It is the first official week of summer, and it is such a refreshing time of the year. Welcome back to the Performance Improvement Newsletter Series. In this chapter we will focus on The Leader.
…to lead performance, improve as a leader…
Leading. It looks so straightforward from the outside. After all, you’re the boss, and creating a shared picture of the future and organizing others to work together toward it is easy – right? You should be able to create a direction, hire good people and apply your technical expertise like you did before you were a leader. Maybe, not so much.
It can take almost all of your time to create a shared vision, develop strategies, goals and plans, and then model the accountability you want to see. Even after you take the steps to get people engaged in a plan, it can still often seem remarkably tough for people to just get on with it, take accountability and get the overall job done. Following the popular advice for driving accountability into the business seems to generate more and more “follow-up” style busy-work, without generating results or satisfaction in your people.
You know you are accountable and you feel the drive to deliver. Why doesn’t it seem to naturally work that way for everyone else in the business? Leaders accept that they hold the ultimate accountability for results. Does this sound familiar? There’s a world full of people telling leaders their actions are the first and most essential ingredient for success of the business. So what do you have to do to enable performance in your organization or team?
Our work has shown that performance is not really driven by “account-ability”. Even for leaders, real sustained high performance comes more from “count-on-ability”, than it does from accountability. It’s important to create “count-on-ability” that drives results so that people can enjoy and learn from their accountability.
“Accountability” …. In every organization, people generate a culture surrounding it. “Account – ability”, defined by Wikapedia: “… answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving.” Often the culture created is one of forbearance, recognizing that being called to account is a necessary evil. This can often include some pretty strong patterns of avoidance, because as you know being called to account isn’t always fun. We agree that setting a time and place for people to account for their actions is absolutely essential. People want to learn and be recognized for their performance, and being called to account creates this opportunity. The anticipation, or even fear, of this accounting event, however, is just not enough to sustain great performance.
Improving performance comes from creating “Count-On-Ability”, which requires the intentional, disciplined daily practice that we have referred to for creating the conditions for great performance. Our work shows that when leaders take specific and regular actions, performance reliability greatly improves.
The road map you’ve created and shared within your business or team has within it the “seeds of count-on-ability”, namely shared; vision, purpose, goals, measures, functions, roles and business processes.
The Five Conditions of Great Performance will connect your people to the shared road map that you establish. The following elaborates on each of the Five Conditions of Great Performance, introduced in our previous newsletters, and outlines in each area some practices and leading indicators that will improve performance reliability.
People know What to Do;
- Share with your people what your commitments are and how they relate to shared success
- Create increasing clarity and continually broaden the viewpoint of your people
- Uncover what success looks like for your people and align it to performance results
- Regularly check on the commitments held by your people, and ask to find out if they know what to do and why
People are Able to Do It;
- Regularly make assessments about your staff’s competence as work goes on
- Determine if current skills and knowledge are adequate, and what steps can be taken to fill the gap if required
- Take steps to add learning challenges in appropriate directions
- Ensure that there is formal documentation about performance, with action plans and commitments identified
People are Equipped to Do It;
- You know what your people need from you and the organization to succeed
- Regularly assess if all of the elements required for performance; time, information, workspace, tools, authority, processes, etc. are working effectively
- Take steps to address and remove any barriers before they constrain performance
- Consistently support and recognize actions that enable good performance
People Want to Do It;
- Regularly assess how well your people are embracing how their performance leads to shared success
- Assess how well they are managing their performance commitments, and address quickly if performers are less than fully engaged
- Create regular opportunities for your people to declare their goals and plans to others and engage them in collaborating or cooperating
- Ensure that your people understand how feedback and recognition affects their performance, and are aligned to how they are rewarded
People experience positive Interaction and support from others;
- Regularly assess the interactions of your people for collaboration and cooperation
- Anticipate issues that will arise and engage your people in problem solving
- Enable your people to take action to manage collaboration challenges, and support them as required
- Encourage interaction opportunities that support continued learning
The success of these conditions requires discipline and commitment to follow through, and leaders find that the right amount of time to actively contribute, influence, and measure effectiveness takes approximately 30% of their time. Performance improvement success can be measured by some of the following observations:
- Your people regularly demonstrate that they hold the same standards of what success looks like and follow through on their commitments.
- Your people display and share that they have the physical and emotional health that contributes to their productivity and job satisfaction.
- Your people have the skills and knowledge that are required to be successful, and they follow established processes and procedures.
- Your people have, and believe they have, the right tools to succeed and constant support for their success.
- Your people are demonstrating that they are managing their commitments, and delivering on the results that is expected of them.
- Your people are proactively collaborating and cooperating with others.
What about YOUR development as a Leader… where does that fit in?
Leaders find that they typically focus on the development and performance of their people. But as Leaders we also need support to be our best and become more effective in order to meet higher goals and objectives that we have for ourselves, or are demanded of us. We are accountable for our results through our people, and how we utilize our own strengths and identify our own growth opportunities is critical.