Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Managing Clarity & Performance

During a recent in-depth workshop on coaching, I asked everyone to bring me a copy of the form they used to record their coaching notes. During the break, I reviewed all the forms and found that everyone was using a different sheet. Furthermore, there was no coaching framework to improve performance. Mostly these forms were a way to record that an individual did something at work.

Over a dinner meeting that night, the CEO and I looked over all the different forms and discussed what was happening. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up and realized there were no goals on any of the sheets! I remembered the wonderful line form Alice and Wonderland where the books states, “if you don’t know where you are going, then you can get any where.”

I think our challenge as leaders this summer is to recognize that when people are managing performance, we should not consider goal setting as a known skill. Next, we should not consider working with goals as a known skill. Furthermore, we should not consider holding people accountable as a known skill. 

In the aforementioned organization, the whole focus of performance management was to just get stuff done and then get more stuff done. There were no individual goals connected to department goals connected to annual company goals etc. No wonder coaching was not working!

Upon reflection, I learned that when there is no framework for making sure there is on-going clarity, there will be no reason for coaching other than to acknowledge that people have gotten things done. 

Now when it comes to managing clarity and performance, every one these days just loves creating competencies models, implementing 360 degree feedback models, and having people fill out numerous strengths finder surveys. But my question is where do they cultivate an inside outside approach rather than an outside inside approach?

Now as a side bar, I have observed that 360 evaluations often create defensive reactions and result in little personal growth or change in behavior that lasts. Furthermore, they encourage people to simply deliver desired behaviors without giving them the personal insight and innovation to grow. In short, I agree with Kevin Cashman in his book, Leadership From The Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Berrett-Koehler, 2008, that 360 degree valuations create a formula destined to limit authentic influence by creating actors vs. leaders.

First, when successfully managing clarity and performance, let us remember that all change will depend on the willingness of the follower to do the work, and the ability of the follower to do the work. Regardless of what the leader does, the productivity and results depends on the actions and attitudes of the followers. Therefore, great leaders do not create followers. They create partners and colleagues.

Second, this whole process begins when we institute regular, quarterly performance management reviews. Here, we ask the following questions:
- How did you do on this quarter’s goals?
- Where can you improve your performance next quarter?
- What did you learn this quarter?
- What are your goals for next quarter?
- How did you role model our vision, mission and core values?

Next, we activate a talent development process. As Bill Conaty and Ram Charan point out in their book,  The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers, Crown Business, 2010, “The first thing to understand about talent masters is that they can identify a person’s talent more precisely than most people because they excel at observing and listening.”

The goal of this work, from my vantage point, is to increase cognitive bandwidth. This begins by always having key people reading something because this expands their perspective and understanding of “world-class performance,” and gives them new language. People who are “talent masters” discuss this reading with them, ask how they are applying this reading, help them discover or improve their talents, and help them to figure out how to measure their progress

As the same time, the above authors share an important insight. “Making talent development a goal that is measured and rewarded helps, but much of the work is done through role modeling. Leaders establish the code of conduct through their own actions, questions, and openness to differing opinions in the struggle to pin down each leader’s unique blend of traits, skills, judgement, relationships, and experience.”  

In sum, I agree with Kevin Cashman when he noted that “all significant change begins with self-change.” This week become the leader you need to be so others can become the people they hope to be.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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