All managers should have a realistic understanding of the ebb and flow of their team’s lives outside of work. That is not to say that you need to be best friends with your direct reports, or that you need to delve into your team’s personal lives. It’s more that you should make an effort to understand that an individual’s performance and motivation is not static and varies according to what else is going on in their personal ecosystem. As such an individual might be highly productive and motivated for several months, and then become distracted, burnt out or otherwise unmotivated due to something outside of the office.
It is important that you, as a new manager, make an effort to be attuned to the variations in your team’s motivations. Rather than punish the person for their drop in productivity, it’s better to try to find out the root cause and offer some flexibility. If you proactively approach an employee who’s work seems to be dropping in quality or quantity, and offer to adjust their workload accordingly for a few months, you will find that they turn out to be even more motivated and productive in the future. Using a pro-active, flexible approach will build both trust and loyalty with your team, and encourage them to work hard when they need to, but to maintain a healthy balance. This will avoid your being blindsided by an employee suddenly quitting or dropping the ball in a major way.
In the best case scenario, you will build an environment where your team gives you realistic information about their ability to perform at their peak, and when you really need them to come up with a little extra, they will be happy to do so.