Performance Enablement Is a Commitment to Make Your Staff Better Than You

Thank you for reading my latest blog in the Culture Hacker series. Let’s continue our discussion from last week on how to evolve from a traditional performance management paradigm to one of enablement and empowerment. This week we will consider how to enable our people to perform optimally. Enablement requires you to provide your people with the training, tools, information, and feedback necessary to do their jobs. This topic will cover a lot of ground, so feedback will be saved for another blog.

Let’s start with training. In the past I have discussed the importance of onboarding your people and providing that initial training for the job. What you cannot do is think that once their onboarding or certification is complete that your training responsibilities are done. Your staff require constant training and exposure to learning to remain relevant, open minded, and up-to-date with their customers, new technology, and the state of your business.

Having run my own training company for the past 16 years, I believe I have some insights and perspectives on what it takes to deliver a great learning experience. Unfortunately, there is not enough of it going on. Research, experience, financial results, and customer satisfaction scores speak to the value of continuously training your people.

Regardless of the disgruntled few committed to remaining in the status quo, your people – especially young people – crave learning, and in many instances, leave their jobs because of a lack of development. If you want your people to perform, then you have to give them training. This is the basis of how you can enable or give them the ability to deliver on the results desired. What is there not to get about the value of training?

While I assume you get the purpose of training, what I don’t get are the outdated ideas about what training should resemble. Training should no longer be eight hours a day sitting in a classroom listening to a single voice lecture or read from a single perspective. Learning must be delivered in short, inspirational, effective, and fun sessions that last no more than 90-120 minutes per interval. Training needs to involve multiple mediums or voices integrated into video, games, discussions, and role plays that develop an understanding and familiarity with the desired ideas or habits.

A training session cannot be seen as a magic bean that will instantaneously transform your people into something special or even capable. Learning requires time – 30 days to break habits and 30 days to adopt new habits – and continuous reinforcement through feedback, communication, and practice. In other words, enabling your people cannot just be seen as short-term training. We will discuss all of these other mechanisms in future blogs.

For now, I encourage you to read some additional blogs from members of our training team. Our previous Organizational Learning Manager, Alison, did a great job explaining our philosophy on how to build an effective learning organization. Our VP of Learning, Thomas Martin, discussed the key elements of a training program and how coaching and training differ. So, let’s move on from training and talk about your responsibility to ensure that your people have the tools necessary to do their jobs.

One of the quickest ways to frustrate employees is to not provide them with the right, or enough, tools for them to do their jobs. One of the important management responsibilities a leader has is to implement an inventory and ordering process that gets the necessary tools to a team on time and at the right time. If you have to justify purchases and investments, then you also need to possess a strong financial understanding of your P&L and be willing to lay out a good business plan or proposition. It also helps to be passionate and demanding when you need to get a team the tools they need to deliver.

One of the many qualities admired in Michael Eisner, the previous CEO for Disney, was his ability to divide up funds for the many projects that his executives brought to him. He had hundreds of potential projects placed in front of him every year, yet only a couple would ever come to fruition. When it came time to make a difficult decision, he would often place a great deal of emphasis on the passion displayed by the executive presenting the idea. He said, “A strong point of view is worth 80 IQ points.” To get a team the tools they need to do the job, you must have a strong financial acumen, a thorough and consistent inventory and ordering process, and the conviction that you need those tools for the team.

To enable a team, you must also ensure that they have the right information to do their jobs. Management in the past has often been defined by the amount of information people can access. Managers used to maintain control by withholding information. This allowed many mediocre managers to justify their jobs and many enterprising employees to be wasted. A sign of true leadership is when individuals do not feel threatened by allowing associates to have information so that they have the ability and authority to make decisions. If you are going to enable your people, then give them the information that they need. CEO of SAS Airlines, Jan Carlzon, said it best, “An individual without information cannot take responsibility. An individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.”

To enable your people you must set them up for success. Adopt the mentality that your job is to help them do their jobs better than you could. To enable a staff, you must serve the staff well. One of the most important ideas I have ever considered was amongst the thoughtful and powerful words of Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “To lead is to serve.” Nothing annoys me more than when I hear managers say they have people working for them. These same managers focus on making themselves look good and maintaining their positions, rather than enabling their people to perform as well as they could and should.

Nothing helps to get the desired results faster than a leader who is clear about what they want to achieve, passionate about the results, and committed to doing whatever it takes to allow their team to perform their respective roles at the highest levels. Over the years I have enjoyed reading articles and books based on the managerial style of Herb Kelleher, Ex Chairman of Southwest Airlines. One of his reminders is, “Leadership is being a faithful, devoted, and hardworking servant of the people you lead.” Please focus on enabling your people.

Next week, I will discuss the importance of feedback in enabling your people to perform. Thanks for reading, and please do not hesitate to reach out to SGEi for more insights.

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