Archive for the ‘Performance Acceleration’ category

Conduct Simple Quarterly Performance Reviews

August 11, 2017

Students receive performance grades each three month long semester.  Public companies are required to report their performance each quarter.  Then why do most leaders review performance of direct reports annually or semi-annually?  This is particularly troublesome when studies have shown the typical leader writing a review only recalls performance over the previous six weeks.

The two biggest reasons given for avoiding quarterly reviews are: 1) leaders don’t have enough time to write the review, and 2) the performance review form is too difficult to use.  Use simple quarterly reviews for at least three of the four quarters in which the leader has the direct report fill out a one-page sheet of paper (5×7 cards work too) answering these four questions:

1.    What did you accomplish last quarter?

2.    What are you going to accomplish next quarter?

3.    How did you demonstrate our core values?

4.    What are your personal development plans?

Benefits: the leader spends little to no time writing the review, is not encumbered by any cumbersome form, and the direct report has committed to the next quarter’s expectations.

Leaders who use simple quarterly reviews to empower direct reports have more success.

Establish Success Factors For Direct Reports

August 4, 2017

Success: (noun) the accomplishment of an aim or purpose – The New Oxford American Dictionary

How do leaders know success when they see it?  In athletics, a look at the scoreboard or standings shows who’s successful.  In school, report cards indicate success.  Businesses use the balance sheet or income statement to determine success.  The pursuit of success inspires hard work, sacrifice, and a commitment to improve.  Leaders must put in measures for their direct reports’ success.

A job accountability matrix defines a job’s accountabilities and corresponding success factors.  Without measurable success factors, direct reports do not know if they have accomplished their aim or purpose.  Documented success factors inspire direct reports to work hard, sacrifice, and improve.

Some common success factors are:

  • Zero voluntary turnover of ‘A’ players
  • Continued reduction of processing errors
  • Attended meetings on-time, prepared, and engaged
  • On-going increase in add-on sales
  • Weekly status reports submitted on-time and accurately
  • Positive (lack of negative) customer feedback

Leaders who empower their direct reports by establishing and updating success factors experience more accomplishments.

Opinions Are Not Feedback

July 28, 2017

When asked what they would like more of their supervisor, most workers want additional feedback.  Leaders are generally pretty good at giving positive or affirming feedback (though most leaders could give it more often).  However, many leaders make a mistake when giving course correction feedback by offering opinions instead of describing observed behaviors.  When giving negative feedback, recount the behaviors actually observed.  Five common behaviors for feedback are:

  1. The Words They Said – “Tim, I appreciate your candor but calling Steve a ‘jerk’ makes you appear unprofessional to others.”
  2. How They Said Them – “Sally, I’m concerned that when you yell ‘WELL, GET MOVING THEN’ at Mike, he and others hear that as an aggressive, condescending comment.”
  3. Their Facial Expression – “Lisa, you have gained so much admiration through your work efforts but rolling your eyes when Kay gives her report chips away at all the professionalism you’ve worked so hard to personify.”
  4. Their Body Language – “Carl, I’m grateful for your passion but slamming the door when Diane leaves is an improper behavior.”
  5. Their Work Product – “Barbara, I’m happy you completed the report on time but the spelling errors reduce your credibility.”

Leaders who empower their direct reports by giving productive, actionable course correction feedback based on observed behaviors and not opinions are more successful.

Candidate Assessment Results Can Be Used After The Hire Too

July 21, 2017

Many companies use behavior assessments and skills testing in their selection process.  These crucial instruments assist hiring managers in differentiating among candidates and making the best hire.  However, once the offer is made and the candidate is hired, the assessment results are often filed away and rarely referenced again.

Reviewing the results with the candidate during the on-boarding phase provides them with some personal development guidance. Candidates never score perfectly on their assessments, so understanding where they scored low allows them to address their shortcomings and pursue job-specific learning.  At the very least, the new employee knows their new leader doesn’t expect them to be perfect and intends to provide support in areas that could otherwise be liabilities.

Additionally, the new hire’s direct supervisor can benefit from using the assessment results. The reports can give the supervisor tips for how to motivate and give feedback to the new hire. The results also let the supervisor know when to add support and when to stay out of the way to accelerate the new hire’s performance.

Leaders who empower their new hires and their supervisors with the new hire’s assessment results will experience more success.

Remember To Ask “Why”

June 23, 2017

In 2012, there was a television commercial for Hyundai Sonata featuring a little boy following a man doing yard work and asking him “why?” about various questions.  At the end of the commercial, the man looks at his neighbor and then to the boy where he says, “Why don’t you go ask your Dad?”

It seems somewhere between childhood and management, leaders stop asking “why”.

The 5 Whys is a formal iterative question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem. The “5” in the name derives from an empirical observation on the number of iterations typically required to resolve the problem.

Great leaders are always trying to understand what’s going on.

Leaders who empower their team to ask “why” have more success.

Effective Leaders Are Challenged By Their Team

June 15, 2017

We are naturally attracted to people who agree with us and confirm what we already believe. It makes us feel better and less stressed.  However, disagreement, not consensus, leads to better decisions. Unfortunately, few leaders are comfortable seeking out differing opinions.

People with different behavior styles approach problems and offer solutions from different perspectives.  The forceful, aggressive team members will give strong, no-nonsense answers.  The fun loving, high-energy team members will offer optimistic, conflict free approaches.  Easy going, steady team members like logical and empathetic solutions.  And the rigid, compliant types prefer analytical, data driven options.

Leaders should first take time to evaluate how their team typically solves problems and use some psychometric assessments for additional insight.  Once they understand everyone’s strengths and approaches, they should encourage the team to challenge them from those different perspectives.  Once given permission and inspiration to contribute using new solutions in this way, the team will naturally make better decisions.

Leaders who empower their team to challenge their positions by using their strengths experience more success.

Deal With Jerks For Team Success

June 2, 2017

Leaders, when defining jobs, should assign a percentage of time to the major accountabilities.  This helps the incumbent know how to focus their time.

In an Inc. article, Yuriy Boykiv, CEO of the New York-based global advertising agency Gravity Media, breaks down his time as follows: 50% Psychologist, 25% Sales, 15% Finance and HR, and 10% Strategy.  Really, 50% Psychologist?

It is important for leaders to understand how individual personalities impact team dynamics.  No one disputes the power a team has over a bunch of individual contributors (we’ve all seen the Successories poster showing a team rowing the boat together with the sun in the background and TEAMWORK captioned below).  However, a team’s effectiveness is greatly diminished when one of the team members is a jerk.  Jack Welsh defines a jerk as someone who exceeds performance metrics but demonstrates poor behaviors.  On teams, jerks disrupt team chemistry, are ostracized, and often create an over reaction by the other team members.

A leader needs to put on the psychologist hat when this disruption occurs.  The leader needs to confront the jerk and the whole team on their behaviors.  Failing to do so damages trust in the leader, stifles team motivation, minimizes core values, and saps energy.

Empowered leaders identify and deal with team jerks and have more success.