The last link in our exploration of leading by the numbers involves getting your team to establish their own measures of performance. Companies have metrics and measures that are company-wide. Each department will have its group metrics that roll up into the company measures. How do you create linkage between the group or department and each team member?
You Already Know
You already know what you want from each member of your team even if you haven’t verbalized it or set it to paper. In his excellent book “Moneyball” Michael Lewis explored how one baseball manager looked at individual metrics in a whole different light. Traditional thinking was you wanted to sign the big hitters. Billy Beane took a new approach and suggested a different metric; getting on base. He built a team around the idea that the more you get on base the more runs you will get.
There is plenty of argument around the merit of this metric but Beane succeeded in getting his group to buy into that measure. They had an individual focus, had purpose and had direction. That critical mass gave them success. The same will hold true for your group. Take a fresh look at what it is that gives your team meaning and purpose and the measures will become evident.
In his book “The Truth About Employee Engagement” Patrick Lencioni used a drive-through order taker as a great example of how to create metrics. In this scenario the manager engaged the employee in a dialogue and came up with two measures; number of orders taken without errors and track how many times they made the person at the drive through window smile. While this may seem overly simplistic, the best metrics usually are simple. These metrics addressed positive customer experience (an overall company goal) and internal efficiency (another goal).
The manager was able to get that employee to see how getting the orders right and making people smile or brightening their day gave purpose and meaning to what they did. And yes, that person had to track and report on those measures each day which created accountability and communicated that it was important.
You Can Do It!
Can this work in say an office setting? Sure. In one group I had the privilege of working with a team of accounting and document control staff. As a small Co-op customer experience was everything. Getting requests, applications and billing done accurately and on time were key to this. They decided to track error rates and cycle times for service requests and application completion. It was something they could each do, they saw how it impacted client experience and they came to understand how they supported each other (team experience) when things were done well. And yes, it is tracked and reported regularly.
Don’t overthink what sort of metrics or measures you want from each member of your team. Write down what a good team looks like and look at how your group stacks up to that? Identify the things that are working (so you can provide recognition) and the things that are not so you can help them create measures around those issues. Start with the simple things and the rest will follow. Performance Leadership – Think About It!
Often leaders struggle with providing feedback on performance. This centers around two things; one, feedback takes place when performance is not where it should be. Two, the prospect of providing feedback around poor performance is wrought with the potential for high emotion. We don’t like getting that kind of feedback and as such the thought of giving it can prevent us from acting in a timely manner.
So how do metrics enter into this discussion? I have worked with many companies who do an excellent job of establishing company goals, department and group goals and kpi’s but then it stops there. The department or group will have their own dashboards or displays set up for the team to have a strong visual for how they are doing. This is all good. The missing link is what are the metrics for “each” group member and are they being tracked? This is key for a number of reasons.
The first is engagement. Gallup reports that teams that have a clear set of goals for each member have double the rate of engagement of teams that don’t. Typically, this can translate into a 10 – 20 percent increase on the bottom line.
More importantly teams where each member is tracking their own metrics (that they have developed) are much more agile in dealing with performance and spotting opportunities. It also provides clarity for each team member in terms of what is expected of them and it provides that key linkage between what they do and how that advances the team or company objectives.
A Tale of Two Scenarios
A typical scenario is a leader sits down with members on their team on a quarterly or bi-annual basis to review kpi’s established from the last review. Often, if we are honest about it, we have to remind ourselves what those kpi’s were for that staff member before the meeting and we have to rack our memories to try and determine how they rank.
For teams that are tracking individual measures on a daily basis the scenario looks more like this. The leader may walk by a desk or work station and look at someone’s charting of their measures. You can note the progress or successes and provide immediate recognition. I have found that when these measures are discussed on a daily basis you don’t have to say much if anything, that person will “want” to tell you how things are going. Particularly if you have made it safe for them to do so.
Taking Emotion Out of the Equation
These daily interactions provide you as a leader more agility to provide “course corrections” thus helping that team member avoid potential issues. What’s more is that everyone knows what the measures are and are comfortable engaging in discussions around them. This is one of the biggest values of leading by the numbers. You take away the emotional stigma and are able to engage in a much more collaborative discussion around performance.
If you think about these two scenario’s which sounds more appealing? Are your team members collecting and tracking daily measures? Can you see how much easier it is to lead by the numbers? Performance Leadership – Think About It!
This month we have been looking at various aspects of leadership from issues around performance reviews to looking at leadership traits as viewed by leaders by their staff. An item that came up in both the performance review and leadership traits discussions was that of being results oriented, setting goals and measuring the achievement of those goals. In short using performance metrics to guide and hold the team accountable.
Less Is Best
There are a lot of approaches to this but suffice it to say that if you are not using performance metrics at all you will find yourself struggling with performance reviews. It will also be a challenge knowing where you are on the path to meeting your targets. I like the KISS (Keep It Simple Sam/Sally) principle when it comes to metrics. As an educator and leadership and performance consultant I know that there are many exquisite programs out there. While they all have value and really operate toward the same goals I know this to be true; the more steps or processes you need to learn the higher the likelihood of adoption failure.
The Scales Don’t Lie
When it comes to metrics this is particularly true. Don't believe me? Let's do a quick poll; how many of you have ever tried to lose weight? In that process how many of you adopted a process of weighing yourself at certain intervals? How successful were you? When you stopped weighing yourself how sustainable was your weight loss? Get the point? By the way, the best weight loss programs work to take virtually every step out of the equation like pre-packaged foods and so on.
Who Is Invested?
These programs work for that reason and also because the participants are invested in succeeding. The same is true for performance metrics on any staff or team. You give someone a metric to track and they will but it is still "your" metric and you own it. You have someone offer to track a metric they have come up with and "they" own it. It is their metric and they will be invested in making sure it gets tracked properly.
Your job is to guide them in an exploration of the things they could measure and how that aligns with team and company goals. You provide a measure - you own it. They develop a measure - they own it. All you need to do is provide regular encouragement and accountability.
This is where we are going to start in our discussion around leading by the numbers. Get your team to find a metric, get them to track it (remember the weight scales?) and get them to report to you regularly on how things are going. Simple, straightforward and sustainable. Next we will explore creating an environment to allow that to happen. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
This week we have been looking at how leaders rank important leadership traits and how their staff rank important leadership traits. Our motive for this was to explore potential gaps in those perceptions. Let’s recap the findings from the last couple of days. Leaders believe that top leadership traits are;
It would appear on the face of things that there is a good degree of overlap. Things like vision or direction, communication and results focus are found in both sets of rankings. Others overlap too except that you have to dig a bit deeper to see the connection. For example, integrity can be manifested as “doing what you say you are going to do.” This may overlap with empowering the team with regard to thing like letting them tackle their own problems. Many leaders talk about making allowances for trial and error but integrity would ensure the team feels safe to do so.
So is there a gap? Possibly but let me take a different approach to this. It may well be that what we have found in this short study is a difference of perspective. Same goals, different outlook. The leader looks at their role in terms of mapping out where the team needs to go and directions to get there. The team looks at their role in terms of what needs to happen in order to make that plan work.
Outward & Inward
A leader says; “I have this Ferrari and I need to drive it to California.” The team is the Ferrari and they say “great let’s make sure there is gas in the tank, the oil is changed, batteries charged and everything is tuned up.” Both are going to California (goal) and the leader points the car in the right direction but they also need to make sure the car has what it needs to get there. Perhaps it is that many leaders set the goals (outward) without making allowances for the maintenance of the car (inward). How many times have leaders driven hard toward a goal only to have the team evaporate around them because they were not maintained?
My conclusion is that leaders need to walk a fine balance between this outward and inward focus in terms of setting and pursuing of goals and making sure they are providing the proper input and care to the team. Remember, 50% of people who leave a company do so to get away from a bad boss! How are you making sure your team stays tuned up? Performance Leadership – Think About It!
Yesterday we looked at leaders and what they feel are the top leadership traits. This is the second part of an analysis in what leaders see as important traits versus what staff see. Leaders determined that the top traits of effective leaders are Integrity/Honesty, Visionary and to a lesser extent Humility, Communication and Creativity. That is how leaders see it. Now let's look at what staff consider key leadership traits.
Google & Facebook
For this I went to a couple of large organizations that have easy access to big data and who care about this issue; Google and Facebook. In spite of the hype and the movie "The Internship" Google found itself struggling to retain staff. Facebook experienced this to a lesser degree but they too were interested in finding out about what staff were looking for in leadership.
Project Oxygen was Google's approach to understanding staff views on effective leadership. It involved an extensive culling of its performance review data bases to determine staff views of good leadership. Here are the top 7;
Surprisingly (at least to Google) technical expertise was last on their list of items. Many of these items focused on relational aspects of leadership involving getting to know your team members and their strengths.
High Employee Satisfaction
At Facebook they used their data to identify which teams reported the highest level of job satisfaction and surveyed those staff to understand what those leaders did to make being on that team so rewarding. Here are the top 7;
It's All About The People...
There is surprising similarity between the two studies. Getting to know and demonstrating care about your team members, supporting their growth ambitions, providing regular feedback, giving them room to tackle problems and celebrating success seem to be the top traits of good bosses. They are rooted in establishing a relationship with each team member but also involve a high level of communication, feedback and accountability.
I am sure you are already thinking about the leaders list from the previous blog and wondering about any similarity. That we will cover next. Suffice it to say there will be lots to explore. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
This week I am going to explore a topic that has some interesting dynamics. What leaders see as important traits. What their staff see as important traits in their leaders and the gap between these two sets of expectations. Before you get too far into this blog perhaps for fun you should list what you think the top five traits of a leader are and you can do your own analysis.
Is There A Gap In Perception?
What got me thinking about his was a Gallup poll of leadership in Germany in which 65% leaders who were polled felt that they did a good/great job. At the same time their staff were asked that question and their response was 25%! That's a pretty big gap.
I wanted to see if we could drill down into this gap a bit more. I looked at three studies* in which leaders are polled about what they feel are important traits for leadership. I also looked at three studies in which staff were asked the same question.
There was a lot more divergence in this group of traits across the three studies than I anticipated. However, one did make the top three in each study; Integrity or Honesty. The studies defined this as having high ethical and moral standards. In each of the three studies this trait ranked one or two as leaders see this a key to effective leadership.
The second trait that was common among the top five responses was Visionary or Providing Direction. In essence regardless of the different titles given in each study all three defined these terms the same way. "Having a clear idea about what the future should look like and how to get there."
Not all of these were shared by each study but at least two of the three studies had these traits; Humility, Communication and Creativity. Granted some of these share common characteristics with other traits like Openness, Flexibility and Trust. Nonetheless it gives us an interesting snapshot into what leaders see as important. Can we assume that they also feel that these traits are important to their staff? Tomorrow we will find out! Performance Leadership - Think About It!
*IBM Leadership Study, Giles Top Ten Leadership Competencies, HBR Group – “What is the single most important quality for a leader to have?”
Whether you are new to leadership or have been doing it for a while you know that leadership is evolving and progressing. Are you growing with it?
Yesterday we looked at some of the reasons why performance reviews can be so painful and why folks tend to avoid them. There is a movement to get rid of them altogether and I suspect that the things we explored yesterday are a bit part of that.
Is There A Better Way?
It just so happens that I have been reading one of Patrick Lencioni's earlier books on Employee Engagement and I was struck by a couple of the lessons. The reason they stood out for me was that as fate would have it I read them right after doing the research for yesterday's blog. As well they align quite nicely with the principles I teach leaders in my work.
Recognition, Relevance & Measurement
I won't go into a lot of detail but he spoke to three key features of engagement that involve among other things, the use of measurement or metrics (so you can gage improvement), the need for relevance or purpose and the desire for recognition or "to be known." He points out quite correctly that even the most amazing jobs will be miserable if the person in that role does not have these three things.
As A Leader; Do You Have These Things?
So what does this have to do with performance reviews? Simply this; we make performance reviews onerous because we do not have these things in mind when we manage our employees. Changing that starts with a shift in your perspective. If you move your thinking from "I have to provide a critique of this person's performance" to "I get to validate this person's contribution to the team and I get to help them achieve their goals." Isn't that really about giving you a different purpose for this process? Doesn't that change how you can be relevant in that person's life?
You Can Do It!
Add to that the privilege of showing them how they have purpose in their work. Showing how they can measure their impact and how they matter (are known and contribute) as part of your team; does that change the dynamic for performance reviews? Who do they serve? How do they know they are doing this well? How do they matter, to you and to the team? These are the benchmarks that should form the basis of doing performance reviews.
Everyone Has Relevance
I wrote a while back on a manager who changed her perspective on what she wanted from her team of executive assistants. How the team developed measures around their purpose one of which was to equip and prepare their bosses for each and every meeting. How daily personal interactions or "touchpoints" allowed for meaningful input to her regarding the success or challenges of those measures. And how this also gave her opportunities to get to know her team, recognize their good work and help them with their ambitions and goals.
If measures, feedback and recognition are happening on a daily basis how hard do you think a performance review is going to be? Change your perspective, understand how you are relevant, how you have purpose with regard to growing your staff and watch how that changes the whole culture on your team. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
I have read several articles lately regarding how some companies are abandoning performance reviews. If you are in leadership the performance review is often the thing that you look forward to the most - kidding! The reality is that this process is often cumbersome because the very concept is packed with emotional baggage or is something that sneaks up on us even though we know it happens at the same time(s) each year.
In a Forbes article Eric Jackson highlights some of the more common issues around performance reviews and I want to look at just a few. I want to group them into a couple of basic categories and do a short examination of each.
Often the process of performance reviews are a.) too vague or leaders b.) don't prepare. I suspect these are connected. If you are not sure about what you are looking for or what the company expects from you as a leader regarding performance reviews, then avoidance and lack of preparation shouldn't surprise anyone. What are the kpi's? What is considered good performance and what is not and how do I rate that? Why didn't I try to track these things more consistently or make more notes? Even when I was working with a company that taught teams how to create and track performance metrics my leader walked me through a perfunctory review that was not based on anything related to performance metrics! Needless to say it was an interesting discussion with a lot of "let's just get this done and move on." Sound familiar?
It's All Good, Until it's Not!
This concept involves a few common issues. Jackson writes about the "Recency Effect" where leaders conducting the reviews lean far too much on recent recollections rather that a larger body of indicators. When this happens emotional baggage can get in the way. Few of us like to be criticized and thus we find it difficult to be critical in our reviews of others. Tag on this potential bonus implications or company expectations of "bell curve" results and you get conversations that go something like this; "You've done a good job but I can't give you a perfect score." Or you look for something in recent memory that you can cite as needing improvement so that the review looks balanced.
Unfortunately, this creates too many scenarios where employees go along believing that all is good until suddenly they are fired. Festering issues or minor irritations finally reach critical mass and by then it is too late for the employee to do anything about it. Well-meaning as it may be to gloss over an issue in a review the greatest disrespect we give to our staff is to not be honest with them about their performance and thereby deprive them of the opportunity to fix it.
Can Metrics Play A Role?
I believe that this is where metrics can play a role in bringing clarity to the whole review process and alleviate some of these issues. There are several things that can really help bring clarity to your process; working with your team to help them develop their own kpi's linked (clearly) to company goals and targets, ensuring that they are tracking those metrics daily and taking time regularly to allow them to report on progress and issues.
This approach won't solve all the challenges with performance reviews but it will cover a lot. You will have opportunity to provide recognition for work well done and provide input to address things that need improvement. You will have a much larger data set to draw from regarding assessment and both you and your team will know exactly what is being measured and have clarity around performance. Setting it up will take a bit of time but what it saves you in terms of staying in front of performance for your team will more than compensate for the time invested. Performance Leadership - Think About it!
Let me be transparent at the outset of this reflection and tell you that I have not come to any hard conclusions on what we are about to explore. I would invite feedback as part of a professional dialogue to help us examine this issue.
Who Should Train?
When implementing programs or new processes who should train the team(s)? The consultant/coach or the team leader? Companies spend large sums of money to implement new software, systems, culture or processes. Usually the biggest part of that expense is the change management guidance and training requried to put everyone on the same page so that implementation moves forward smoothly.
Training and implementation is a big part of the expense and often engagements will last several years depending on the size and complexity of the process, software or program being adopted. I have been a part of that type of process and certainly in the Oil and Gas industry this is a real money maker. But conversations during those engagements and certainly my own "after action reviews" of each of these engagements produced some nagging questions about the vaule of this approach.
Two Dynamics At Play
There are two dynamics at play in a typical coaching engagement; revenue earned and sucessful sustainability. These two concepts are at odds with each other. Revenue earned from a coaching perspective means extending the engagement as long as possible. Sucessful continuity means getting your client to stand on their own as soon as possible and "own" the process for themselves. You see how one plays against the other.
It was with my work around change management that I began to wonder about a different approach to coaching and sustainability. Those of you in change managment will know, the immediate supervisor is critical in the change process and they carry significant influence. Teams take their lead from their immediate supervisor. The support of this group of leaders is crucial. But what if we took a different approach and "trained the leaders" and let them train their teams? Would that decrease engagement time and boost sustainability?
Can You Decrease Implementation and Boost Sustainability?
Look at it this way; as an employee if your boss says you and your team need to take this training around implementation of a new "whatever," you do it. If your boss takes that training with you does it carry more weight? If your boss trains you does that carry even more weight? Which approach do you think will enhance sustainability?
Prosci and other change management organizations have done extensive research on this issue. "If the boss thinks its important then I think it is important." This is one of the key findings in every bit of research I have read on the subject. It makes me wonder if this principle can be extrapolated a bit further? "If the boss thinks this training is important, I do to. If the boss trains me will I pay more attention and be more apt to adopt the new system than if someone else trains me?" If research finds that immediate supervisor support shortens the length of adoption time, shouldn't immediate supervisors training thier teams shorten it even further?
Some food for thought for the new year. I hope to hear back from our exensive pool of expertise on this question. Performance Leadership - Think About It!