step in the process is to drive engagement with the employee. There are three key drivers of engagement between manager and employee: connection, recognition, and performance. 

“Connection” refers to the strength of the link the employee feels to their manager, company, and role on the team.

“Recognition” is about appreciation. Employees want to receive acknowledgment for what they achieve. They want a manager who recognises when they provide service that goes above and beyond the standard expectation.

“Performance” is the employee’s journey through the organisation. It refers to their development, receiving feedback on that development, and personal growth as a result of the application of the feedback.

Managing Performance

This is where the “focused” part of focused engagement plays a role. A great manager can have a tremendous impact on an employee’s job performance at both a macro and micro level. Below are just a few ways in which managers can direct an employee’s focus to optimise their performance.

Give High-Quality Feedback (Formally and Informally)

Regular performance reviews are a great opportunity for a manager and employee to sit down and accurately evaluate the employee’s performance and how the employee’s performance aligns with corporate expectations. Where there are issues, they can work together on finding solutions. They can also pinpoint areas of strength so the employee knows which habits to continue.

While this is a formal channel for review, informal discussions are also important. If an employee seems frustrated or challenged, a manager should be proactive in lending an ear to hear any problems or offer solutions. This can be done by unscheduled office visits or a quick trip out of the office for lunch or coffee.

Articulate Clear Organisational Goals

The manager is the liaison between the organisation’s corporate values and the employee. It’s up to the manager to effectively communicate these values to the employee and make sure they are reflected in the employee’s work.

Create Clear Plans, Objectives, and Timescales

The manager should work with the employee to define all objectives along with timescales for completion. They should also track this throughout the year to ensure the employee stays on task.

Managing Poor Performance and Behaviours Effectively

Establishing open lines of communication with the employee will help when the manager has to deal with poor performance. If the employee feels comfortable speaking with the manager, the manager is more likely to be able to identify problems that lead to poor performance.

When it comes to poor performance or behaviours, the key is clear communication. It’s important for managers to act quickly when dealing with poor performance or behaviours. By being direct and up front about the issue, the manager does not mislead the employee into thinking there is not a problem.

The manager immediately establishes that these negative traits are unacceptable. They also set an example for the rest of the team on what to expect from their leadership style. This type of consistent and confident action taking is what leads to positive team morale, better employee productivity, and increased overall efficiency of your business.

It’s important to identify any potentially unpleasant issues and then hold the conversation about it as quickly as possible. You’ll want to take these issues and “nip them in the bud” before they branch out to become bigger problems.

Craft a Performance Development Plan

A performance development plan (PDP) is a plan an employee writes with the manager’s input and approval. Its goal is to help the employee write a plan to develop a particular skill or skill set. It can include:

  • Technical skills (IT, training, certification, etc.)
  • Personal soft skills (public speaking, leadership, management, etc.)
  • Long-term future career goals

The conversation should focus on the employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Once those weaknesses have been identified, the manager and employee can discuss an improvement plan on how to gradually turn them into strengths.

Managing 1 to 1’s

A 1 to 1 meeting is the manager’s chance to discuss not just the employee’s performance, but their long-term career goals, the current level of satisfaction with their role, and any other issues or concerns they may have. The manager should hit several critical points:

  • Overall job satisfaction and wellbeing
  • Follow up on key action items from the last 1 to 1
  • PDP review and how employee performance is aligning with company objectives and values
  • Workload and time management
  • Accomplishments and/or achievements
  • Agree on action items going forward

Each 1 to 1 should agree with a brief recap, an agreement on action items for both parties, and the scheduling of the next 1 to 1.


In conclusion, focusing on the employee’s wellbeing and needs is key to driving better performance. Open lines of communication, a well-developed and coordinated plan of attack, and honest feedback will leave employees feeling appreciated, recognised, and ready to perform at their best.


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