"Hu" Centered Leadership - When is a metric not just a metric? When it drives performance not just reports it.
I spend a lot of time working with leaders and their teams. We talk a lot about metrics and how to use them and I admit it took me a while to realize that often we were talking about two very different things.
“I do not think that word means what you think it means?” Inigo Montoya – The Princess Bride
Many of my clients come from an engineering background and regard metrics as something that is used to report performance. For example; last month we produced X number of widgets. Or we lost X man-hours last month due to maintenance downtime. These metrics tell a story regarding how a company is doing in terms of things like production, time to market, cost of sales, and so on. All companies have them in one form or another.
But there is another metric that is out there and it may even be the same as the metric you are now using to report performance but that is where the similarities end. The difference is that reporting performance does not drive performance. Let's use the first example to examine this more carefully.
One Metric – Two Purposes
A company may have a metric around production. Last month we produced X number of widgets. If we dive down into this metric we could ask questions like; how many departments had a hand in reaching that production number? In those departments how different people were required to get that part of the product made? If there were bottlenecks where did they occur and why? You get the picture.
Let's be clear, at this point all of these are just subsets of the overarching metric of total production numbers and are still just reporting performance not driving it. The shift to driving performance happens when each of the individual contributors to that process understands how they are contributing to it and whether today's effort was better than the day before. Metrics drive performance when those who contribute to the metric take ownership of their contribution.
We use metrics to drive performance in our everyday lives but strangely enough, we seem to struggle with them at work. Don't believe me? What was the score in the Stampeder football game last weekend? How many medals did Canada get in the last Olympics? What is your golf handicap? What is your bowling average? Are you a better bowler today than you were last time you bowled? How do you know? Metrics. One of my favorite movie scenes involves Billy Crystal as a grandparent attending his grandson's baseball game. He discovers that in that league they don't keep score, there are no outs and every game ends in a tie. Needless to say, he is incredulous and rightfully asks the question; "what is the point?" As humans (Hu) we are wired to respond to metrics this way.
We are all competitive at some level. We respond to that urge naturally and numbers help us gauge how effective we are - they drive performance. To prove it to one front line leader I asked him to simply post a number between 1-10 in the crew room at the end of each shift and not say a word. The first day it was 6 and nobody said anything. The second day it was a 7 and the crew took note of it. On the third day though, he posted a 3 and they went through the roof! How could today be a 3? Hadn't they done the same work as the "7" day, what did they do to warrant a 3? All it took was three days and that metric was already driving performance!
Are You Plugged Into Your Power Source?
That is the power of a metric for driving performance. That leader did not have to take his crew through some pre-planned analysis of what they were doing, good, bad or otherwise, the crew interpreted the numbers to be a performance metric and had already at some base level begun to try and figure out how their boss was arriving at that number. Going up was okay, going down not so much!
Perhaps you are using and collecting metrics and the data around them. Perhaps you have a good handle on what performance looks like at your company. But are you using those metrics to drive performance with your staff? Do they know how they contribute and whether they are improving? If not, why not? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Operational Excellence is one of those terms that can have a wide variety of meanings depending upon who you speak with. For one group it is about streamlining processes. For another, it is about developing and tracking key operational metrics. And for others, it is about developing an "engaged" workforce that can spot and adjust to necessary changes quickly. I am sure you have your own unique understanding of what operational excellence is and what it means to your group. The fact is that all of these things are correct. Operational excellence is a dynamic blend of organizational design, process improvement, the development and use of metrics, continuous improvement, performance management, and employee engagement. Key though, to all of it is that really great Operational Excellence factors in the Hu (Human Element).
This interesting blend of approaches is indeed dynamic and the unique ratio of each of these elements will reflect your company, it's culture, and what it needs. What is not dynamic and what is not up for interpretation is the purpose of operational excellence. Improving profitability. This can mean "becoming" profitable, increasing your profit margins, ramping up a competitive advantage, increasing client satisfaction, increasing quality - you get it - and the list goes on. All of these goals have their nexus around increasing profits.
Let's look at a couple of examples; one that was pretty straight forward with an immediate outcome. And a second scenario that took a bit more time but with pretty spectacular outcomes as well.
We Need To Free Up Budget Room Now!
Company A was in the advanced stages of implementing operational excellence into its field workforce when it suddenly realized it needed some pretty drastic and immediate savings around its Op-Ex budget. Gains were beginning to come in from the field but this was a bigger and more immediate issue. A team of facilitators was brought in and various components of the company came together to spend the day brainstorming. Breakout rooms were created for teams that had representation from each department that touched production from start to finish. I facilitated one team and had them create a process map from when they came into the picture to when they handed it off. It all went up on one wall and for the first half of the meeting, it was just each department mapping their part of the process. In the second half of the meeting, each group described their process and needs until all had presented. Then the magic happened. For many of them, this was the first time they saw the process in detail from start to finish, and questions and ideas began to percolate and flow. By the end of that session, they had come up with a pretty extensive list of potential operational savings. I won't say that every item was approved but that session generated literally millions of dollars in savings!
Law of Unintended Consequences
Company B wanted to get field operations to learn to use performance metrics to drive day to day activities. For the executive, it was really about developing a more detailed data set to stay in front of needs and issues. We took it a bit further by teaching the frontline leadership to not only get their crews to develop their own metrics but to use those metrics to drive performance and innovation for their teams. In a short span of time crews increased performance by over 40% (based on their own metrics), downtime virtually disappeared and it was not uncommon to have more "perfect days" each month than days with issues. Crew engagement went up and client satisfaction soared! And oh yes, they collected so much valuable data that clients were now coming to them to use it. One of the unintended and pleasant side effects of this improvement was the awarding of several very high-value contracts (over $100M) with clients that only months before were considered well beyond the group's reach!
Necessity is The Mother of Invention
Two different companies, two different applications of operational excellence yet very similar outcomes in terms of impact on profit. Two things I want to make note of is that first of all key in both scenarios' was the involvement and work of the people in the process. The other thing I have come to notice is by the time I get called in the pain is unbearable for these companies. In desperation they look for answers they would not normally have considered. I guess necessity truly is the mother of invention! My question for you is simply this; why wait? Operational excellence is something any company can implement and it works! Performance Leadership - Think About It!
We are living in "interesting" times. Where I live we have been hammered by COVID shutdowns on top of energy unfriendly policies emanating from our nation's capital and an actual downturn in our energy sector. These times have seen victim after victim of the downturn and lockdown. Industry sectors who are used to going through this type of "contraction" every few years see it as just another part of the cycle. Markets go down, people get laid off, markets go up we hire them back. This is the tune everyone sings. But I suspect that this time that tune may be coming to an end, that as we GOT (Game of Thrones) fans are apt to say "winter is coming." There has always been a cost to these things, so in true operational excellence tradition, I am going to lay out some "placeholders" just to give us an idea of what that cost looks like.
The Immediate Cost
There is a lot of research in HR circles around the estimated cost of losing an employee (voluntarily or otherwise). Those numbers are often represented as either loss in months of salary or percent of salary. In the months model, the number most frequently provided is nine. That is to say that it costs the equivalent of nine months' salary to replace someone in that same position. For the percentage model, the numbers range from 15% to over 200% of those positions' salaries to replace them. This is based upon the premise that replacing an EVP is more costly than replacing a manager or geologist. For the sake of this discussion, I decided to opt for both. I figured that nine months' salary is the same as 75% so why not use that as a place holder. It is not 15% but it's not 200% either.
I did some further research and a study done by Hayes Oil and Gas Recruitment a couple of years ago pegged the average O & G salary in Calgary at around $130,000. When we take that number and multiply by 75% and then factor in an example of 300 laid off we get a cost of $29.25M. That is to say, this is what it will cost the company to get these positions back when things turn around. These numbers include things like recruitment, interviews, background checks, on-boarding, and training (assuming they get each hire right the first time around). It also includes lost productivity as it is estimated that workers don't get back up to pre-exit levels of performance for at least six months.
"But wait!" you say what about the savings to the company in terms of wages? Fair question and again using the latest set of layoffs as an example it would mean that our company has saved an average of $39M. Factor out the cost for re-hiring later and that is a net gain of $9.75M. A respectable number to be sure but is it really a net gain?
Decline in Engagement
Research done by Gallup shows that during down cycle periods employee engagement drops from an average of 33% (let that sink in for a second) to somewhere around 28%. This is attributed to low morale created by the loss of coworkers and the uncertainty of the current market. New metrics measuring profit per employee have been conducted and the numbers for this come in at $366k (USD) per employee. Source: Zacks Investment Research. Again for the sake of argument lets assume a straight 1-1 correlation between engagement and profit per employee. That two percent drop in engagement works out to a drop in profit of around $50M/year. Of course, that is a ridiculous number and doesn't factor in things like the current drop in market prices (impacting profit per employee) and so on. So let's drop our number to 0.5 of one percent or one half of one percent. That still works out to a drop in profit of $12.6M. Suddenly that $9.75M savings doesn't seem quite as respectable does it?
Now before all the accountants and CFO's form a lynch mob let me restate, these are only place holders and there is going to be variation between companies and these will be impacted by many factors. The point is they DO tell a story that contraction may not always be the best solution.
Winter is Coming!
Here is the kicker. When markets pick back up companies are going to be confronted with a very different workforce demographic. The "boomers" have decided that this downturn is just the motivation they needed to take that step into retirement and they are now moving out of the workforce in large numbers. As Stats Can reports that rates retirement have already moved from 175,000 per year to over 250,000 per year and that is expected to climb to 400,000 per year shortly. This group takes with them all of that "tribal knowledge" around operations and productivity and they take a large amount of leadership knowledge and experience. The demographics that are following this group the Y'ers, X'ers, Nexters, and Millennials are much smaller, lack that "tribal knowledge" and lack the leadership experience and skillsets.
Rather than ramping back up as anticipated many companies are going to be scrambling to fill those positions with qualified people. It won't be business as usual and companies that are not RIGHT NOW training and preparing their teams to use operational excellence - to do more with less - are going to be ill-equipped to compete. Winter is coming and what are you doing about it? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
This is the next in our series on the "Hu" (Human Element) of Organizational Effectiveness and Leadership.
"The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I'. They don't think 'I'. They think 'we'; they think 'team'."
Today, in looking at "Hu" centered leadership I want to explore the idea that a good leader will know and utilize the skills found on their team. For some, this is an easy topic and for others, it can be a bit intimidating. It is one of those "mom, apple pie and Hershey bar" type of statements where everyone nods agreement. In practice, though it often is missed either intentionally or for other reasons.
You are not Superman
I have to say that new leaders will often avoid this area as they have come into the role under the false impression that as a leader they must know it all. After all, it is a natural and common mistake as most people will move into leadership for technical expertise, not leadership skills. Validation has come not from what they do as leaders but how they contribute from a technical expertise perspective. Interestingly enough this struggle to let go of one's "expertise" to allow others to use their skills is not new.
Probably the best example I can provide is that of the game of chess. Aside from the pawn the weakest player on the board is the king. What exists on the board are in fact a team (okay army) of players who each have a unique skill (movement). The king doesn't have to do it all and in fact, can't do it all. But an effective chess player knows how to utilize the unique characteristics of each player to further their position in the game. And so it is with a good leader in a business unit, or crew or company.
You may have guessed from the previous pieces of this study that this does require the leader to get to know the skills on their team. Some companies are already getting pretty good at this and certainly, one useful tool is to develop a skills matrix. It will help you identify where there may be gaps in your team's skillsets and will allow you to address those gaps with either training or hiring. However whether the company has something like this or not, it is a good idea to get to know what your team members can contribute.
Look for the gems in the mix
Skills focus is about all your team's strengths which may include hitherto unknown skills (Excel wizard comes to mind) or if they have skills around things like communication, teamwork, detail vs global thinkers, and innovators. Since this series of articles is derived from Gallup's Strengths List suffice it to say that they have an extensive list of skills to explore and it makes for a good team-building exercise. There are other tools out there as well such as Myers-Briggs, Insights, and so on. And while I know that some of these items may be viewed as personality traits they are and can be profound skills as well which in the right circumstances can be used to really help the team meet its goals.
Everyone can contribute
Just a quick example (which is why the Excel wizard sprang to mind) of how that can work. One crew I was working with had developed personal metrics and team metrics but wanted to represent those numbers on something more than hand-drawn charts (which are fine by the way). It turns out that one of the crew, and literally the last person you would have thought of, had a real passion for Excel and volunteered to put a spreadsheet and graphs together for them. It was amazing and not only did wonders for the team but it really boosted that person's level of engagement as well. It was something that he was uniquely skilled at and he "owned" it.
Find your team's skills and be their advocate and encourager concerning developing them further. Train yourself to look for gaps that each individual can fill and let them go for it! Don't know your team's strengths? What are you waiting for? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
This is the next in our series on the "Hu" (Human Element) of Organizational Effectiveness.
With the skill of being purposeful, we see how these talents actually fit together and support one another. If you have created outcomes and are driving your team toward them then being purposeful in prioritizing performance (metrics) instead of succumbing to organizational politics becomes almost second nature. In fact, being purposeful seems far less difficult, and "politics" becomes a non-issue.
Every Company Gets The Performance It Wants
When I talk about politics I use it in the more generic sense and really this could be interchanged with "company culture". Culture or the ethos created by it (politics) is a direct result of what company leadership requires and more importantly what they ignore. This is a powerful principle. For example, a company may give lip service to issues around safety but if they ignore or brush under the carpet safety issues in favor of increased profits they send a clear message to their team about what is really important. In the oil patch, there are companies that make so much money that issues of downtime and productivity are simply not important; the margins are so big. That is until the inevitable downturn hits but by then it's too late. Downtime is accepted and with a wink and a nod the supervisor or operations manager says "well its the oil patch - crap happens!" What that really means is that they don't care or know enough to realize that they could be operating at much higher levels of performance. In this instance, leadership does not have to be purposeful because nothing is being measured and there is more than enough padding in the profit margin to make up for those "little" mistakes. This is the type of "politics" I am referring to in our exploration today.
Purposeful Leaders Are Disrupters
So prevalent is this culture that both client and service provider make allowances for it; that is until someone who is decisive comes in to disrupt the natural order of things. In one case the change was stark. Service crews were working for a client. The daily schedule allowed for an hour of maintenance every four hours or so. Often downtime issues came up during those four hours of run time and when those issues had nothing to do with this service provider, out came the computer games while they waited for whatever issue was to be resolved. That is until one front line leader who was using outcomes to drive his team's performance decided that this was a horrid waste of good time.
Based on the data he was getting from his crew he calculated that there was quite a bit of maintenance that could be accomplished during these interruptions. This was a risk because he could be halfway through maintaining a piece of equipment and they could be called to get back to operations. But because of the input from his crew (the outcomes they had been measuring), he knew exactly how much time was needed and he didn't hesitate to talk to the site manager to confirm the estimated downtime for the issue and communicate to him what he planned to do.
What happened? It turned out the data he had was good and when interruptions happened his crew was prepared and went out to do maintenance. It was close sometimes but they were always ready to roll when the site manager asked them to. Here was the kicker; because they got so good at using these windows of opportunity for maintenance they did not need the scheduled downtime! Of course, the client was pleased as punch, and suddenly what had been the norm (waiting out interruptions playing on the computer) quickly faded away, and a new much more productive norm was put in its place. All because one front line leader made a decision and it paid off.
You Can't Have One Without The Other
It is important here to point out that this leader could never have made that decision if he had not already been driving outcomes with his team. Not only that but he could not have presented his case so effectively to the site manager if he hadn't had the data to back it up. You may want to be purposeful but without the outcomes and metrics, you are just taking chances. This is often where leaders who are purposeful run into issues; upper management is not going to run with your "hunch" when you have nothing to back it up with. So you may be naturally purposeful but you need that assertiveness and drive to outcomes to compliment it. You really can't have one without the other.
You may be reading this and saying to yourself that you want to be purposeful but that the company culture or your boss isn't open to it. Do you have the data to support your position? If not then set about getting it with your team, work with them on driving to those outcomes and just watch and see what happens! Performance Leadership - Think About It!
"Decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all."
The second leadership skill I want to explore is that of decisiveness. This is not the type of decisiveness that is brash and aggressive but rather a steady, persistent drive toward outcomes. It helps to stop here and explore what I mean by outcomes because depending upon your motivations those outcomes may be somewhat different. If, for example, your outcomes are career advancement and never letting anything "stick to you" those are not the outcomes we are talking about. Or if your outcomes are to keep you and your team safely under the radar so as not to attract unwarranted attention, play it safe, and never stir things up then those are not the outcomes I am speaking about either. The outcomes I am speaking about are the ones you have developed for you and your team that not only align with company KPI's but also go the extra mile to explore ways to improve performance, add to the bottom line, and enhance everyone's experience of being on your team.
You Need to Know
Of course, what this suggests is that you have a clear idea of what outcomes you want. Too often we get the idea that good leadership is about doing your job, making sure your team does their job but really never exploring what goes into making that happen. A good symptom of that type of leadership is the recent phenomenon of companies abandoning their performance review processes. Don't get me wrong, there are many poorly structured performance management processes out there that don't do what they should but the bottom line is that they don't work because many in leadership don't know what they want as outcomes! Thus we find ourselves grasping at straws when it comes time to assess performance.
Job descriptions are not outcomes they are simply a description of the job that person has been hired to do. Outcomes are more about how they do that work, how they contribute to the mission of the group, how they contribute to improving the work they do. For example, a manager of an HSE group had a clear idea of the outcomes she wanted from her team. Their job descriptions were pretty straight forward in terms of ensuring there was compliance with the company HSE policies and that adequate training and onsite supervision were in place. This manager established outcomes that aligned with those aspects of the role and more. She began to require her team to establish their own outcomes such as determining success or failure rates of compliance initiatives in their area and all the reasons around those successes or failures. She had them start to track safety and environmental events both in terms of raw data but also using root cause analysis. And she required them to initiate discussions and training with operations leadership around behavior-based safety compliance that related to the outcomes of those root cause studies.
Keep it Simple
What then were the actual outcomes she drove? Simply this; Was her team counting? Were they counting compliance failures and trends? Were they counting safety and environmental events and trends? How many events had a root cause analysis done? How many recommendations and behavior-based procedural changes were brought forward to operations leadership and how did those changes impact the relevant trends around those issues? She had each of the team tracking and reporting on these things and they knew exactly what they were driving for.
What did she track? Aside from the data provided by her team she tracked how many times she asked for that information when meeting with them at various sites. She tracked how many had performed root cause analysis, how many had suggested procedural changes, and how many had established positive working relationships with the operations leadership. As she shared with me, "It was slow at first but every time they saw me they knew I was going to ask for their numbers and a rundown of what was happening on their site. I knew it was starting to take when I would show up and they already had graphs and information up and ready to show me."
Don't Stop Requiring
Getting her team to drive to the outcomes she wanted is the kind of decisiveness that good leaders practice. She knew what outcomes she wanted, she made sure her team knew as well and that they developed their own outcomes that aligned with her goals. She made sure to hold them all accountable for those things. You might be tempted to think that no-one enjoyed working on her team but nothing was farther from the truth. They knew what was expected of them, they knew where they stood and how they were performing and they loved it. What's more, is they felt that they were no just "doing" their job they were excelling and making a difference.
How is your decisiveness in terms of driving your team's outcomes? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
"Hu" centered leadership - Motivate
This is the first in a series of discussions around the core strengths people need to develop as part of becoming a high functioning leader. In focussing on the "Hu" Element in organizations leaders need to acknowledge their humanity and also the humanity of their team. Of course, we all know we are human but do we understand what that means? The list we are going to explore was developed through research conducted by the Gallup organization around what strengths folks need to have to be effective leaders. In fact, Gallup is so compelled by their findings that they have now taken the position that leaders should be hired for these strengths and not necessarily for their technical expertise in that given area. While it may seem radical it has certainly provided food for thought.
The first leadership talent is the ability to motivate others. The power of motivation is something that is found in novels and movies and stories. We love a good story where a leader motivates a group to overcome a challenge. It could be a sports story, a story around a crisis, or just a success story like the ones we find with people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Who hasn't been moved by movies like "Blind Side", "Gandhi" or "Apollo 13"? We are wired to respond to motivation and an effective leader will tap into that natural human aspect on their team.
Create A Compelling Vision or Mission
I can walk into a company or plant and immediately determine those leaders who are not motivating vs those who are. Our words are powerful indicators of one or the other; "don't ask questions, just do your job" vs "that's a good question let me show you how what you are doing is a key part of what we deliver for our clients." Get the difference? I recall one story where a manager in a fast-food restaurant told his drive-through staff to count the number of times they made their clients smile. It was a contest and it worked but it also tied into the much needed positive client experience.
I can think of two very different stories around this. In the first story, a young manager for a crew in an LNG production facility told his team that his goal was to make them the best crew in the plant. They sat down and agreed on a list together about what made a great crew, broke it into pieces for each of the crew, and set them free to do it. The work was no less redundant but the crew went at it with renewed vigor. Even though they were only measuring against their own previous performance soon the word got out and a friendly rivalry began between the crews and everyone's game went up a notch or two (or three!).
In the second story, an office manager struggled with motivating a group of office staff to come together as a team and ramp-up performance. They all did their work but did not seem to work well together. It was a source of frustration until one day a client came into the small office to commend the receptionist on having helped out with a billing issue and left a box of chocolates. Everyone saw it and the manager jumped on the opportunity. She brought the team into the conference room and sat the box of chocolates down in the middle of the table. She commended the receptionist but then asked her to think if there was anyone else that had made her help to this client possible? She didn't even have to think about it because she had needed to pull an archived file and one of the other people on the team got that for her. That team member spoke out about how it was a good thing that the information had been filed properly by another team member who was responsible for that and someone else talked about how the bookkeeper had saved the day as well with timely input on how to deal with the issue. By the time they were done they all realized that each of them in some way had been a part of that success with the client. That was enough for the manager to start to build a mission for that team on being a team and from that point forward things changed.
Clients, Tasks, or Team
Usually building a vision or mission that is compelling is going to involve looking at either how what we do impacts, clients, for the better, how the tasks we do contribute to the overall goals of the company. It could also be how we function as part of a high performing team. Sometimes these things are obvious such as being a doctor or firefighter where the benefit to the client is clear. Or in a manufacturing scenario where your task is part of a series of tasks that all combine to create a product. Sometimes it is simply that your task may not change the world or save a life or build a desk but it means a lot to your fellow workers in because it contributes to their success - no one ever really wants to let the team down. Whatever your situation look for where the best connection to vision is. That is where motivation begins.
Being able to motivate is something that you can learn to do or if you already are doing it, do it better. It is a key strength to have as a leader so ask yourself how is your "motivate" going? Performance Leadership - Think About It?
"Hu" - Tapping Into The Human Element of Organizations - Planned Random Acts of Recognition
Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
Like the "Practice Random Acts of Kindness" movement this very effective tip is similar in that you need to practice it but it differs in that you absolutely must NOT be "random" about your recognition. If that sounds a bit contrived let me explain.
Where Is Your 90% Being Spent?
In my earlier posts on ramping up the "Hu" human element, we discussed that most leaders spend 90% of their time on 10% of their staff. The issue is that our tendency is to spend a large amount of time focusing on the under-performers. That being the case, the question becomes, what are you doing with that 90% of your staff who are performing at or above expectations? If we are honest while there "may" be the occasional recognition, for the most part with this group "no news is good news." The reality is that "no news is no news" and believe me they know it. This is the group you should be focussing on to drive performance.
Do You Know What You Are Looking For?
Connected with focussing on the performing group is the idea that you should know what you are looking for. What are the behaviors that you want that drive performance? In one case a supervisor wanted his Crew Cabbers (outside leadership) to be instructing and mentoring crews during set up and takedown. It was too easy for them to take over and go "butt up and head down" doing the work that the crew should have been learning and doing. So a rule was implemented that Crew Cabbers were not to be seen doing work but teaching and supervising work. One cold February morning as a crew was setting up the Superintendent looked at me and said "look at that, John (the names have been changed to protect the innocent - lol!) is actually teaching that guy instead of doing it for him!" With that, he went outside and gave "John" a hearty pat on the back and even brought it up later at the leadership meetings. The supervisor knew what he was looking for and so it was easy for him to spot and recognize the behavior he wanted.
It's Non-Random - So Make a List
Of course, it won't just be one behavior it will be several and so you should make a list to be sure you don't miss anything. In one case the head of a corporate group had a list of behaviors in a jar and each morning she would take one out and spend her day looking for that behavior in her group. She had enough behaviors on her list to last a few days and so she made sure she did not use the same item two days in a row. Her group did not know she was doing this but she reported to me what a huge difference it made in their performance and how much more satisfying it was to "hunt" for high performing behavior rather than bad behavior.
Make The Recognition Meaningful And Change It Up
Here is where the other tips can make this part easier. Through your listening, micro-meetings, tracking, and accountability you should have come to know your people pretty well. Make sure your recognition is something they will appreciate and respond positively to. For some a thank you is good enough for others it might be the chance to sit on a committee and for others, a "well done" during a meeting is good enough. The point is "know" your people so that naming someone at a meeting doesn't cause them to want to crawl under the table and disappear. Be creative in how you provide your recognition and don't let it get stale - as good as a "pat on the back" is, after 30 of them, it starts to get old! As well, make sure to provide the recognition as close to the behavior as possible. Waiting to say something during a monthly meeting is too long and it diminishes the effectiveness of the recognition.
Work at these things and you will be amazed at where your employee engagement goes and moreover what it will mean to your bottom line. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama
Before everyone's eyes glaze over let me set the context for this. What I mean is that you should be listening in the active or intentional sense.
I believe that those closest to the action are best able to identify the issues and opportunities. People want to do a good job and nothing is as frustrating as seeing a potential issue or opportunity and not having a structure in place to share it. As humans, we want to contribute and to help out. If you have been implementing the Hu element then by this point, you have staff measuring performance, you are touching base with them through micro-meetings and you are holding them accountable for tracking and improving that performance. The next key part of that journey is to listen to what they are telling you and if necessary be an advocate for their ideas.
Listening is NOT Chasing Opinions
Let's be clear managers and leaders deal with "suggestions" all the time and much of the time the "suggestions" fall into the "in my opinion" category. An opinion is something that is unsubstantiated and so using up time to listen to one is frustrating. However, by this time your team is tracking performance metrics and discussing findings. They should now have data to back up what they are seeing, whether it is a potential problem or an opportunity. Too often we allow ourselves to chase opinions without having the "numbers" or the data to back it up. This should not be the case with your team. They will be able to make a pretty compelling argument using the data they have collected so don't let that go to waste.
Listening IS Providing A Structure for Input
Often this aspect of your listening will begin with something brought up in a micro-meeting or when you are having staff share performance measures with you. These are the venues that are "gold" with regard to listening. It is an opportunity for you to affirm the work of your staff and to provide direction too. If, for example, someone presents a thought regarding a process that looks promising but still lacks data to validate it then you have a perfect chance to give direction about what sorts of numbers you want that would provide you with the comfort to make the change or take it to the next level. They will chase those numbers down because they are now invested in making sure they can provide support for their idea. This also becomes an affirmation that they are a part of the team and whether the idea sees the light of day or not they got a chance to contribute. That matters!
Listening IS Intentional
Often in my discussions with leaders, they tend to take a casual approach to this issue. We all think we spend a lot of time listening to our staff. The difference is that you need to be intentional. There are several reasons for this but let me share just a couple.
We Don't Listen As Much As We Think We Do
In several studies conducted on the issue of communication, a group of managers and leaders were asked to rate their level of communication with their staff. In addition, they were asked to list the various ways that they communicate and how many times they communicate regarding an issue. Managers felt that they were good at this skill and many cited emails and meetings as the primary tools for communicating. In this study, their staff too were given surveys on how well they viewed their manager's communication skills and the results were interesting. Where most managers used on average two or three methods to communicate a piece of important information it was found that to do this effectively they needed to layer their communication at least 7-10 different ways or times! The kicker though was that most managers emphasized communication as the dissemination of information to staff and staff put more emphasis on communication as the dissemination of information from staff to management. On this issue, they were miles apart! It was far more important to staff that they be able to communicate easily and openly with leadership than those leaders had realized.
If You Don't Track It, It Won't Happen
The other reason for being intentional about your communication is that in the rush of day to day activities it is easy to let things slide on the listening side. You need to make a list or set a schedule that you hold so that you "know" you are getting out and listening to your staff. It is too easy to get caught up in administratia and come to the end of a day a realize you haven't really seen anybody.
You want a team that is engaged and performing and if you have provided some key pieces to make that happen through tracking, accountability, and micro-meetings, then giving them a structure that provides an opportunity to share with you and contribute to team goals is a natural outgrowth of that process. If you don't provide it the result will be the same as starving a fire of air. You can provide fuel and heat but without air, it won't last. Take the time to listen. It is truly a key component to ramping up the "Hu" element on your team. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
"Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result." Bob Proctor
The most challenging behavior to master with regard to harnessing the human element is getting you and your team to embrace accountability. This has several layers of meaning that need to be extracted so that you understand what I mean by accountability. Certainly, it means monitoring and holding your people accountable for their KPIs or performance objectives but it also means being vulnerable as a leader as well as getting your team to be vulnerable around behavior dealing with team performance such as admitting mistakes, needing help, or just saying sorry.
Accountability is Hard!
It is not by accident that embracing accountability is not often written about. I won’t sugar coat it, this is the hardest behavior to master. In fact, statistically, this is the biggest challenge that leaders face over all the other behaviors that they need to develop. We all tend to get uncomfortable with the idea of calling someone out for a behavior or a performance issue.
If you are like most of us (and I mean most of us) you are not going to want to hold that team member accountable for negative or non-productive behavior. Rather you will probably make note of it during your meetings or say something in passing to others on the team or in your department. Regardless of how you try to spin it this is indicative of a lack of respect as there is nothing respectful about withholding information from a peer that could help them improve their performance.
Accountability is Affirming
The biggest affirmation you can give your team or staff is to hold them accountable. If you think about it from a personal perspective wouldn’t you want to be told that something you were doing or not doing was not only noted by your peers but was impacting their ability to do their jobs as well?
This will date me a little, but concerning walking in that mutual vulnerable trust let me use this old adage – “Only your friend will tell you when your fly is open or your slip is showing.” As difficult as it may seem, the idea of holding each other accountable for behavior that impacts the team has to be done and is one of those indicators of a strong and cohesive team.
Accountability is Respectful
Once you have your team tracking their own metrics around their performance you must hold them accountable. What that does NOT mean is walking up and looking at their charts tracking their metrics and tearing them "a new one." What is does mean is asking them to show you how they are doing, getting them to explain the highs and the lows (something they will want to do given a safe environment), and by asking them what their plan is to improve the problem areas they have identified. You can also keep the door open to them should they decide they need help - but let them tackle their issues first. A healthy team will come to understand that truth and embracing accountability will come easier as they practice it. It is ultimately the highest form of respect.
No, it never gets easy, just easier, and once you have experienced working on a team that is cohesive and healthy and that practices embracing accountability you will wonder how you ever managed to get things done any other way. And what’s more, it will be rewarding, enriching, and fun! It's all about tapping into that "Hu" element. How accountable are you and your team? Performance Leadership – Think About It!