With all of the challenges business (still) experience in maximizing the performance of people it is about time we changed some approaches.
Below are mistakes businesses still make:
- Without necessarily intending to, businesses take predominant responsibility for the performance of their people. They send signals to this effect by doing things such as supplying job descriptions, setting kpi’s, running performance/remuneration reviews, setting up organisation charts, running training and development programs, setting authority levels and initiating meetings on performance issues. All of those actions convey a strong message that the business owns the responsibility for people performance. There are several reasons why businesses continue to do all of these things:
- Business clearly has the right to do so … but that is irrelevant to the reality that none of them lead to high performance … they just seem necessary operational steps to take;
- Business has been doing all of that since day dot … that is irrelevant … it’s just history and should not be continued if it doesn’t work;
- Many businesses can’t get past the fact that ‘because we can, we do’ … rather than the reality that it reefs ownership of performance off the individual;
- They just don’t consider alternatives or they are too afraid to try them (for fear of losing control).
Until businesses clearly signal to their people that there is joint responsibility for performance things won’t change. All of the actions listed above do not have to be removed but they should not be allowed to lay a platform for individual abrogation of responsibility for performance.
- The stronger that seniority represents itself in a business the less that initiative, resourcefulness, new ideas and risk taking can be expected . It’s then too easy for others to leave things to the more senior people in the business. Seniority needs to be adhered to in specific instances but not as a parameter of performance. Empowerment cannot occur where seniority is the norm.
- Where people feel and think ‘it’s just a job’, high performance will never result. The most powerful connection people can have to a business is through connection to the business’s fundamental purpose. They will then also connect to colleagues through that same purpose. This purpose has to be lived not written down and people should be recruited according to that purpose. (If a business’s fundamental purpose is unappealing to many or most then it will be a lot more difficult to generate high performance in people, but that’s a separate point that each business has to examine).
- When someone doesn’t perform well, businesses are too quick to accuse them of having a poor attitude (not that that is measurable anyway). It is necessary to first ask these questions before looking at attitude or motivation:
- Does the person know what to do?
- Does the person know how to do it?
- Does the person have the necessary resources (including time, knowledge, skills and physical resources) to do it?
- If any of the previous questions are “No’s”, then ask if the person has attempted to remedy the situation. If not then look at why. If so then look at why it has not had successful outcomes. Now the answer to the next question will have a valid answer ….
- Why isn’t the person doing what they could or should?
This order of examination will uncover where the responsibility lays for poor performance, which will often be joint responsibility.
- Businesses are too quick to move on from appointment of a new person into expectation of performance. Expecting initiative and resourcefulness has to come from a proper platform laid down by the business. Induction should not just be about facilities, who’s who, etc. … it should be about prevention of barriers to performance and the provision of what is necessary to perform.
6. Businesses continue to select the wrong people. It’s not about only qualifications
and experience. It should be more about the person and their connection to the business’s purpose. The following mistakes are made too often:
- Selection is too quick … often because the business needs someone ‘now’ … the work needs to be done.
- Selection is based on competence (skills and knowledge) rather than character (values lived) and chemistry (good team player).
- Selection according to a person’s interview performance rather than real world criteria.
- Selection carried out from inside the business where subjectivity can ineffectively bias the process.
- Selection based on likeability of the person.
- Selection based primarily on conversations rather than practical tests and demonstration.
7. Some businesses don’t examine the level of appeal they have to potential new people and therefore fail to realize if they are unappealing . Lack of appeal could be for various reasons, such as location, conditions, the industry itself, nature of work performed, etc. Sometimes there is little that can be done about a lack of appeal but the question has to be asked to uncover situations where improvements can be made to increase the level of appeal.
8. People being allowed to stay in a similar role for more than five years is highly likely to downgrade their performance. Habits form, new ideas can diminish, acceptance of status quo, seen it all before, etc. can all reduce individual performance. To argue that someone is performing well so leave them in the role does not counteract the fact that fresh eyes spot better ways and people grow from changing roles.
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