The Smart Art of Performance Management

How well do your employees perform?  How well does your organization as a whole perform?  Do you have clear ideas as to what great performance for your organization is, or do you believe that you’ll recognize great performance when you see it?

Most companies set both long and short term goals.  How well those goals are transformed into everyday goals and objectives at the individual level is more the challenge, and how the employees in aggregate are accomplishing the organization’s goals and objectives is the key to performance management.

Performance management is a systematic process by which an organization involves its employees in improving organizational effectiveness toward the accomplishment of the organization’s mission and goals.  Performance management is the process of creating organizational goals and objectives, communicating clear expectations, setting standards of excellence, establishing measurements and aligning all activities.

The intention of performance management is to create alignment of thinking and action by “cascading” broad organizational goals down to departmental and individual goals.  This, in turn, allows managers and supervisors to set clear expectations for results and for employees to understand and work toward meeting them.  This results in the “line of sight” where every employee can see how their work supports the overarching goals.

Thinking –> Doing –> Checking –> Developing –> Evaluating –> Rewarding 

 Elements of Performance Management


How do you currently get everyone to operate together toward goals?  You can use the Elements of Performance Management model as a way to systematically think about performance management.

Thinking is about setting expectations and goals to direct activities.  It’s the planning phase.  Thinking goes beyond a job description – it helps the employee know what, why, when and how things are to be accomplished.  It includes teambuilding, developing a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities and team interdependence.  This creation of expectations is the basis for the performance appraisal; employees must know ahead of time not only what results they will be held to, but how their results will be measured.  SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) goals are set up front for each employee and department or employee group.

Doing is the execution phase.  It’s getting things off the ground and in the groove.  This is often an organic process, where experimentation and flexibility are employed.

In Checking, projects and job duties are continually monitored, using a consistent basis of measurement.  Feedback to employees is best if delivered both regularly and “in the moment’.  Unless an employee is receiving any feedback, they believe they are doing a great job.  Don’t forget the best motivator of all – recognizing good performance.  In Checking, poor performance is “nipped in the bud” by providing immediate feedback and remediation, otherwise a manager may spend countless hours in disciplinary activities.

Developing starts with recruiting and orientation.  Skills, knowledge and abilities are evaluated and training requirements are discerned.  Orientation helps the employee to understand the culture, procedures, policies, resources and expectations.  In Developing, performance deficiencies are identified early and remediated.  Find an employee’s strengths and create challenges and advanced responsibilities, maximize their potential, and increase their value to the organization.  Development is not an annual exercise or a few workshops.  It’s about recognizing opportunities in everyday situations to help employees grow and improve.

Evaluating  is a process of delivering consistent, fair, honest and constructive feedback, both formally and informally that serves as a basis for rewards.  Make the evaluation mean something to the employee; ascertain that they understand both the accolades and the needs for improvement and leave with an action plan for performance improvement and/or enhancement.

Rewarding  is the culmination of the Performance Management process.  Since the reward is the incentive that motivates the employee to perform in a manner that moves the organization to success, careful consideration should be given to determine the right rewards.  Get to know your employees in order to understand what excites them – tickets to their favorite sports team? An early end of the day?  Be sure that the reward matches the level of performance.  Also, the “great job!” is thought to be the number one motivator – much more that money and other fringe benefits.  It’s certainly the easiest!

Think of this Performance Management process in action for every employee, every department, every day and you’ll get a sense of the power it provides.  It can be the difference in success for your organization, can create satisfaction for your employees and huge rewards for you!  It is something of an art and takes time, but the payoff is well worth it – it’s smart!

Twelve Creative Ways to Foster Employee Development

How are you investing in your employees?  Most managers would reply that both time and money are lacking.  The “task” of employee development comes to mind at review time, when a deficiency becomes apparent or when an opportunity to delegate is missed due to the employee’s inability to handle the assignment.  Too often, development is relegated to a few half-day workshops, with no real follow up to ensure that the employee can assimilate the newly learned skills.

I’ve had to learn to be creative with employee development.  I had to train myself to recognize those perfect moments for feedback or suggestions; they can’t be scheduled, they just show up on their own.  Here are some of creative ways to contrive effective learning experiences:

  1. When your employee comes to you with a problem, insist that they offer at least one solution.  It’s great that they recognize a challenge, but they can’t become dependent on someone else to solve it.  Recognizing a problem suggests that they are familiar with the situation and the probable causes – they are well equipped to devise a solution.  Presenting a problem is mechanical; solving a problem is value-add.  Asking an employee for the solution is an act of empowerment.
  2.   Train yourself to provide “on the spot” feedback.  When a problem is happening in real time, it’s the best time for a lesson.  Be respectful and constructive.  Offer a good business reason why the situation must change.  Ask what the goal is and analyze why their actions won’t achieve what they want; suggest alternatives or better yet, ask the employee to suggest alternatives.
  3. Keep a diary.  Create a computer file to store your documentation, both positives and negatives.  Documentation is imperative should disciplinary action need to escalate.  When preparing and delivering a formal review, it’s effective to be able to offer these “real life” examples of what the employee is doing well and doing poorly.  Create reminders to follow up with the employee.
  4.   Assign projects in their entirety to the employee.  Let them own it. Provide guidance and support, but let them own it.  For example, I once had a situation where the entire employee file system was in need of revamping.  The employee who was assigned to the project was expected to educate herself on legal compliance and best practice, through research and workshops, design the new system, implement it and finally create and deliver a presentation to the executive team.  This gave her a sense of accomplishment and provided management visibility.
  5.  If appropriate, encourage employees to sit in on other departmental meetings.  This is an excellent way for them to understand the issues and challenges that they can possibly help to remediate.  It builds team spirit, positive relationships and visibility.
  6.  Encourage your employees to sit on committees.  It will result in the same results as above.  This is a great way for them to expand their responsibilities and broaden their perspectives of the entire organization.
  7.  Get the most out of a formal educational event.  If your employee is signed up for a training, have a discussion ahead of time to set the expectations of what they’ll learn.  Inform the instructor of these expectations as well.  When the class is completed, have a discussion with the employee as to how they will assimilate the new learning into their job, and be sure to follow up.
  8.  Advocate education.  If your budget can’t provide funds, encourage it anyway.  They are investing in their own careers.  Education can also be provided by books (ask for book reports to share with others or white papers for publishing), research, webcasts and podcasts.  Set goals for all of these.
  9.  Find a mentor.  This may be someone within or outside your organization who has the experience, knowledge and the right demeanor to act as an advisor to your employee.
  10. Encourage employees to join professional organizations.  It’s an opportunity to expose and expand their career-related experiences beyond the walls of your workplace.
  11.  Practice good performance management.  Use a healthy and effective process to change behavior and improve skills.  Have the employee own their improvement. Make sure that expectations are understood. Set and enact consequences.  Recognize and reward improvements.
  12.  Put the time and effort into a high quality formal review.  Think of what you want for the employee and yourself and make sure the review delivers it.  Be open, listen well.  Revisit the goals set forth in the review regularly to keep them alive, head off any obstacles and inspire success.

A manager by definition, coaches and develops employees; it is an everyday, ongoing process.  Train your eye to recognize the learning opportunities.  Challenge yourself to find creative ways for employees to grow.  In the end, it pays off for everyone, for you, for the employee and for the organization.

Effective Delegation: Practical Applications in the Workplace

Managers have so much to do nowadays!  They must assure quality, meet goals and objectives, plan, budget and execute.  While they’re doing all of this, they must also hire, train, motivate, direct and evaluate employees.  When the topic of delegation comes up, many managers “don’t have the time”, “can do it faster and better themselves”, or “can’t make it happen fast enough with the employees they have”.  True…delegation takes time, planning, patience, focus and energy, but if done well, the return on investment is incredible!

Some compelling reasons to delegate are:

  • Maximize/leverage resources
  • Create developments opportunities
  • Motivate employees
  • Utilize skills that the manager lacks
  • Improve leadership skills

As you can see, delegation is more than just another task in the life of a manager!

How do you delegate?  Here’s the steps adapted from Chris Roebach’s book Effective Delegation:

1.  Define and analyze the task

2.  Select the individual

3  Assess employees’ ability and training needs

4.  Explain why

5.  Identify resources.

6.  Set objectives

7.  Monitor progress

8.  Review the results

Effective Delegation also suggests that there are four levels of delegation:

1.  Control – The “control” level restricts the employee considerably.  The manager retains control of the assignment.  In the control level the manager:

  • Gives specific instructions
  • Supervises closely
  • Restricts employee’s freedom.

2.  Coach -In coaching, the manger is less engaged – the employee has more freedom.  When in the coaching level, the manager:

  • Supervises closely, but less directive
  • Explains the job by step but offers advice and support
  • Allows the employee more responsibility and input

3.   Consult -When “consulting” there is a shift in responsibility and power:

  • Allows the employee more freedom of action
  • Gives general instruction and invites ideas
  • Decides jointly with employee on choice of action
  • The manager is available for help.

4.   Collaborate – At this level, the tables have turned.  As Covey describes:  “the employee is the boss and the       manager supports” .  The manager:

  • Gives only overall direction
  • Leaves specifics to the delegee
  • Defines the level of freedom before the necessity to report
  • Advises and supports only in rare situations.

There are other considerations before deciding what, when and whom to delegate to, such as available time, stress conditions, urgency, employee motivation, employees commitment  and is the situation an opportunity for learning.

By utilizing delegation, a manager is leveraging productivity, developing employees and instilling camaraderie with employees.  It takes a commitment of time, energy and attention, but the long term results are invaluable.  Practicing delegation will enhance management skills and develop leadership skills.

Compensating Teams

Nearly everyone can relate to working on a team.  Teams are a great way to bring a group of talented folks together to focus on and accomplish a task.  They are also a means of providing development opportunities to employees, by utilizing skills in different venues, learning new skills from other team members and by taking on a responsibility beyond the purview of the everyday job.  But what’s the best way to compensate teams?

As you may have anticipated, there is no one best answer.  Compensation philosophy, strategy and design are the same as for individual compensation, for instance determining what behavior or results you want to incent/reward, assuring that the reward is meaningful, that the allocations are equitable and that it falls within budget.  However, there are several important practices to consider with respect to teams.  First of all, it is advisable to be transparent with pay.  Every team member should know what the plan is, the potential reward, the actual reward and how the reward will be distributed amongst the group at the outset of the team’s work together. The team should understand goals and expectations, and how the reward will be determined based on performance, particularly if the reward will be cash or a non-cash item of high value.  For self directed teams, the team’s determination of award allocation may be best, along with a peer review or the use of a 180 or 270 degree feedback device, where feedback is gathered from peers and others who deal directly with the team. It is also important that the team be mutually accountable for results.

In his book, Compensation for Teams, Steven Gross identifies three types of teams:

  • The Parallel Team – this team comes together periodically while each members also has a full time job (e.g. Safety Committee);
  • The Process Team – this team is a full-time, dedicated team, generally created for improvement in quality and/or customer service, the members often being cross-trained;
  • The Project Team – this team is a full-time team brought together for the duration of a project.

Here are some concrete suggestions based on his research that the author suggests for team performance recognition:

  • The Parallel Team:
    • Non-cash rewards are more popular
    • Any differentiation amongst members must be defensible
    • Allocation should be fully accepted by the team
    • Cash for successful results, non-cash award for mixed results and a memo commending hard work for failed results
    • Recognition occurs after the fact
    • Merit increases in base pay should be based on both regular job and team performance
  • The Process Team:
    • Incentive compensation is popular, due to incremental improvement
    • Incentive compensation is less likely to create disharmony
    • Non-cash awards are seen as helping bring the team together
    • Incentive compensation should be of equal amounts
    • Recognition occurs before the fact
    • Incremental merit increases emphasize continuous improvement
    • General wage increases should reflect new skills and competencies
  • The Project Team:
    • Non-cash awards and spot cash awards are most popular
    • Sizable cash awards are appropriate
    • Non-cash award for meeting expectations; cash for exceeding expectations
    • Allocation should be equal percent of base pay and/or individual contribution
    • Recognition occurs before and/or after the fact
    • Merit increases granted upon demonstration of required skills and competencies

A whole different viewpoint as to what motivates teams and what rewards they desire are depicted in this video clip:

The clip contends that workers should be paid enough to take money motivators off the table and what truly motivates is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

These two viewpoints are both  food for thought when it comes to designing your team compensation plan. What should we favor: money or meaning, when it comes to rewarding teams?

Taming your Time Management Skills

Tangling with time management?  Is your personal productivity in the pits?  Are you up against deadlines, pressured to get more done in a day, longing to have “quality time” with your loved ones?  Is more time what you really need?

Time is one of the things we just don’t have control over. It moves along, minute by minute, year by year.  Aside from money, it is probably the one thing most people wish they had more of.  However, if you had more time, how much would it matter?  It’s how we treat time that makes a difference.  It’s really about getting the right things done, not how much we get done.

For most folks, productivity can be improved by following a few universal tactics that the time management experts advocate:

1.  Define your strategic goals and objectives.  Think big!  These goals and objectives are the foundation that direct your actions, guide your prioritization.  Whenever deciding what to do, ask yourself “will this get me where I need or want to be?”  Is this contributing to my long term goals and short term needs?”  A great example is “create a financial plan that provides enough income for my retirement”.

2.  Establish the steps required to accomplish your goals and objectives. The basic concepts of project management are at work here.  For each goal, determine the projects necessary to accomplish the goal.  Refine that further into sub-projects and then tasks.  What will move to your calendar or “to-do” list is the next required step that depends on no other action. This is making a “molehill” out of a mountain.

3.  Create a processing and tracking system that works for you.  The experts have refined several systems of managing “stuff” that comes your way…emails, voicemails, snail mail, things you need from the store, the request made by your boss in the hallway. Every system should have these basic steps:

• Get it out of your head and in writing; • Determine the minimal number of collections spots for all of your “stuff”, the designated places where you will retrieve your new items;

• Use what I call the 4 “P’s”: Plop it, Pass it, Perform it, Process it.

1.  If it’s trash or something  you really don’t need (like that pile of 2 year old magazines), then Plop it into the trash (or delete it);

2.  If it’s something that someone else can handle, Pass it on (delegate), if appropriate;

3.  If it’s something you can just get done in a few minutes, Perform – get it done!

4.  If it’s something that needs time, attention and planning, then Process it by placing it       in your calendar, project list or to-do list; • Select a tracking system that works for you.  There are plenty of tools, from Day-timers  to electronic systems like Microsoft Outlook , depending on your preferences.  Also, create an effective filing system to store all of your project details, so that you can simply pull it out in a second and find yourself in a frustrating search.

4.  Plan and review regularly.  You need some level of planning, every day and every week.  This allows for changes, projects progression, and space to accommodate new opportunities.  Planning and reviewing keeps you on course.

5.  Deal with interruptions effectively.  If there’s anything you can safely bet on, things will come out of the blue while you’re trying to get things done – a fellow employee needs some information, your boss wants to talk to you about a new project, your child is sick and needs to go home.  You should expect these occurrences and lan some flexibility to your schedule.  Other things to contemplate are a pleasant but firm decline, scheduling “protected” time, where you make it clear to others that you are off-limits, and planning for better meetings where issues can be collected and dealt with.  Avoid distractions.

6.  Communicate. Know people’s expectations of you.  It’s nice to give updates, but when the expectation is now compromised, be sure to not only inform the other party, but suggest alternatives, ask for advice or renegotiate.

One thing to understand about yourself and others is that there are many time management styles.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  Be open and take these into account when developing the systems for processing your “stuff” and when working with others on a project.

Lastly, celebrate!  Be sure to soak in the satisfaction of accomplishing your goals.

Global Genesis offers a full day workshop on time management/personal productivity, including a comprehensive time management style assessment.