Performance Management: Is the Value in the Process or the Leader?

Sep 12, 2014 Posted by

In my last three posts, I have been noodling the concept of setting goals within the performance management program. I am still thinking through it all, but at the very least I have come to the conclusion that a performance management program is simply a means of making sure that leaders do what they are supposed to do — provide coaching, feedback and leadership to their employees.

If leaders did that effectively, maybe we could even do away with performance management systems all together?

Well, let’s not go that far. We all know that some leaders will be better than others when it comes to coaching and honest feedback. We also know that consistency across an organization is important so that employees feel as if they are getting fair treatment. And as a leader, it is helpful to have a structured process to use, so long as it actually adds value and improves performance.

Process vs. Leader: Where’s the Value?

Okay back up again. The process doesn’t add value or improve performance — the leader does that. But the process provides (or should provide) guidance and structure in such a way that holds leaders accountable for actually improving performance.

If we accept that premise, I can see parts of traditional performance management that make sense and others that don’t. Having a core group of competencies that the organization believes, if demonstrated, will drive business success provides a great way to help leaders become developers of talent. Competencies can become messaging points for current and future roles.

Goal Setting and Performance Management

Where I am now finding disconnect is in the goal setting part of performance management. Conceptually, it is a great theory. Where it breaks down is the meaningfulness (or not) of writing and aligning goals up and down the organization. Don’t get me wrong, employees need to understand how their work drives the business’ performance. They need to know that they contribute and add value. But do individual performance goals do that? I wonder. Could a regular dialogue with the leader help the employee see the connection without trying to figure out how to write SMART goals that roll up from the employee to the organization or cascade down from the organization?

Let’s take John for example. John works for ABC Company and reports to Susie. John is a Compensation Analyst with responsibility for base pay administration, the merit review process and is a business partner to two business units. Susie is responsible for Compensation and Benefits and has additional analysts reporting to her.

ABC Company starts its annual planning process in August, but doesn’t finalize the goals until after the fiscal year close in December. Its closes the books in January and finalizes the goals in February. Meantime, John is already doing what he needs to do — merit worksheets, finalizing incentive plans for his business units, adjusting the range structure, and evaluating jobs as requested.

Will John do this any differently if he has goals? Will he be any more clear about how his work fits into the organization’s success? I’m not sure goals will have an impact.

Importance of Dialogue

What does have an impact on John is when Susie gathers her analysts together to share what the HR leadership team has determined are the key priorities for the coming year (or less), and engages her team in dialogue about how they will fulfill their responsibilities in the bigger HR plan and what the timing will be for new projects related to regular work. She leads her team through the process of business planning, which considers their products and services, the cost of providing those services, the obstacles they may face and how to maneuver around them, the partnerships they need to cultivate, and the results they will see at the end of the performance period. Susie then talks with each team member about his or her role and contribution, how their work fits into the organization’s business, and how they will, as a team, accomplish the plan.

John knows what he needs to do, but without the exercise of wrangling out SMART goals to break both the new project work and his regular duties into goal statements, often after 3-4 months of the performance year have already passed.

John and Susie talk regularly and Susie provides feedback and asks for feedback from John.

What’s different? Not a lot except the exercise is meaningful to both John and Susie, rather than an administrative exercise they do because they have to and don’t look at again until the year end.

2 Books You Should Buy for Everyone on Your Team

Sep 4, 2014 Posted by

Summer is winding down and so, too, is your summer reading list. You’ve finished yours, right? We all have high hopes of reading a ton of books during the summer only to discover that work did not slow down and the kids, who are not in school, need a bit more of our attention than we planned. Fear not, summer has no sole claim to the reading list.

Fall is a great time to read a book or two. The kids are back in school, the weather is cooling, and you are likely spending less time outside.   

I want to recommend two books that I found to be educational reads that cover two critical skills that just about everyone could improve upon: technology and leadership. The first book is written for the non-techie who wants to learn what modern technology is capable of doing, especially software. And if software is eating the world everyone in business should understand what software can do. The second book is about leadership — specifically how great leaders multiply genius. What a great way to look at leadership.   Here is a brief discussion on each book.  

How to Speak Tech: the Non-Techie’s Guide to Technology Basics in Business by Vinay Trivedi

It’s difficult to think about a role in business today in which you don’t need to be tech savvy. This is certainly true for learning leaders who must implement learning management systems: eLearning, performance support, social learning, simulations, mobile learning (to name only a few). If you are not tech savvy, I suggest you read How to Speak Tech: the Non-Techie’s Guide to Technology Basics in Business. Your goal in being tech savvy is not to be a software developer or networking engineer, but to know what web and cloud technologies can do so you can speak intelligently with technologists to get your learning technology projects completed. This book will get you there.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter  by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

If I had to make a short list of leadership books that all managers should read, the list would include Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. In fact, in my previous learning direction role, this is exactly what I did. I passed the book out to every single leader, then I brought the Wiseman Group in to speak to the entire leadership team of nearly 80 executives. By reading Multipliers, you will learn that great leaders get more out of people than bad leaders — and you will learn how they do it. Great leaders multiply genius. Don’t you want your leadership team to do that?

I know everyone has a recommended reading list. these are just two books that I find easy to read and educational. I think you will agree. If you are a manager and have a little discretionary budget at work, buy a copy of each of these books for your team. Your team will appreciate it.

If you’ve read these books, what did you think of them?What other books would you recommend for a fall reading list? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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3 Ways To Get Employees To Think Like Entrepreneurs

Sep 2, 2014 Posted by

I teach entrepreneurship and innovation at a college in South Florida. What makes this course different than most of the entrepreneurship courses taught on college campuses is that this one doesn’t focus on how to build business plans, do market research and sell your ideas. Instead, this course teaches students how to see things differently — how to be more tuned in to themselves and their world — to discover, uncover and create opportunities and ideas that that others don’t see.

Many colleges and universities are becoming more aware that the way to approach entrepreneurship is to build its thinking into all of its majors. Biology, engineering, language, music and other majors would all benefit from learning how to think like entrepreneurs — how to learn to look at the world from a point of opportunity instead of limits. All organizations would also benefit from employees who think this way.

See Things Differently

To see things differently we must become aware that we each see the world in a particular way — through our unique lenses. Each of our brains tunes into things that others don’t notice, see or even experience.

For example, my analytical brain is always hunting for a process — how to move from point A to point B. As I look at a work project, I see the goal, the starting point and then build steps to accomplish it. Life projects are the same. I’ll admit that sometimes a fun family vacation or a romantic dinner looks more like a to-do list if I do the planning.

Others may see the world through people and emotions. Yet others see the world through data, formulas and information. We each see what we see. Knowing this encourages us to value our perspectives as we watch the world for the opportunities that we are uniquely able to see.

Tap Into Your Employees’ Vantage Points

Here at three ways to get your employees to tap into their unique vantage points in order to see opportunities as entrepreneurs:

  1. Build an idea culture: Create the expectation that all employees regularly contribute ideas. Start a process to collect two ideas each week from each employee about something they saw that they think will improve some aspect of the company. What company process seems inefficient and could be improved? What new technology is out that may enhance a customer experience or make the organization more effective? Make it easy and expected to think and see differently.
  2. Encourage your employees to network: Great ideas come from connections to other people, events and organizations. When employees only connect with those they regularly know, their ideas become stale and predictable. Send employees to trade shows, customers, industry events and speakers. When they return, ask “What opportunities came to mind?” or “What did you see that we should talk about, consider, invent or try?” Hold them accountable to contribute and to own their ideas.
  3. Accept wise failures: Opportunities are not guaranteed; the quickest way to stifle opportunity-thinking is to require that all opportunities generate results. Some will, some won’t. Opportunity-thinking is tuning in with intention and considering things that come from an expanded awareness. An organization that is afraid of failure significantly limits its opportunities. Make it safe for employees to suggest, experiment, invent and dream.

Entrepreneurs used to only be known as those who started businesses. Today, entrepreneurs are those who are exceptional at seeing things differently — those who are opportunity-hunters. They show up more intentional, more aware and more present to what the world sends them, always asking the question, “Where is the opportunity here?”

How many of your employees think like entrepreneurs?

3 Ways Performance Management Tools Can Muddle Performance

Aug 28, 2014 Posted by

As an HR executive, I’ve been frustrated when the organizational performance management process doesn’t answer the basic question: How are we doing? Performance management should also answer the question: How are we performing? Not only should it document performance at the individual level, but it should also facilitate rolling up the data to answer the question. […]

Four Habits of Highly Effective Employees

Aug 26, 2014 Posted by

Imagine you have a team of exceptional employees — employees who consistently find ways to add value and make a difference.  What level of performance would this team deliver? What success attributes would these employees have? We are sometimes confused that because employees have done a task, job or role before, that they are a […]