The topic of Performance, or Human Performance is an ongoing hot-topic. As my readers would be aware, I have partnered with MPTI Group (Gary Morgan) to form the People Insights Group and have developed a People Performance Portal. This article is not about our product offering – but rather sharing my thinking on the topic of People Performance.
I am fortunate to be in a position where I have many conversations frequently around this topic and hear various perspectives (often passionate views) around what this means, and how to achieve it. I was also fortunate to have spent a couple of years working alongside some of the top minds around Neuroscience and Leadership, and to a large extent, my views are a little bias based on the research and hands-on experience I gained throughout that journey.
One burning question out there right now is the concept around performance scores (or Ratings). I will state at the outset, I do NOT have the answer to the million dollar question, and that’s because the no-rating side of the equation is too new, and there is insufficient data to support its success, or otherwise. My personal mission on this topic is looking at root causes, and subsequently – outcomes – agnostic of which view you hold around the rating topics. So what is the root cause?
In my view, the common issue facing organisations today is the lack of quality, and frequency of conversations between managers and their reports.
Whether or not you have ratings, without meaningful and regular check-in conversations – employees are not going to increase Engagement and Performance. Having a conversation is not difficult – right? Well in fact, studies have proven that managers generally find it difficult to have a tough conversation. They avoid it at all costs. Furthermore, employees tend to walk into such a conversation in a defensive state. No-one likes being judged, and a performance conversation has all the hallmarks of such a conversation. Hence, they walk into the room ready to fight and defend their performance. Is that what performance conversations are about?
Well NO. At least they shouldn’t be. First of all, managers and employees alike are part of a team with a collective goal of benefiting the organisation. If we look at any sporting team, the successful ones work as a team and work with their coach. Their coachs’ sole goal is to get most out of each individual athlete (or team member) which in turn – yields a team based result – hopefully a win. What happens when they lose? Well, they analyse the game, learn from mistakes and seek to improve so they can win next time. Sounds pretty easy – right? well it is… Why we don’t do this in corporate land – is the question we should be asking.
Managers should be the coach in the above example. Rather than interrogating their employees (“Why didn’t you…”), they should be analyzing and working with the employee on a strategy for improvement. If I digress for a moment and put my Neuroscience hat on – we know what employees are significantly more likely to own an action or outcome, if they arrive at the insight (or conclusion) themselves (not being told how to suck eggs). So in this context, the Manager becomes a facilitator or coach and helps the employee draw out the next steps in their development, and then provides them with such an environment to achieve it.
Regular (and in my onion, rarely do organisations foster the concept of frequent conversations) conversations, or check-ups if you will, ensure there will be no surprises come review time. Managers can ensure employees are on track by engaging with them frequently.
I am reminded of a quote I learned from a VC (Venture Capitalist) I worked with many years ago who said;
I am not afraid of failure. As long as I fail quickly and with minimal time and cost impact
The VC (naturally being an entrepreneur) was use to, and in fact expected that not ALL his investments would work out. He was also wise in the fact that whilst some investments would inevitably fail, he would always learn from each experience, and hope to not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Whilst this sticks in my mind as I write this post, I draw a strong comparison when I think about employees and their performance. Before I get back on point – I recall reading a journal from the US where a journalist was interviewing a senior investment manager where one of their new analysts made a $10Million mistake – asking if he/she would be fired? To the surprise of the journalist, the senior manager said “No way! I just invested $10m in this persons training. They will not do that again…” – along those lines anyway…
We invest in People. Then we tell them HOW to do it… Doesn’t always make sense to me… If we invest in People (presumably due to their skillset and capability), then why not let them loose and try different things? Whats the worse thing that will happen? On the other hand, what good can come from it? New ideas, better culture, huge improvement in engagement and performance – not just from the individual, but the collective team… I see this as good. not bad.
CONVERSATIONS – TRUST – COACHING – TEAMWORK – ACCOUNTABILITY – CULTURE
If I still have your attention, you are either agreeing (at least to some extent) with my viewpoints OR you have a strong interest in this topic or prepared to consider alternative perspectives.
I always welcome conversations with people keen to explore the possibilities. We DO have some systems and processes which we offer commercially. You will also notice that I have some interesting members on the ZIS advisory board who can add a lot of value to this conversation.
Reach out for a chat. In some cases, my team may be able to assist. If not, always welcome the opportunity to connect with a HR professional who genuinely cares about their people and how very important they are to the ultimate business success.
Next article: I will jot down some thoughts around process for non performing, or off-track employees.