Performance Management

Conduct an Initiative Audit

It’s hard for teams to innovate when they are pulled in competing directions. Before expecting innovation from your team, figure out if unnecessary initiatives are taking up time and energy. Conduct an initiative audit by asking your team to simply list all of the initiatives or projects they are working on. Align those initiatives to your strategic priorities and annual goals. If an initiative or project doesn’t align, consider getting rid of it. Why cloud valuable brain space with something that isn’t aligned?

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Investing Your Time

As leaders working with individuals to support their growth and improvements it’s important to be aware of the time you are investing in each individual compared to the outcomes. There are some individuals that will reach the high-solid performance level but may not achieve the high performer level. Leaders have to decide if they can accept performance at the solid performer level, or if they have more time to contribute to investing in the individual.

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Who’s Doing What?

To increase accountability across a team, create clarity. Ensure roles, responsibilities, and goals are clear. It’s easier to be accountable when you know who’s doing what and where the team is going.

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Less is More

When creating a scorecard, it is important to remember less is more. What are the most important indicators of success for each strategic area? What are the few measures that will indicate progress? What are the 1-2 actions that will get us closer to the goal? Most of us are responsible for a substantial number of projects and tasks. We don’t put all of these responsibilities on our scorecard. The scorecard is a tool that keeps us focused on the few that matter most. This doesn’t mean we don’t tend to the others, but it does help us prioritize.

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Connect Actions to Values

When discussing strategic direction and strategic actions with our teams, it’s helpful to connect those actions to the organization’s values to allow people to visualize the meaningful outcomes of their work.

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Make Goals More Manageable

Support high solid performers by working with them to breakdown their 90-day goals into more manageable pieces. Identify opportunities to celebrate the small wins along the way, which add up to the completion of the goal. Celebrating small wins motivates, encourages, and retains solid-performers.

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Win Vs. Loss

When we’re trying to accomplish really important goals, it’s easy to forget to celebrate progress. For one week, keep a tally of the number of times you point out a set-back and a tally of the number of times you celebrate a win. Do the wins win? If you proclaimed the negative more often, try again next week. Build a habit of celebrating wins that matter.

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Ask Your Team

During connections with your team members, clarify their understanding of the strategic goals and how their roles reflect those goals. Ask, “What actions are you prioritizing this month?”. Offer feedback about how those actions align with the overall goal for the organization. This will give you an awareness of team members who might not be prioritizing the right actions and opportunities to support those individuals.

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Reward Mastered Skills

Monitor your aspiring leader’s progress and when a new leadership skill is mastered, recognize and reward the new leader. Individuals generally like to be recognized and rewarded in different ways, try to be as personal and specific as possible. If you are using or creating a formal new leader development program, incorporate regular reward and recognition into the program plan.

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Use “But” to Improve

When you find yourself describing a supervisee as “a great employee, but lacks punctuality,” use what comes after the “but” as an opportunity to improve that individual’s performance. Instead of accepting the one bad behavior because you think the person is a high performer, try providing support to correct the problem and help the individual become a  true high performer.

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Mirror Your Leader’s Style

When approaching a conversation with your leader about their performance, use their preferred communication method. Match their communication style and be mindful of your body language.

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Be Serious

Don’t start the low performer conversation with a greeting such as, “How are you?” This is not the time for a positive, friendly conversation. Stay focused on the talking points you prepared, and let your low performer know they will have a chance to speak after you’ve finished.

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See it – Reward it

Recognize the right behavior right away. Don’t wait until it’s time for a quarterly or yearly recognition program. Make it a habit to recognize performance that deserves to be rewarded.

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Align Your Team One Step at a Time

Identify one thing at a time you can do, or stop doing, to make sure your leadership team is on board and then commit to taking action. It’s the senior leader’s ultimate responsibility to align the executive leadership team.

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Recognize the Good

Confronting organizational issues gives the leader the opportunity to teach important lessons about behavioral norms and living the values of the organization. Use positive examples of colleagues leading by example especially through a conflict or challenge. By recognizing and rewarding colleagues for living the mission of the organization, this clarifies the expectation for all employees in the organization by demonstrating what right looks like.

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Break Down Big Goals

Bigger goals become more manageable when broken up into smaller, less disconcerting, achievements. Apply this method to a personal goal as well.

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Decide When Adjustment is Necessary

Have a look at your compliance standards. Where are you allowing variance, and should you?

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Track Your Actions

At the end of each day track your actions on a four-column table. In the first column, list your meetings, calls and tasks. In the 2nd column list the actions you took that align to your organizational standards. In the third column list what you could have done better in adhering to your mission and values. In column four, note opportunities to hold others accountable.

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Achievable Does Not Mean Easy

Unachievable goals have the potential to deflate and demotivate teams when time runs out and the target is not reached. Keep your team motivated and success realistically incremental by setting challenging, but achievable goals.

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Planned Communication

Pre-planning for conversations with employees is the sign of a high-performing leader. Preparation is necessary for identifying a clear outcome from the communication, as well as the specific feedback we want to share. Identify the Key Words you will use during the conversation as well as any recent accomplishments or recognition to highlight.

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Empower People to Solve Problems

Good processes arise when the workforce is empowered to identify and solve problems to achieve excellence. Process improvement reinforces and accelerates a culture of performance excellence. Encourage people to be problem solvers by bringing a solution with every problem.

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Grow Your Own Program

Set up an exploratory pipeline program for new leaders interested in building career options within the organization. Partner a potential successor with the leader serving in a position soon to open to complete current projects, especially ongoing or challenging projects, to learn about the position and processes. Conduct ongoing talent review discussions to keep options and opportunities open for rising talent. Invest in talent development training for rising successors.

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Be Specific with Reward and Recognition

As part of the Reward and Recognize principle, we encourage the development of systems and processes to notice and recognize great work. We know that to be most effective we cannot leave recognition to chance. Making reward and recognition is specific is key. To get started, set up a notebook to build on the processes you already have in place. Arrange tabs in the following categories and document processes as they are developed: Celebrating weekly wins, peer-to-peer recognition, individual notes of thanks, department/group celebration, and formal public recognition.

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Connect to the Heart

Thinking about and plotting staff on a performance curve can feel a bit mechanical. While this task is guided by the head, it is a prerequisite for connecting to the heart of employee performance. The ability to have meaningful conversations that support growth of individual employees is only possible once a leader has an accurate picture of each employee’s current performance. Differentiating staff is not just about placing a name on a curve, but about reflecting on opportunities to maximize each employee’s potential.

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Boost Your Low Solid Performers

Low solid performers are important members of our team. While they might need coaching around a particular skill, they are often eager to grow. Low solid performers are committed to the organization, but can also be easily influenced by negative, low performers. To best support a low solid performer, partner them with positive, high performers for skill development opportunities.

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Grow Owners

Owners are deeply committed to organizational performance. They often take personal responsibility when things go wrong and immediately begin looking for solutions. This is the type of behavior organizations seek to replicate. To grow owners in your organization, find ways to deliberately and publicly highlight displays of ownership behavior in others.

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Getting Comfortable with Compliance Conversations

Compliance conversations are often uncomfortable. It’s important to be clear and direct about expectations and steps for correction. Avoiding the discomfort of compliance conversations by not having one only makes matters worse for you, the employee, and the team. To get comfortable and ensure you have the right words, consider scripting and practicing your compliance conversation.

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Get the Team Involved in Action Planning

90-day planning helps us focus on the 90-day priorities and actions that will move us closer to achievement of annual goals. These plans also help to focus our teams. Presenting goals in achievable chunks creates opportunity to celebrate success along the way or make adjustments where needed. Invite your team to provide input as you draft the next 90-day plan.

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Consistent Poor Performance

We give people every opportunity to improve their skills and choose to change their behavior through coaching, performance conversations, and development opportunities. When people aren’t compliant, don’t live the standards, or become toxic to our organization, it’s time to take steps to transition the individual off the team. If you’ve had multiple performance correction conversations with the same individual, take the next step today to moving them out of the organization.

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Reflect on Performance

Ask employees to reflect on their own performance:

  • What’s working well & why?
  • What’s not working as well as you would like?
  • Why isn’t this working? What do you think?
  • What about the work plan is helping you achieve the results? What is not working?
  • What adjustments could you make?
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Will or Skill?

When addressing mediocre performance with a low or low solid performer, it’s critical to recognize whether the individual is unwilling to change or is requiring additional skills to change. Prepare for a conversation with the individual based on specific examples of their performance or behavior.

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Set Realistic Performance Goals

It’s important for goals to be difficult to achieve, to challenge us. However, too much of a challenge can cause extreme stress leading to burnout. A study from Gallup reveals setting realistic performance goals is a better indicator of work-life balance than allowing flexible work arrangements. For those employees who are at risk of burnout, revisit their goals to determine if they are realistic, or if they need adjusting.

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Hold “Renters” Accountable

Identify employees you lead who could improve their ownership behaviors and help them develop plans for improvement. Clearly explain the impact of their behavior on the organization, their colleagues, and those they serve. Set clear expectations for adherence to ownership behavior.  Establish a timeline for improvement and clearly communicate the consequences of continued negative behavior.

 

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Find Ways to Be An Owner

Seek out ownership opportunities within your organization. You don’t need a specific role or job title to be an owner. Adopt a “that’s my job” mindset. Be willing to help and execute in areas other than your assigned responsibilities.

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Take Pride in Your Work

Execute your responsibilities to the best of your ability. Your work is a reflection of your personal accountability. Identify ways to go above and beyond in your work to exceed the expectations of your leader and team, and positively affect the organization’s results.

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Stretch Yourself

Identify a new challenge you would like to take on or a new skill you are passionate about developing. Are you an aspiring leader who would like to gain more experience? What area could you develop that will get you closer to your career goals? Create a plan for the next 90 days to challenge yourself.

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Where Are You Going?

If your organization isn’t providing a formal career map or development plan for you, take ownership and create your own. What do you want to get out of your career? In what areas would you like to advance your skills?

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Use High Performers to Guide

Low solid performers are committed to the organization, but can also be easily influenced by negative, low performers. To best support a low solid performer, partner them with positive, high performers for skill development opportunities.

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Encourage Solid Performers

Solid performers want to build relationships with their leaders, have opportunities for professional development, and hear feedback that inspires improvement. Identify the solid performers on your team, and help them grow by identifying one skill or area for improvement at a time. Ask engaging questions to gain reflective insight and possible solutions from the employee. Ask how you can support their growth and professional development.

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Address Poor Performance

High performers want to work in organizations with other high performers. When leaders avoid addressing low performers, high and solid performers notice sub-par performers aren’t keeping up and can become frustrated, sometimes to the point that they will choose to leave the department or organization. It’s not fair for your team of high and solid performers to carry the low performers, its crucial to address low performer behavior quickly and effectively to retain high performers.

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Establish a Mentorship Program

64% of managers say they don’t think their own employees will be able to keep pace with skills needed in the future and only 20% have the skills needed for both their current role and their future career. Organizations can capitalize on their own employees to fill in any skills gaps by establishing a mentorship program. This can be more formal one-on-one mentoring, peer-to-peer mentoring, or group mentoring. Get started by asking your employees what they hope to get out of their future mentorship program.

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Use Probing Questions

Rather than risk alienating a team member with constructive criticism, try probing questions to initiate improvement. Start with: “Have you experienced any barriers to achieving results recently? How did you work through that?” Then, probe: “Can you think of a time you’ve experienced a similar barrier? What did you do?” Offer suggestions by explaining what has worked for you in a similar situation. Close by asking: “What actions could you take to grow and develop your skills? How can I help you?”

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What’s Working Well?

Even the highest performing employees appreciate check-ins with their leader. Meet with your direct reports on a monthly basis to talk about what is going well, what can be improved, what support is needed, and what progress the individual has made on their quarterly and/or annual plans.

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Connect with Aspiring Leaders

Once you’ve identified upcoming leaders within the organization, get to know them better. Identify their skills and what areas can be improved. During one-on-one meetings with aspiring leaders, ask for their input on how they can build their needed skills. Strive to provide upcoming leaders with additional opportunities to own key outcomes.

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The Right Data

Collecting data has a specific purpose. The type of data collected and the tool used for collection is determined by the issue, problem, or challenge to be addressed. Start by identifying one goal that the team or organization wants to achieve. What data is needed to understand the current state, set a challenging goal, and measure the progress? Collecting the right data and using it for improvement is essential to increasing performance.

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Track Recognition

Using the recognition tracking form or a similar process, record who you’ve acknowledged and why. If you supervise others, track who recognizes who and why. This allows you to see who and what is being recognized as well as performance trends.

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Weekly Connections

Connect with your team once a week for 10-15 minutes. Each member reports: one win/progress made, what step they’re taking next, and any potential barriers to achieving their goal.

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Use Feedback to Motivate

Many individuals crave feedback at work. It lets us know we’re on the right track, and reveals areas for improvement. The best feedback results from asking questions such as, “What is going well and why is it going well?,” “Are you experiencing any barriers? Why?,” and “How have you overcome similar barriers in the past?.” Use these prompts next time you’re providing feedback to a team member.

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Offer Freedom within the Fences

The most successful organizations are those that offer employees “freedom within fences.” The standards and expectations are collaboratively set, based on the organization’s goals. Then, leaders and employees creatively operate within the fence. This type of structure is not about control. Progress is monitored and direction is provided for how to achieve success.

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Assign a Champion of the Goal

The organization’s executive leader determines the champion to own each of the goals and its achievement. The focus of the champion is always on how to reach or surpass the target. This is the person responsible for reporting out results at regular intervals and for identifying areas of success. The champion also facilitates discussion of strategy implementation and any needed changes or adjustments. These discussions and decisions always revolve around hitting the goal and increasing performance.

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One Step at a Time

Annual or 90-day goals broken into bite-sized pieces create the opportunity for small, achievable wins that build momentum and confidence within the team. Use these small achievements as an opportunity to celebrate progress towards the goal.

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Communicate Progress

The stoplight colors are an easy and quick way to communicate progress toward achieving a goal. The green, yellow, and red colors are used to show the status in relation to achieving the goals. There is at least one measure (data set) for each goal. If there is no progress towards the goal, red is used. If the goal has been reached, we used green. A stoplight chart is a simple way to monitor progress and is a great visual communication tool.

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Engage People with Feedback

Formal and informal conversations with individuals provide us with feedback we can immediately use to improve employee engagement. If an employee expresses a need for a tool to get their job done, provide the employee with a time frame for when they will receive what is needed. Follow-up on the information you gathered to close the loop.

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Align Awards to Performance

Everyone makes a difference in the organization. Spend time during quarterly strategy sessions awarding individuals who have reached specific performance outcomes.

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Identify the Actions

Which actions will produce 80% of the quarterly goal results? Identifying which actions produces the majority of the results will align individual behavior to organizational goals.

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Be Open to Feedback

Thank your colleague who cares enough to speak up and provide you with feedback. Feedback is a caring gesture meant to help you grow.

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Be Specific

During performance conversations, address specific actions and behaviors you’ve observed. Avoid talking in generalities.

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The Joy of Reward

Recognize your high performers by giving them more responsibility or an opportunity to work in an area they are most passionate about.

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Feedback to Inspire

While giving critical feedback, remind the recipient that you believe in them and their abilities, the goal you are collectively trying to achieve, and the new information they need to drive to excellence.

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Concentrate on Your Strengths

Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and let leaders, mentors and others help you with your weaknesses.

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Objective Evaluations

Adopt and commit to an objective, measurable, leader evaluation tool and hold leaders accountable for the results.

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Tough Talks

When you are faced with a tough conversation, first consider your goals. The first is to solve the problem. The second is to do so without damaging the relationship.

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Develop Yourself to Develop Others

Choose a skill you need to develop further as a leader and set aside 30 minutes each day to practice. We can only take someone as far as we’ve taken ourselves.

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What Gets Recognized Gets Repeated

Set clear expectations by immediately recognizing individuals who are doing the right things in the right way.

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Priorities Align to Values

Analyze your actions for today and determine if they are in line with the mission and values of your organization. Identify what actions will lead to the most results and spend your time accordingly.

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Observe and Learn

To improve the performance of your team, observe and review behaviors of low performing teams as well as those of high performing teams. By observing low performing teams you learn what not to do.

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Your Email Can Wait

What is the difference between busy and productive? Are we busy each day but not productive? Minimize your “busy-work” tasks and email checking by doing those at the very beginning and very end of the day. This strategy will help you focus on completing work that aligns directly to your goals.

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Work Towards Annual Goals Daily

Break your 90-day goals down to weekly goals and monitor your progress each week. 90-day planning focuses on the 90-day priorities and actions that will move you closer to achievement of your annual goals. Viewing annual goals in smaller portions will keep you aligned to the right goals.

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Do Less to Accomplish More

Identify the most important task aligned to your goals each day and finish it first. “By creating less activity, we actually create more urgency. The key is choosing the right activity and making sure it’s implemented to the fullest degree.” -John Kotter

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Celebrate people

Recognizing when things go well is one of the most effective ways to get more of what we want. Publicly recognize a member of your team for a job done right.

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