Lets review what we have explored in this discussion so far. A leader's role is to create Coherence, to provide meaning and context for their company. Arising out of that is Climate and creating a milieu of consistency and security for staff to function and to innovate. You will notice incredible changes on your staff by this point but now the work of "setting" this performance in place as a permanent feature of your company begins.
We are Wired for Challenge
You must create an expectation of meaningful challenge as the fist phase of making continuous improvement sustainable. We all want to do good work and we want to know where we stand with our peers, our boss and the competition. We are competitive creatures by nature. You don't have to look too far to see evidence of this. A good portion of our leisure time (and for some of us not so leisure - lol!) involves activities around either participating in or watching sports or games of some type. Have you ever gone out for an evening of bowling and not kept score? How about golf or hockey? Competitiveness is woven into the fabric of what makes us human.
Tapping into Challenge
As a leader you need to tap into that inclination to compete. Let me add a quick caution here before going on. You cannot skip coherence and climate and jump straight to challenge. Too many well meaning leaders have torn the fabric of their companies or groups to shreds with misguided competitions that actually inhibit performance rather than drive it. Once you have created the context for the team and ensured a safe climate to pursue innovation then you can look at challenge.
Where does that start? Honestly it starts with you but it is initiated with each and every staff member. What does that mean? By this point you should have a pretty good idea of what you need each of your staff doing to promote and achieve the goals of the group or company. The way you confirm that is to get them to set their own metrics for performance. Getting your staff to set their own metrics is important for several reasons. First it will confirm to you that everyone is on the same page and the metrics they are setting align with your goals or the company goals. If they aren't you get the opportunity to guide those staff through a "course adjustment" so that their metrics come into alignment with your goals and they will see how they fit.
Second and more importantly having staff develop their own metrics will allow you to tap into that natural competitive nature we all have. You can give them metrics to be sure but they will be "your" metrics and not theirs. Let them develop their own metrics (under your discrete guidance) and they will "own" them.
A Real Connection
Keep a couple of things in mind. Metrics should be simple, measurable and "connected" to achieving group or company goals and they must be personal. That is to say that each staff should be tracking their metrics but ensure they know they are competing against themselves and not others on the team.
When I have walked leaders through this I tell them to develop the habit of visiting staff daily and getting them to explain their metrics and how they are tracking them. I tell them to let the staff do the talking. When folks show their own metrics (and you have created the right climate) they will be eager to discuss their performance. In addition they are now driving their own performance and you only need to provide encouragement.
Organic vs "Pushing it"
It is important that this phase be allowed to grow organically. Don't push it but let staff become comfortable with their metrics and eventually without too much prompting they will start to talk with each other about it. That's when the magic will really start to happen.
We will take up that discussion in our second installment on creating an expectation of challenge. Performance Leadership - Think About It!