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How to Be a Superman-ager: Performance Management Lessons from Epic Heroes and Infamous Villains (Infographic)

A male Businessman dressed in costume with a superhero red cape.

With this info­graph­ic, we’ll explore where pop­u­lar culture’s vil­lains have gone wrong and how the heroes went on to save the day

It’s no won­der that the good guys always win. Their man­age­r­i­al styles and approach­es are infi­nite­ly more effec­tive than their evil coun­ter­parts, who gen­er­al­ly suf­fer a lack of fore­sight, an all-encom­pass­ing fix­a­tion on one sole goal and poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.

Con­verse­ly, super­heroes and those fight­ing for good gen­er­al­ly work well as a team, have clear­ly defined goals and expe­ri­ence min­i­mal employ­ee turnover. With this info­graph­ic, we’ll explore the per­for­mance man­age­ment process­es of each rel­e­vant vil­lain and hero and see how they could have improved their chances of com­pa­ny success.

Performance Management Lessons from Epic Heroes and Infamous Villains.

The vil­lains — and why they failed

Darth Vad­er: Lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and prob­lems with goal-setting

Darth Vad­er, con­troller of the infa­mous Death Star and right-hand man to Emper­or Pal­pa­tine, is per­haps the most notable anti-hero of all time. Though he cer­tain­ly made a name for him­self in the Galac­tic Empire, Vad­er was doomed to fail­ure due to his evi­dent man­age­r­i­al mis­steps. His two biggest fail­ures were his poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion style and the fact that he and his team had no clear, defined SMART objectives.

Rather than engag­ing in pro­duc­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Darth Vad­er ruled through fear. It should be not­ed that fear is nev­er a good moti­va­tor for employ­ee per­for­mance in the long run and severe pun­ish­ments of mis­takes pre­vent employ­ee growth. Vader’s pub­lic use of the Force Choke would have demon­strat­ed to his employ­ees that he is not an approach­able fig­ure. Stormtroop­ers know not to approach their man­ag­er for help or advice, as they may risk pro­vok­ing his wrath. This pre­vents them from devel­op­ing fun­da­men­tal skills, mean­ing that the organ­i­sa­tion as a whole will nev­er improve. Suc­cess and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty far more like­ly when there is healthy com­mu­ni­ca­tion and an hon­est dis­cus­sion between employ­ees and managers.

Vad­er could have improved com­pa­ny cul­ture with the employ­ee-owned SMART objec­tives. Had Vad­er col­lab­o­rat­ed with his team and allowed them to cre­ate their own goals, every­one on board would be on the same page regard­ing expec­ta­tions. The goals would be Spe­cif­ic, Mea­sur­able, Agreed, Rel­e­vant and Time-Bound. Vad­er would have a bet­ter idea as to his team’s lim­its and capa­bil­i­ties, he wouldn’t have unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions and the Stormtroop­ers would know how their per­for­mance was being measured.

The Jok­er: High employ­ee turnover

The Jok­er is ruth­less, deter­mined and fix­at­ed on his goals. He can organ­ise a bank heist and gen­er­al­ly has no short­age of employ­ees to help him in his evil endeav­ours. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it was evi­dent from The Dark Knight that the Jok­er has extreme­ly high staff turnover. When an employ­ee has served his pur­pose, he is gen­er­al­ly… dis­posed of. This is some­thing that won’t go unmissed by the remain­der of his employ­ees and the con­se­quences of such high turnover can be devastating.

Every time the Jok­er takes on board a new employ­ee, he has to spend valu­able time train­ing them up. One source states that it can take as long as one to two years to train an employ­ee to max­i­mum pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, so it is unlike­ly that the Jok­er will ever see sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments in his team’s per­for­mance. High turnover rates can low­er employ­ee morale and engage­ment. It can also dam­age com­pa­ny rep­u­ta­tion in the long run, mean­ing that it will get hard­er and hard­er for the Jok­er to recruit. Clear­ly, the Joker’s per­for­mance man­age­ment sys­tem needs to be addressed and re-evaluated.

Lord Sauron: The anony­mous, face­less manager

HR exec­u­tives around the world are aware of the impor­tance of man­age­ment inter­ac­tion in main­tain­ing healthy employ­ee engage­ment. In fact, it has been shown that man­agers account for a sig­nif­i­cant 70% vari­ance in employ­ee engage­ment scores. A Gallup poll indi­cates that con­sis­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion between man­age­ment and employ­ees is the basis of a good rela­tion­ship. It does­n’t mat­ter how this com­mu­ni­ca­tion occurs; it can be elec­tron­ic, over the phone or in per­son. What’s impor­tant is that man­agers make a con­cen­trat­ed effort to get famil­iar with their employ­ees. This will have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and per­for­mance over­all. With this in mind, it is clear where Lord Sauron went wrong.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Sauron was nev­er around. He couldn’t help employ­ees with their prob­lems, he didn’t dis­cuss their press­ing issues and he knew very lit­tle about his work­force. He remained an ever-present eye, over­see­ing every­thing but nev­er real­ly tak­ing part. If Sauron had shown his face (the rest of his face, any­way) around the office, things may have turned out dif­fer­ent­ly for him, but his anony­mous nature even­tu­al­ly spelt out his own demise. Sauron could have solved this issue with reg­u­lar one-to-one check-ins, which have been imple­ment­ed by lead­ing com­pa­nies world­wide, includ­ing Accen­ture, Gen­er­al Elec­tric and Microsoft.

The heroes — and why they succeed

Yoda: An appre­ci­a­tion for employ­ee career development

Mas­ter Yoda is known as a leg­endary Jedi Mas­ter with immense pow­er, despite his small stature. He is well-respect­ed by his fel­low Jedi and enjoys a high degree of loy­al­ty. Yoda has a lot of man­age­r­i­al strengths that make him shine as a leader, but per­haps most notable is his empha­sis on employ­ee devel­op­ment. We know that Yoda per­son­al­ly trained Luke Sky­walk­er and Count

Dooku. While not all of his invest­ments paid off — and one notable char­ac­ter was ulti­mate­ly recruit­ed by the com­pe­ti­tion — Yoda was right to pro­vide such hands-on training.

Every HR exec­u­tive knows the impor­tance of employ­ee career devel­op­ment to effec­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment. Career devel­op­ment is essen­tial to height­en­ing employ­ee engage­ment and, of course, the com­pa­ny ben­e­fits from a more skilled, valu­able employ­ee. Like Yoda, good man­agers should be on hand to answer any ques­tions and give employ­ees the ben­e­fit of their experience.

Bat­man: Demon­strates the impor­tance of delegation

Bat­man, oth­er­wise known as Bruce Wayne, is a bil­lion­aire and own­er of Wayne Enter­pris­es: a multi­na­tion­al con­glom­er­ate. Though Bat­man may be a reclu­sive genius, his biggest man­age­r­i­al strength lies in his abil­i­ty to del­e­gate respon­si­bil­i­ty — and all man­agers need to del­e­gate in order to effec­tive­ly lead. Bruce has oth­er press­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties, so he takes a step back from micro­manag­ing his employ­ees and trusts them to ful­fil their tasks.

This man­age­ment style will become increas­ing­ly rel­e­vant in the years to come, as mil­len­ni­als look for a degree of inde­pen­dence and flex­i­bil­i­ty in the work­place. As long as employ­ees are hit­ting their tar­gets and per­form­ing to stan­dard, man­agers don’t have to spend unnec­es­sary time observ­ing. Allow­ing this free­dom will demon­strate the trust you have in your employ­ees, which will have an impact on morale. Man­agers can keep up to date with employ­ee progress using per­for­mance man­age­ment tools, with­out need­ing to con­stant­ly be present to ques­tion the employee’s methods.

Gan­dalf the Grey: The mas­ter of employ­ee engagement

Gan­dalf, a man of many alias­es, suc­cess­ful­ly formed and lead the Fel­low­ship of the Ring, a team that went on to save the world. Not a bad achieve­ment to put on the CV.

The Fel­low­ship was a small com­pa­ny of con­flict­ing char­ac­ters and per­son­al­i­ties, but Gan­dalf used his man­age­r­i­al pow­ers to bring the team togeth­er. He was able to get every­one on board and moti­vat­ed, while unit­ing them in their desire to achieve their over­ar­ch­ing com­pa­ny goal. Employ­ee engage­ment was impor­tant to Gan­dalf and he was suc­cess­ful for this rea­son. Every­one on his team was pas­sion­ate about their cause and keen to do their best for the company.

Every employ­ee has a need of belong­ing­ness; the desire to be a part of a team. Great man­agers like Gan­dalf not only know how to make employ­ees feel part of a team, but they are aware of its many ben­e­fits. Teams like the ones Gan­dalf con­struct­ed are more engaged — and engaged organ­i­sa­tions have dou­ble the suc­cess rate of organ­i­sa­tions with low engage­ment. They also have low­er absen­teeism and turnover. Giv­en the lack­lus­tre man­age­ment style of Sauron, it is no won­der that Gan­dalf led his team to victory.