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Managing Staff for High Performance

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Learn how to encourage and develop your staff into a high-performing team.

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Managing Staff for High Performance

  1. 1. Managing staff for high performance There is no ‘i’ in ‘team’ By James Price, BBM, FAIM
  2. 2. Table  of  Contents   Introduction   ...........................................................................................................  3   New  research  offers  people  performance  insights   ................................................................................  4   What  have  we  learned  from  these  discoveries?  .....................................................................................  6   Practical  steps  for  achieving  high  performance  ....................................................................................  7   Chapter  1:  Dynamic  Performance  Checklist  ............................................................  8   1)  Objective  and  Outcome  ...............................................................................................................................  9   2)  Strengths  and  Weaknesses  .....................................................................................................................  10   3)  Risks  ..................................................................................................................................................................  11   4)  Expectations  ..................................................................................................................................................  12   5)  Question  and  Check  ....................................................................................................................................  13   6)  Monitor  and  Feedback  ..............................................................................................................................  14   Chapter  2:  The  Performance  in  Review  process  ....................................................   15   How  often  do  we  need  to  review  performance?  ..................................................................................  15   What  to  cover  in  Performance  in  Review  sessions  .............................................................................  16   How  to  encourage  open  communication  ...............................................................................................  17   Reaching  a  resolution  –  ensuring  both  parties  are  genuinely  ‘engaged’  .................................  18   Document  the  outcome  ..................................................................................................................................  19   Chapter  3:  Feedback,  Reward  and  Recognition   ....................................................   20   When  and  how  to  reward  performance  .................................................................................................  21   Chapter  4:  Strategies  for  turning  around  poor  staff  performance  .........................   23   1)  Make  sure  the  individual  ‘engages’  on  their  weaknesses  ..........................................................  23   2)  Fulfil  your  responsibilities  to  your  team  members  ......................................................................  24   3)  Create  a  threshold  point  or  a  ‘contract  to  engage’  ......................................................................  24   4)  Be  ready  to  resolve  issues  –  either  way!   ............................................................................................  25   Disclaimer: The information contained in this eBook is general in nature and should not be taken as personal, professional advice. 2   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  3. 3. Introduction In our last eBook we talked about successful staff recruitment, so the next step is to discuss how you encourage and develop your staff into a highperforming team. A high-performing team is one where both the individuals and the team as a whole are performing to their optimum potential. A high-performing team is aligned and attuned to your vision for where you want to take the business. They drive the key tasks and aspects of the business to achieve both its short- and long-term objectives. Sounds like nirvana? It is! jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   3  
  4. 4. New research offers ‘people performance’ insights Before we talk about some ways to assist you with people and team performance in your business, I want to reflect on a couple of interesting recent discoveries. The first one relates to two monkeys. It was recently reported that scientists at Harvard Medical School have successfully used computer chips to link two monkeys together, allowing one monkey’s brain to control the other’s body movement. Partly inspired by the movie Avatar, the work will hopefully lead to the development of implants for patients with nerve or spinal cord paralysis. However, work on humans hasn’t been undertaken yet. Why am I talking about this? Because we’re discussing teams and individuals and the degree to which a business owner, leader or manager can influence the actions and reactions of their team. 4   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  5. 5. The second discovery relates to a recent study led by Alex Frino, the Dean of Macquarie Graduate School of Management. Professor Frino’s team examined the ASX’s top 100 companies and the correlation between their share performance and their CEO’s ‘narcissism’ level. The researchers created a narcissism ranking by measuring the personal pronoun usage of each CEO in the Q&A sessions of Analyst Briefings conducted by companies to announce their earnings. CEOs who repeatedly used first person singular pronouns such as ‘I, me, my and myself’ were higher up the ranking, while those who used terms such as ‘we, us, our and ourselves’ ranked lower on the narcissism scale. The Australian Financial Review recently revealed the findings of the study, which showed the more narcissistic a chief executive, the more likely their share price will lag. While there were some exceptions, the companies with CEOs who regularly used terms like ‘we, us and our’, rather than ‘I and me’, tended to perform better. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   5  
  6. 6. What have we learned from these discoveries? There are two messages we can take from these pieces of research when reflecting on the challenge of developing a high performing team and managing performance of individuals within that team: 1. People aren’t (yet) machines: People can’t be controlled by electrodes and their responses aren’t robotic in nature. They’re not necessarily predictable. Despite what these researchers are doing, which will no doubt advance medical science, we are a long way from the point where the owner of the business comes in each morning and switches on the team members at their desks. Don’t for one minute think you can treat your team like robots and expect a predictable and solid response. 2. There is no ‘i’ in the word ‘team’: Performance and business value can be strongly correlated to the way leaders, owners and managers communicate and involve their team in decisions and outcomes. 6   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  7. 7. Practical steps for achieving high performance Many of you have come from an employee environment at some point in your careers and will recall the trepidation felt around the so-called ‘performance review process’. These might have been meetings where the boss schedules a one-on-one, cancels it, reschedules a couple of times, finally meets with you, isn’t prepared, sits down and talks in generalities – the weather, the team in general, the business a bit, you a bit – but never really hits the nail on the head about what are the key issues and expectations. Typically these meetings are about good performance or poor performance and they often lead to a discussion related to a salary review, weaknesses, gaps, training and so on. Some managers do these discussions really well, others are not very experienced in providing an environment that focuses on the performance of the business, team and the individual, and how to address any weaknesses or gaps relative to business and manager expectations. With that in mind, this eBook is designed to get you thinking about the performance process from both a team and an individual perspective. It also challenges you to think about this process in different ways. Let’s use the analogy of a car driving along. The first chapter of the eBook will focus on looking forward, out the windscreen, performing as you move along. As a business, a team or an individual, you’re in the business, you’re in the car driving along; you and the car need to ‘perform’ as it moves. This will take the form of a Dynamic Performance Checklist. The next chapter will be Performance in Review, which is more about looking in the rear-vision mirror. The third chapter focuses on Feedback, Recognition and Reward. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   7  
  8. 8. Chapter 1: Dynamic Performance Checklist The Dynamic Performance Checklist has 6 key elements that you as a manager, owner or leader in the business need to think about as you go about your day-to-day activities: 1. Objective and Outcome 2. Strengths and Weaknesses 3. Risks 4. Expectations – communicate, communicate, communicate! 5. Question and Check 6. Monitor and Feedback Keep this checklist in your mind as you deal with your team and any issues within the business, and have open discussions and communication with individuals and teams about these things. Remember, you’re looking out the windscreen – not the rear-vision mirror – so you need to think about this checklist ‘proactively’. You don’t want to think about these issues as you look in the rear-vision mirror to see the size of the pothole you just hit! 8   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  9. 9. 1) Objective and Outcome Be clear about your objective up front and share it with the individual team members who will drive its delivery. It’s good to share it in verbal communication, but you should also neatly and simply document it. Here’s an example. You’ve had some slow payers, delinquent debts, complaints from customers about invoices, so you want to establish a new billing and debtor management process. As a business owner, think about what’s the objective and outcome you want to achieve? Specifically, what does success look like to you, in terms of this billing and debtor process? Make it clear and document it if you need to. If you’re still wrestling with details, such as payment terms, then either make a decision or talk to your team, get their input and then decide. Good performance always starts from a very clear, concise and contested objective. If you’re unclear upfront, then the results will be the same: shady objectives deliver shady results. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   9  
  10. 10. 2) Strengths and Weaknesses Think about the members of your team who will deliver the outcome that’s right for the business. In our example of a billing and debtor management system, clearly your financial controller, some of your administration team and perhaps your operations manager are key players in implementing the new process. Think behind the strengths and weaknesses of each of those players, in terms of the particular issue you’re dealing with. Make sure weaknesses are either acknowledged or mitigated in the team you put together to do the job. In our example, your operations manager ‘Joe’ has a good sense of which clients will accept a change in payment terms or invoice processing, but lacks understanding of the administrative detail that goes into drafting a new credit application for new customers. Acknowledge that directly with Joe and indicate that, because he hasn’t got the strength in that area, you’ve asked an administrator to assist him. 10   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  11. 11. 3) Risks Think carefully about the risks you can potentially mitigate through careful planning and pre-emptive strategies. Talk to your team members about those risks and get their views. In our new billing system example, there may be a risk payments will go astray because your bank account details will be changed as part of the process and customers will be confused about what account to use, negatively impacting cash flow. These are all risks, however they can be managed and mitigated if shared with the team and the team can give input about how these things can be dealt with. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   11  
  12. 12. 4) Expectations Ensuring everyone is clear on your expectations of them is the most important element of the checklist and it all comes down to communication. Back at step one you needed to make clear your expectations regarding the Objective and Outcome. You also need to ensure each individual understands their role in the process. Make clear who has the lead role, what their accountabilities and responsibilities are, who has the support role, and what their contribution needs to be. We’ve all heard of team politics, miscommunications and conflicts. Everyone has an ego, even in the smallest of teams. Here’s an example of how you could handle our billing system situation: “Joe, as operations manager I expect you to deliver this new debtor management and invoicing process. It’s your responsibility because ultimately you’re responsible for the overall performance of this business line.” “Mary, you have some important responsibilities in the financial and accounts area and you have a practical understanding of the processes of our financial system and our other financial requirements. You’re role here is to ensure the process runs smoothly and the detail is delivered as part of this new debtor management system. The team is counting on you to make sure we get a practical solution.” It’s all about communication, communication, communication. 12   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  13. 13. ‘I told you so’ a sign of poor communication We talk about this in many eBooks, but performance is enhanced dramatically, sometimes 5- to 10-fold, by clear, positive, dynamic and preemptive communication. If you find yourself reflecting on someone’s performance and saying ‘I told you so, this shouldn’t have happened’, it usually means you or their manager didn’t successfully communicate your expectations. So, before blame is attributed, ask yourself: Did you make your expectations clear at the outset? 5) Question and Check Knowing your team’s individual strengths and weaknesses, you need to help them achieve the outcomes you’ve articulated by questioning and checking their progress. Remember, we’re not looking in the rear-vision mirror, we’re looking ahead. Our debtor management example may include a number of phases with timing milestones established. Use those as checkpoints to query and check progress. Every manager is different. You will find your own balance depending on the risks and issues, strengths and weaknesses of your team. But remember, you’ve got a responsibility as well, so feel comfortable objectively questioning progress so you can assist in avoiding any log jams. However, resist the temptation to ‘do it yourself’ – remember, there is much more value for the business and the individual team members if they can deliver the goods! jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   13  
  14. 14. 6) Monitor and Feedback Once the outcome is delivered, or starts to be delivered, don’t leave it too late to monitor the implementation and provide feedback: “Mary, I’m really happy with the result. We’ve had our first month on the new system and it seems to be working in a practical, commercial way. I know you’ve had a few hiccups but are you happy with how it’s going?” “Joe, our existing clients seem to be responding well to our new invoicing system. Have you heard of any issues with new clients and the credit application?” It’s two-way feedback. You’re not there to hand out gold stars or black marks; you’re there to engage the team. 14   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  15. 15. Chapter 2: The Performance in Review process In our Staff Recruitment eBook we talked about documenting a job position and the responsibilities and capabilities associated with the role, and making them very clear to the individual coming in to your organisation. Performance in Review is about taking stock of how the individual and the team they’re operating in is performing to those original responsibilities over the longer term. It’s an opportunity to review and reflect, in the rear-vision mirror, how things are going. How often do we need to review performance? Most companies have an annual performance review process, others will have quarterly minireviews that lead to the annual review, while some will have half-yearly reviews. Some businesses don’t yet have a structured process of review. The frequency depends on your business, your attitude to performance, the individual’s performance and the need for support and corrective action. However, if a Dynamic Performance Checklist process is operating well, then one annual Performance in Review meeting should be sufficient. Our goal here is to ensure managers and team supervisors, owners and leaders in a business, understand team high performance is a day-to-day, minute-by-minute phenomenon. You don’t mark a day or an hour in the calendar once a quarter to think about performance. If you think like that, chances are you will never have a high-performing team. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   15  
  16. 16. What to cover in Performance in Review sessions When meeting with a team member for a Performance in Review session, the main discussion points should be: • • • • The individual’s core responsibilities; To what extent they are meeting your expectations; Their view of how they’re performing; Your view of how they’re performing. Let’s use an example of a sales manager who has three responsibilities: 1. Achieve the annual business plan sales targets; 2. Effectively manage and develop a team of sales support staff; 3. Minimise customer complaints and ensure service delivery is to the business’s quality standards. Prior to the meeting you should give the sales manager a rating for each of those responsibilities, using a simple scoring system: 1 = Exceeds expectations 2 = Meets expectations 3 = Below expectations (The reason for this simple scoring system is that larger scoring parameters can become a bit ‘grey’ as to how the individual has or hasn’t performed.) As preparation for the meeting, the individual should also use this same scale to rate their performance against their responsibilities. The purpose of the meeting is to compare and contrast your ratings. If you’ve both marked one particular responsibility as ‘expectations not being met’, that’s a good sign you both have the same expectations and have also internalised performance against those expectations in a similar way, but don’t assume. Discuss! Your first question should be: “So Joe, what do you feel my expectations were for that particular responsibility?” 16   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  17. 17. Get Joe to talk about those and if he confirms your expectations were clear and both parties shared them, you can proceed to: “So why weren’t these expectations met – what was the roadblock or difficulty?” Joe may say: “Firstly the market has been tough. We’ve had a number of prospects but we haven’t been able to deliver the sales targets because the economy has been difficult. “Secondly, my role stretches across service and sales. I have to say I’ve been pulled in the service direction because of a number of customer complaints and I haven’t given enough attention to the sales area.” How to encourage open communication There is one key rule in a performance discussion and that is to be brutally honest and upfront about the performance position, while also being respectful and open to contrary discussion. Often managers or leaders in Performance in Review discussions will focus on the negatives, the underperformance. Other managers will focus on the positives and skate over the negatives because they’re not comfortable with conflict. A good manager or leader will balance the discussion objectively and encourage an open, non-confrontational meeting. If there are positives to be spoken of then don’t hold back because, as an individual, we all like to know where we’re doing well. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   17  
  18. 18. But it’s just as important to give negative feedback so the individual can improve. Of course, it’s also constructive to give context and reason associated with this type of feedback, for e.g. “Yes Joe, the economy is difficult, however meeting our sales target is critical to achieving our business profit forecast and some of our competitors seem to be making ground despite the economy. What is it they are doing better?” Reaching a resolution – ensuring both parties are genuinely ‘engaged’ If you as a manager have rated a particular component of the job description as below expectations and the individual has rated it as exceeding expectations, hey presto, you’ve got a problem. It’s called ‘expectation mismatch’ and you mustn’t leave the session without engaging on that issue and reaching a resolution. Of course, the first question to ask is: “So Joe, what did you feel were my expectations and objectives in terms of this responsibility?” Get to the bottom of where the mismatch in communication is, then unpack the issues around why things aren’t going the way they should. As a manager or business owner leading the Performance in Review discussion you will often need to check and confirm that both parties (you and the individual) are fully engaged in the issue and genuinely (not superficially) interested and committed to resolving it constructively – remember, spinning wheels does achieve anything but a mess and black smoke! 18   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  19. 19. Document the outcome Critical to Performance in Review discussions is to create a brief summary document which includes: • • • Both parties’ ratings of the responsibilities; A brief summary of each issue covered; Any mutually agreed action points to address belowexpectation performance (see more details later in this eBook). You should both get a copy and both sign off on it. It doesn’t need to be reams of paper, but remember, if performance is being managed well these Performance in Review sessions are quite few and far between. Therefore it’s good to have a document base to go back to as context for the next session. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   19  
  20. 20. Chapter 3: Feedback, Reward and Recognition As business owners, we should want to reward excellence. You’ll notice in our rating scale we talk about levels of performance that exceed expectations. This is so we may consider offering bonuses and rewards over and above a market-based salary and conditions, based on clear and agreed parameters. There are many companies who simply offer an ex-gratia bonus, for e.g. at Christmas they pay their staff $5000 each, or another such amount. I’m not suggesting that’s not appropriate, as it depends entirely on the culture of the business. But, ideally, a bonus or reward over and above normal salary and conditions should be based around some simple parameters. We won’t go into the detail of those in this eBook, but there are a couple of key parameters to consider, including: • • the threshold over agreed performance, and the extent of the individual’s performance versus the team or overall business’s performance. Again, a well-planned reward and recognition system within a business will nut that out and have a policy and approach. 20   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  21. 21. It’s often better to ensure a reward reflects not just individual performance but team and business performance, as ultimately one individual doesn’t make a team or, for that matter, a business with sustainable value. When and how to reward performance Many listed companies have bonus systems that are based on both shortand long-term performance. The concept is that the best thing for shareholders is delivering results and exceeding targets over a longer term period, rather than just rewarding on volatility. Feedback, reward and recognition of performance can come in a number of ways, but whatever way you decide, make sure you have an objective basis on which to award feedback and recognition. Forms of reward and recognition include: • • • • • • A bonus payment; A voucher for a product or service that may be of interest to the individual; A mix of bonus and some form of equity in the business; Professional development funded by the business; Offering the individual additional responsibilities to work on a project that is valuable both for the business and their future development; A simple affirmation and acknowledgement of the individual’s contribution to the business, both personally and in front of their team. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   21  
  22. 22. Remember, the culture of ‘we, our, us’ has shown a powerful correlation between engaging your team and driving high performance. There is no ‘i’ in ‘team’, but acknowledging the performance of an individual in a team by thanking them for having met and exceeding expectations is a critical element to good business culture and good business performance. We’ll talk about Business Culture in a future eBook, but for now I’ll just say that rewarding individual and team successes, taking on board the ideas of your team and implementing them, are essential steps in building a successful culture of dynamic ideas generation, feedback and delivery. 22   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  23. 23. Chapter 4: Strategies for turning around poor staff performance Remember the Dynamic Performance Checklist we discussed earlier? If this process is working well there is minimal requirement for corrective action. However, as humans we are fallible and there is always room for improvement, as well as issues that can lead to performance below expectations. 1) Make sure the individual ‘engages’ on their weaknesses Does the individual explicitly acknowledge there is an issue with their performance and this issue relates to the way in which they are going about their role, or their skills and capabilities in delivering to the role? Remember, we all have strengths and weaknesses, but most of us don’t easily like to acknowledge our weaknesses. To get beyond poor performance and arrest it, however, one must first ‘engage’ on the weakness and the issues that may be limiting their ability to perform to your expectations. To ‘engage’ the individual must not be defensive but rather accept that what you’re saying is correct, i.e. “my performance is below expectations and, based on our conversation, I need to do XYZ to improve”. This requires discussion, self-examination, buy-in and a focus on how the individual or team performance is limiting the business, rather than a personal performance assassination or persecution of the individual. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   23  
  24. 24. 2) Fulfil your responsibilities to your team members As a manager, acknowledge your role in assisting the individual to address their performance. Often these issues of poor performance are not just a singular issue – they’re connected to other things. Your role as a manager is to remove those roadblocks or recognise the connections that will assist the individual in enhancing their performance. Remember, you’re not there to persecute the individual for poor performance. You’re there to assist the individual reach their optimum potential and, in doing so, perform to the business’s expectations. 3) Create a threshold point or a ‘contract to engage’ Here’s an analogy: You and the individual staff member are standing on the jetty. The boat is about to come in. You and the individual need to decide if you’re both prepared to get on board the same boat and chart the course to improved performance. The analogy means: • • • • • • Are your expectations aligned? Have you clarified your objectives and outcomes? Have you talked about strengths, weaknesses, extraneous factors impacting performance, and risks? Have you set a time frame and some measurement points to see improvements? Have you agreed some assistance, training or mentoring to aid in returning performance to expectations? Do you feel (objectively) that you and the business AND the individual have/will benefit from the discussion/agreed actions? 24   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  
  25. 25. If you’re both committed to jumping on the same boat and charting the same course, then get cracking and go back to the Dynamic Performance Checklist approach so you, as a manager, can actively monitor what is happening. If you’re not both happy to get on the boat, and your Performance in Review session discovers that, don’t let it lie. 4) Be ready to resolve issues – either way! If an individual is saying ‘there’s no way I can get on that boat because there is no way I can do what you want me to do’, then you as a manager have to listen carefully to their objections and decide where the issue lies. • Is it a business or process issue? Are they being asked to perform tasks they don’t have the resources or time to perform? • Are there legitimate things you can do to enhance the environment to allow this individual to act in an optimum way to reach their potential and drive the business forward? Are there other appropriate ways to achieve the same objective? • Or does the individual simply refuse to accept they have some shortcomings they’re not prepared to address? As a manager you have to give that process time to discover, but not too much time. Do your homework While these Performance in Review sessions and related discussions on poor performance are often sensitive, ‘behind closed doors discussions’, one golden rule is not to act in isolation. Talk to other team members and enlist their advice and feedback on the drivers and issues relating to performance. This needs to be done sensitively, but homework is important in getting an effective and lasting result. jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360   25  
  26. 26. If you find there is more to the issue than just poor performance by the individual, then the business needs to act to refine the role or support the individual. If you find you’re dealing with an intransigent individual who may be a ‘square peg in a round hole’, you need to have a discussion about exiting the organisation or finding other roles within the business that may be more appropriate for their skills and capabilities. Your actions will affect more than just the individual Remember, poor performance is not just about an individual; it’s about a team and the business. How you choose to engage on poor performance and also how you deal with it will often be watched closely by your broader team. If you choose to condone poor performance, then you’re saying a lot about your expectations for the business to other team members. If you don’t deal with an individual who is poorly performing with respect and in a professional and fair way, you’re also indicating a lot to other team members in your business about ‘how things are done’. Remember there is no ‘i’ in ‘team’, and there is no ‘team’ in ‘individual’. 26   jpabusiness.com.au                                                                                                                                                      +61  2  6360  0360  

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