Often leaders struggle with providing feedback on performance. This centers around two things; one, usually 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 fear of giving it to someone else can prevent us from acting in a timely manner. There is a way though, to remove much of the "emotion" from the equation.
This is where 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 provide feedback when the emotion is taken out of the equation? Performance Leadership – Think About It!
Fear Starts - On the Inside
In the field of Narrative Psychology we are beginning to discover just how powerful our "stories" are. We have all heard the accounts of primitive tribes where stealing was considered taboo, so much so that the thief would have the hand that they stole with wither up and atrophy. We all marvel at accounts like this that speak to our susceptibility to the power of suggestion. Most of us scoff at the thought or dismiss it as something that afflicts those with a weaker constitution than ours. Yet we are now discovering the impact of the power of suggestion and in particular how powerful it is when we are writing that narrative or suggestion.
So many of our actions (or inactions) can only be understood when we confront the stories we tell ourselves - about ourselves. When we examine our "self talk" it is there that we can begin to uncover the origins of the fears that we grapple with.
The biggest story we write is our story. We create narratives and context, heroes and villains, and arrange the events of our existence into some kind of coherent context. This serves to give our lives structure and underscores and reinforces the essential truths that we have created about ourselves. And these are broad landscapes indeed with family legends passed down from grandparents, parents and relatives. Stories such as "the women in our family have always been healers" and these traits are woven together with personal history "I have a real gift of helping the sick and volunteer time at the local hospital" and thus they become part of an elaborate story that we create of our lives.
Impact On Identity
Sometimes the events of our lives take on mythical proportions which is not to suggest that we are lying or deluded but we construct our stories to reinforce what we choose as the high (or low) points of our personal identity. "I was a tomboy and I climbed a 1000 trees and beat up a hundred boys when I was young!" We even make fun of those narratives such as the standard "When I was your age I walked ten miles to school, in bare feet, uphill, both ways!"
It is in this part of our "story" that things can get really interesting. We create both positive and negative qualities for our main character - us. Most of us will have a mix of both but some folks will be much more positive than negative and some will tend to lean toward the negative side of things. These features of our character will be shaped by the stories of others in our lives such as our parents and family and the messaging that they insert into our story. These also can be both positive or negative. In their excellent narrative on this issue John and Stasi Eldridge in their research speak to the role of our parents and in particular our father with respect to the messaging they speak into our lives and its impact. We do (and will) however, add a lot of our own narrative and most of this will happen without us even realizing it.
Redemptive or Contaminating
Our stories tend to fall into either redemptive (overcoming an obstacle and succeeding) or contaminating (once everything was perfect and then "something" happened that changed all of that) genres. In redemptive stories our protagonist (us) is heroic and dynamic. In contaminant stories our protagonist (us) is more passive and leans toward being a victim.
What is Your Story?
Our stories are very powerful indeed and we filter everything through our self written narrative. So my question for you today is this: "What is your story?" Are you a hero or victim? Is your story redemptive or contaminating? These are important questions to consider not only for personal reasons but also because of the impact that your story can have in your work and career. What do you expect for yourself at work and why? Good things or bad? Do you deserve that promotion or not? Your personal narrative, as it touches on those deep seated fears, will be at play in how you answer these types of questions. Take time today to exam your story and what it says about you. Does your story hold you captive or set you free?
By the way; in case you aren't happy with how you see your story remember this; the last chapters are still waiting to be written and you are able to change that narrative any time you decide you need to. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
I wonder how many will look at this title and think to themselves “I don’t want to admit that I am afraid of anything." If you are in leadership or moving into leadership, like all of us, it is a question you will grapple with. But like so many other things in our society there is an expectation of control and confidence, so we push that question down, deep into our psyche. We have come to believe that leadership should unpack quickly like everything else in our society. The reality is that growth as a leader comes in baby steps and becoming comfortable with this question is the first step to becoming the awesome leader you want to be.
Dealing with Doubt
The reality is that overnight successes are rarely that. They are the culmination of years of hard work, trial and error and most of all perseverance. The truth is that many of us are not comfortable leaders. We suffer from “imposter syndrome,” that nagging doubt that we are only playing the role of leaders and that if people really examined our leadership closely they would know we are frauds. We focus only on the things we feel confident about and so often what that means is we can generate awesome reports or studies, manage the paperwork and so on but struggle internally to master the "soft" skills around managing the performance of the people on our teams.
Different Strokes for Different Folks And The Masks We Wear
Some folks will compensate for these feelings through bluster and bragging. Some (many) will compensate by using promotion as a means to distance oneself from dealing with staff and becoming “paper busy.” (I have seen supervisors who are just a door down from an Operations Center who never set foot in that room.) And some will try one approach or another looking for ways to find balance in their leadership. Whatever the case may be, comfortable with their leadership, many people are not. And we hide behind masks when we are not.
A New Skill Set
To be fair it is not your fault. We live in a digital era that is governed by industrial revolution era leadership models. What does this mean? Companies are set up to bring people in because of their technical skills and when they reach the top of their pay band or grade the only option left to giving them a raise is to promote them into leadership. The net result is someone gets moved from a place of technical expertise to a position requiring an entirely different set of skills, leadership skills.
How Do We Prepare Leaders?
Typically, the only training or preparation for this role is the example set by the person who previously held that position. (Let that sink in for a minute.) Many companies spend a lot of time working on issues around succession planning at the C – Suite and Executive leadership levels yet give little thought to similar processes for leadership at other levels.
It is true too that companies now have started utilizing leadership training programs to help in this process yet fail to connect the program with the objectives of the company and the actual needs of its leaders. For many it is a prerequisite to take a leadership course as part of moving into leadership but these courses are often only an HR version of “pencil whipping,” a checklist to say that it has been complied with.
Confronting Our Fears
How much thought has gone into helping that new leader understand the company goals and objectives? Or how many get training on dealing with that difficult employee (and we all have them) who will rob them of time and energy? Do they show them how to know they have had a good day or that their team has had a good day? Have they received grounding in knowing the core components of leadership? Or, have they been shown how to confront those aspects of leadership that they are afraid of?
These are the things we are going to explore for the next while on to how to become an amazing leader by confronting those fears. These tools are not new or necessarily unique but they are effective. Performance Leadership – Think About It!