Monthly Archives: June 2015

Using development plans to drive performance

IDPIndividual development plans (IDPs) can be an essential tool for driving high performance.  According to the federal Office of Personnel Management, professional development planning is an ongoing process to ensure that employees stay current, if not one step ahead, of their fields and their core competencies.

Formal IDPs can:

  • Encourage employees to take ownership of their career development
  • Promote conversation between supervisors and staff about current and future career opportunities
  • Provide tools for identifying and tracking development goals
  • Help leaders plan development activities for their units

As leaders, we can use the IDP process to support performance for our staff and also to discuss goals with our own managers.  In both cases, key steps include:

  1. Identify business needs.  How will completion of your IDP make you a better employee?  Whether you want to grow in your current role or move to an entirely different position, your plan should align with the institutional mission and goals. A friend once reminded me that IDPs that aren’t tied to organizational interests aren’t work – they are a hobby.
  2. Identify knowledge and skills you need to meet the business needs. What do you know already?  What is needed in the next year? In the next five years?  Where are the gaps?
  3. Create specific plans to close the gaps. Think broadly about options. Maybe you don’t need to attend a class; it might be better to spend a day shadowing someone who does the task you want to learn. List 3-5 things you can do in the next year, with action items and deadlines.
  4. Seek your manager’s support.  Each employee is the driver of his or her development plan, but managers play a critical role. Think about the knowledge and resources that will help you complete your plan and ask for what you need.
  5. Follow up. Best practice for most MnSCU employees is to have a formal IDP meeting once a year, often associated with the annual performance review. Consider scheduling quarterly follow-up meetings, or more often if you need direct manager involvement. Remember that it’s an ongoing process. Next year’s plan should be based on a review of what you accomplished this year.

Dee Anne Bonebright



2 + 2 = ??

puzzled lookIt isn’t a trick question. But the answer can solve two of your biggest challenges: not having enough time in your day and driving high performance. How, you may ask?

Try 2 + 2 Coaching, a concept described by Marc Effron of the Talent Strategy Group in his article, The Hard Truth About Effective Performance Management.”  Effron, somewhat harshly, encourages leaders to radically simplify how they lead their people and to narrow their focus to what really works. Clear, direct feedback on progress against important goals“while taking the least amount of managerial time!”

To do 2 + 2 Coaching you:

  • Have one 15 minute conversation each quarter with each of your direct reports
  • Make two comments on the employee’s progress against their goals
  • Make two suggestions for what the employee should do more of or less of in the future

No more, no less! You can watch Effron describe 2 + 2 Coaching here.

Solving the equation 2 + 2 =  ?? with coaching will help you drive high performance and accountability.

Todd Thorsgaard

Reduce interference?

Last month, I had the opportunity to “fill up my bucket” and learn lots at the Association for Talent Development Conference in Orlando, Florida. It’s a huge international conference attended by thousands of talent development professionals from around the globe. While there, I met Alan Fine, author of You Already Know How to Be Great. Alan is one of the founders of modern-day executive coaching and was speaking about how managers can have better conversations with their employees to drive performance.

He said the traditional wisdom that we all need to just learn more by reading a book, hiring a consultant or coach, taking a class, is just not true most of the time. Our biggest obstacle and the obstacles of those we lead isn’t knowing what to do, it’s doing what we know.  In a nutshell, driving great performance is not about knowledge acquisition, it’s about knowledge execution!

But how do you help coach both yourself and your people to execute on their knowledge? To do what they know? That’s where Fine has stumbled on a simple, but powerful discovery in his early work as a tennis coach and later as an executive coach: you remove interference.

interferenceThink about it. It certainly makes sense. When have you done your best work? For me, my best work has been accomplished when I have had the support from a leader who was able to remove significant obstacles in my path, like providing funding for a new program, sponsorship for a joint venture, or just giving me space and time to innovate.

Fine says that the formula: Performance = Capacity + Knowledge, while used for generations, does not really improve performance. So he has turned this formula inside out to look like this:

Performance = Capacity – Interference

I challenge you this month to explore how you can remove interference for your employees’ performance, so that they can really do their best work. In my one-on-one meetings with my staff this month, I’m going to ask them a few questions to unearth obstacles that might be keeping them from great performance and to eliminate any unintentional barriers that I might be creating for them:

  1. What obstacles or barriers are getting in the way of you doing your best work?
  2. What can I start doing to support your success?
  3. What would you like me to stop doing?

Anita Rios


Effective recognition for driving performance

employee of the monthAs leaders, we know that recognition is an important key for developing and sustaining high performance. We’ve used and observed a wide range of options, from simple thank you cards to employee-of-the-month programs to financial incentives. Given time and resource limitations, how can we decide what would be most effective for our teams?

Here are three tips from HR experts to help you create effective reward and recognition strategies:

Provide early recognition – According to the Blue Ivy Group, length-of-service awards may not be an effective strategy in today’s environment. Younger workers typically switch jobs more frequently, and recognition that can be achieved during the first years of employment is a better choice for reducing turnover and increasing engagement.

Include experiential rewards – Rewards that build connections and create memories are most effective. Examples include team celebrations, opportunities to attend events, and site visits to peer units. Experiential rewards help individuals who are recognized feel emotionally connected to their work, and they create a culture of appreciation for everyone.

Make rewards achievable – Providing one or two annual achievement awards is less effective than more frequent, smaller rewards spread throughout the year. You can also vary the recognition criteria, so that one semester might focus on customer service and another on timely completion of reports.

What strategies have been most effective for you?

Dee Anne Bonebright


Is your company recognition program driving performance? (Blue Ivy Group, July 2014)

Six ways to drive employee performance and motivation (You earned it blog, 2015)



Keep it SIMple!

keep-it-simpleI love working in higher education. I am surrounded by very smart people who are committed to making a difference in the lives of students and solving the complex problems our students and our colleges and universities face. Yet the intelligence and complex problem-solving ability of leaders may actually get in the way of driving high performance in their people!

Marc Effron, author of One Page Talent Management and president of the Talent Strategy Group, puts it this way:

  • Start with science – use what we know works
  • Eliminate complexity – include just what is essential
  • Add real value – make it usable

Science has shown that setting goals drives performance but we often set too many or make them too complicated and our people don’t know where to start or what to focus on. Effron recommends setting only three clear goals for your team members and making sure they are relevant or important to the organization and the individual. He also suggests the acronym of SIMple goals instead of SMART goals. A SIMple goal is:

  • Specific
  • Important
  • Measurable

In my work with leaders I have come to appreciate the importance of Law of Parsimony or Occam’s Razor, which I translate as starting with the simplest solution. Encouraging leaders to step back, ignore their tendencies to focus on complex solutions and instead start with simple solutions, has been powerful. Using Effron’s SIMple goals can provide a laser focus which cuts through the distractions your people face at work and will help drive high performance, focused on the important value higher education provides.

Todd Thorsgaard


Driving high performance

“The best way to inspire people to superior performance is to convince them by everything you do and by your everyday attitude that you are wholeheartedly supporting them.” – Harold S. Geneen

performanceThis month we are continuing our blog topic series on key challenges that our leaders face. If you recall, we surveyed many leaders throughout the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities last December and learned what challenges they were confronting every day. One of the challenges repeated over and over by our leaders had to do with driving high performance. Some of this was expressed as challenges in holding people accountable and others were expressed in ways to effectively support their teams. Here are some of the topics you can expect this month as we explore the challenge of driving high performance.

  • Setting performance goals and monitoring goal progress
  • Removing barriers
  • Coaching good performance
  • Conducting great performance reviews
  • Modeling accountability
  • Individual development planning
  • Crucial conversations and fierce conversations

What specific challenges do you encounter while driving high performance? What are the barriers you face? What has worked well for you? We invite you to join the conversation this month by commenting below.

Anita Rios