Performance Management: Enabling and Empowering Your Team to Do Their Jobs Right

Today, I want to talk about performance enablement and empowerment, though traditionally the conversation would be around performance management. I believe we need to stop managing performance because just from the definition of management, which is about “controlling and making decisions”, we are hindering our efforts to maximize performance. So, instead, think about performance enablement and empowerment – two words that really get into what our role in performance should be.

Let’s also consider exactly what performance is. Performance is defined by two considerations, 1 – the desired or needed results, and 2 – the way in which the results are achieved. It is important that we do not just think of performance in terms of “how much” is delivered, because then we have a situation where staff only focus on results, regardless of how they get them—even if it is to the detriment of others on the team and to professional ethics. Performance metrics need to be aligned with the team or department as well as the objectives and the values of the company.

Let’s begin by talking about performance enablement. To enable your people effectively, you must provide the following:

  • Training: Continually develop good work habits and skills through a combination of classroom, online, and on-the-job training.
  • Tools to do the job: Ensure your people have the things they need to do their job well. As a manager, this is one of your main responsibilities – ensure there is a process in place that gets the necessary tools to your team on time and at the right time.
  • The right information: Managers need to be forthcoming and transparent with information an employee needs to do their job and make decisions.

Once employees have what they need, managers need to get out of the way and let their people make decisions. As stated by Steven Casemore in a recent article for Industry Week, it is critical to “let go in order to help employees grow.” This is performance empowerment. Managers have to stop being so insecure and concerned that they will not have a job if the staff are making all the decisions. I would argue a manager becomes more valuable when they empower their people and stop controlling so many aspects of the business. They shift from being managers to leaders. Empowerment is a critical part to achieving an engaged workforce. You cannot have engaged employees without first empowering them. Considering that only 51% of US employees are engaged at work, there is a dire need to empower your people.

To empower your people, remember:

  • Instead of giving answers, ask employees what they would do. Simply asking questions can get your staff thinking as owners and leaders themselves. And, by asking them for their thoughts, you are telling your employees that you trust their judgment. Empowerment is all about giving staff confidence in their own abilities.
  • Continually remind staff that they can make decisions.
  • Provide scenario-based training to collectively think what the best solutions or decisions might be. Ideally, this training should take place in an informal environment, such as a daily team meeting. Providing staff a scenario on a daily or weekly basis can get their creative juices flowing and turn them into expert problem-solvers.
  • Think about what best solutions or decisions might be.
  • Teach your people about financial responsibility and the impact of different decisions on the company’s bottom line. Encourage them to solve problems in a way that benefits both the organization and the customer.
  • Provide guidelines as new staff come onboard. During their onboarding time – that first 30-60 days on the job – there should be plenty of opportunities to teach new hires the guidelines for decision-making while they are in a safe learning environment, where the customer, product, or service is not inconvenienced.
  • Be prepared to respond positively when someone gives too much away. In most cases, it’s not the end of the world – make it a teaching moment, not a punishment. Staff have to make mistakes to learn what not to do. Think back to your early days as a leader – I can guarantee you made your fair share of mistakes as well, and it only helped you grow in your role and in the organization.

Remember ­– the only way a manager becomes truly indispensable is to be dispensable to their teams by enabling and empowering them.

Employee Engagement – How to Get Your People Truly Engaged in the Business

Today, I want to talk employee engagement, what it really looks like, and what it requires from you. Engagement is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “being present at a particular time and place.” For our staff to be present at work, they must be actively involved in understanding and working on the business not just in it. However, most managers, executives, and owners we work with seem determined to keep their employees on the outside looking in. Organizational consultant Warren Bennis stated, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone in the organization feels that he or she can make a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered, and that gives their work meaning.” I would suggest this makes them engaged and present each day.

I think there are three key aspects that help bring your staff into the heart of things.

1. Teach Employees About the Company Objectives

Employees must know and understand the objectives of the company. This helps provide purpose to the worker. As Peter Drucker said, “Management by objectives works if you know the objectives: 90% of the time, you don’t.” Owners and executives need to stop thinking their people don’t need to know or won’t understand what the objectives are all about. It is outdated thinking. By ensuring that staff know the current annual objectives around finances, market share, customer satisfaction, their own satisfaction, and community engagement, they can be brought into the discussion about how to reach those objectives and what part they and their department play in contributing to the company’s success. I think it is also important that individual and department goals are aligned with the company’s so everyone’s efforts are going in the same direction.

2. Share Scores and Feedback Regularly

Once your staff know the objectives, you now must share the scores and feedback with them on a regular basis. Each employee must know the measurements by which success, concern, or failure is deemed. Create a company scorecard that is easily read and understood by all. This can then be drilled down into a departmental scorecard that is more relevant to your immediate staff. Ensure the scorecard is updated and reviewed each month. By sharing the scores, staff are aware of overall company performance which helps direct conversation and communication about achievements, concerns, and required improvements. It is important that individuals and departments know how they personally and collectively impact the company scorecard. Some departments will have more impact to drive revenues, help customers, or manage expenses. It is important that staff know the part they play in overall company performance. Managers can then engage their people in the process to improve the scores.

3. Involve Staff in Improving the Business

Finally, it is important that companies and departments require all staff to be responsible for helping improve the business. Whether individually or as a team, expect everyone to consider how they can improve their individual or department scores and help achieve their goals. All departments should have an action plan that outlines the steps to be taken to improve results. Remember, an objective without a plan is just a wish! I encourage you to ensure that you have a single action plan template for your company. It is amazing in our work how many times a company has multiple templates at work, making the process of compiling and having a single action plan very difficult.

It is absolutely critical to make sure your employees know your objectives, understand the scores, and are working on a plan to improve. That is what engagement really is—employees being present and understanding how their efforts make a difference and have a purpose in your company.

Performance Reviews: Why the Traditional Approach is Not Effective

Let’s discuss those dreaded and mostly ineffective performance reviews. In the last blog, I discussed the importance of informal feedback and how regular, casual conversations on what an employee does well or could improve upon are critical to improving performance and the overall mindset of your team. In addition, without consistent informal feedback, any formal feedback, like performance reviews, often lacks credibility and relevancy, making them relatively ineffective in improving performance.

The traditional approach to performance reviews—the annual one-sided interpretation of performance based on recent events or activity—causes employees to become confused, frustrated, and even angry. Additionally, many managers are typically under-prepared, utilize limited, outdated, or biased information, and often see the review as a burden rather than an opportunity to motivate their people to perform better. Research suggests that less than half of employees feel that performance reviews help their performance and that organizations feel the same way. In recent years, several companies including Adobe and GE, have abandoned the traditional annual review process due to its ineffectiveness.

It’s time to rethink the formal review. However, this doesn’t mean to throw it out completely. The majority of millennials want to have a formal review process in place, just in a different way. So, what changes need to be made to ensure formal feedback is useful and motivating?

To begin implementing an effective feedback process, ensure there is a clear understanding of what performance is. I define performance as a combination of what was delivered—are the numbers and quantifiers where they need to be? And how it was delivered—are the behaviors of this individual in line with your company’s values? You must include adherence to company values in any performance review. However, when someone delivers the results that you want but does so at the expense of their peers, their performance must be addressed. Reinforcing your company’s values is one of the most influential actions you can take to improve company culture and the daily attitudes of your teams.

Next, we must have more frequent formal conversations on performance. Research from Gallup explains that 48% of employees are evaluated only once a year, and 26% are evaluated less than once a year. How can employees know how they are performing when feedback is so sparse? This lack of consistent feedback is a major reason why only 29% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive are fair, and only 26% agree that their reviews are accurate.

I can already hear the groans from managers out there but listen up—more regular meetings can be short (about 15 minutes) and focused on how the employee is doing and how their performance aligns to the goals and values of the company. Companies that do monthly or even quarterly conversations have found the conversations to be more relevant, and the time it takes to deliver them becomes significantly shorter. These more frequent conversations are more focused on current activity, recapping any informal discussions, and giving the employee a chance to rate their performance. These meetings should not be a lecture—make them a conversation and ensure that the employee is involved heavily in their improvement.



Finally, rework any annual conversation to be focused on career goals and achievements. As many companies base bonuses and other incentives around an annual conversation, we recommend awarding bonuses when the company’s and an employee’s goals are achieved, knowing everyone’s personal goals will be different. Remember, not everyone can be “the best,” but everyone can be “their best.” Not only will this shift improve the mindset of your people, but it will also improve the performance of many of your staff. Also, consider developing an “Achievement Plan” with each employee that will direct them on what to do in the future and how it will align with the future goals of the company.

Above all else, remember that effective feedback, with a combination of informal and formal conversations, is the best way to get your people to a path of improvement and growth. As Bob Nardelli, former CEO of Home Depot said perfectly, “I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum abilities.”

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