Performance Management Is Not Enough to Maximize Your Employees’ Talents

Welcome to the next installment in the Culture Hacker blog series. Please check out my previous blogs and reach out if you are interested in learning more about our products and services.

Right from the start, I want to suggest that if all we are doing is managing performance, we are wasting the many talents of our current staff. Now, I am not saying management is a negative thing, because I firmly believe there needs to be a balance of management and leadership within an organization, just as John Kotter suggests in his book Leading Change when he says, “The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and use each to balance the other.” But while I define leadership with words like inspiring, engaging, innovative, and proactive, I define management with words like organizing, maintaining, staffing, standardization, and reactive, which is important but not very exciting. If all we want to do is manage performance, we are seriously underutilizing the talent we have been given.

So, let’s replace the word management with two words that are more in line with what we should be trying to achieve, which is performance enablement and performance empowerment. As leaders, we must enable our people to do their jobs by providing them with what they need to be successful. Then, we must get out of the way and actually allow them to be in control and responsible for delivering the desired results in the right way, or in other words, empower them.

In my next two blogs over the coming weeks I will focus on how we can empower and enable our people as leaders, but for today, I want to give some context around the idea of performance. In our work we hear managers talking extensively about performance, and yet, when we ask them to describe what performance really is or what they want their employees to achieve, confusion quickly settles in and a diverse set of answers comes our way. So, let’s clarify what performance should look like.

In previous blogs I wrote about two important elements of performance. The most recent blog talked about how to engage your people by sharing the objectives and scores, and making them responsible for the plans. Company objectives should be directly aligned with the performance you wish to see from your staff. Depending on their role, these objectives should be contributing directly to the financial bottom line, market share, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, or the company’s position in the community.

Once objectives have been set as a company, you need to make them relevant and establish relevant goals for each employee based on their ability to impact each of the main objectives. Depending on their job roles, each employee may have a different outlook on what “good performance” is for them. If an employee has no influence on your bottom line, whereby they are unable to generate new or repeat sales or minimize expense, then don’t judge their performance on your financial position. However, if they are a cashier and they have an opportunity to impact both sales via upselling and customer satisfaction through their interaction, then you might establish that performance for them is 35% based on achieving an upsell or cross-sell goal and 65% on customer feedback and satisfaction. For many roles, these scores may be a part of a group or department overall score rather than something that can be individually tracked, though it is becoming more common for companies to evaluate individual performance metrics.

Once the results that you could expect from each position are established, you have half of the performance equation (in other words, how much they have to deliver). Next you should consider how team members deliver it. We have all experienced that person who absolutely nails their metric goals while simultaneously destroying the morale and success of everyone else around them. So, now we need to think about the other important performance elements; namely, your values.

We discussed values in detail in this blog earlier this year. Values define how your people act and interact with their peers and the company. This is critical for your company culture. You cannot jeopardize the reputation and culture of your company for the sake of some short-term results. We see many examples of this throughout the world. The recent VW disaster was a product of a company putting to much emphasis on “how much” over the “how.” In today’s transparent business environment, we have to ensure we prioritize how we act and interact as defined by our values just as much as our need to get things done and achieve results. We need balance, which should be reflected in performance.

By utilizing company values, you can define how team members should achieve their goals, and therefore, define what performance should look like for each employee in the company. As a leader, your job is to help team members achieve that desired level of performance. As they reach their goals in the right way, you continue to stretch and challenge them to higher levels of performance by setting higher goals without sacrificing the values and integrity of the company.

Check in next week to learn how to enable your people to perform at the highest level. If you would like more information on performance management or a private consultation for your business, contact SGEi. Thank you for reading.

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