Every four years I am captivated by the amazing performances of the World Cup soccer players. Add the famous GOOOOOOAL call by announcer Andres Cantor and it is “must see TV!”
Big goals also lead to high performance in the world of work. In Marc Effron’s soon to be released book, 8 Steps to High Performance:Focus on What You Can Change (Ignore the Rest), he highlights the science behind goal setting:
- Specific goals improve performance.
- Bigger goals are more motivating than smaller goals.
- Fewer goals lead to higher performance.
Based on this research he describes a four step process to set goals with your people to help them perform at the highest level.
- Align – individual goals need to directly contribute to what is most important to your institution’s success.
- Promise – limit individual goals to those important few that an individual is emotionally committed to and willing to “promise” to complete.
- Increase – individual goals need to focus on concrete improvement in performance.
- Frame – write the goals so they are clear, easy to understand and succinct.
Not everyone gets to score a goal in the World Cup but you can help all your people be star performers in their own way.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been conducting annual performance reviews with my staff. In preparation for our conversations, I ask my staff to not only document their accomplishments and performance goals, but to think about their professional development goals as well. Helping my staff grow and learn is highly satisfying. And according to career development expert and author Beverley Kaye, it is essential to retaining high performing individuals.
In her book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, Kaye offers up simple strategies that leaders can use help their staff grow in their careers, including:
- Have short, frequent conversations with your staff about their career development
- Listen attentively. Let your employees do 90% of the talking in your personal sessions.
- Be curious and encourage curiosity. You do not need to have all the answers.
- Provide constructive feedback regularly.
- Discuss career development as a “rock-climbing wall” where employees can move up, down or sideways – or hang on and stay put
Kaye also recommends employing hindsight, foresight, and insight conversations:
- During hindsight conversations, encourage people to look within themselves and examine where they’ve been in the past
- During foresight conversations, ask staff to look outside of themselves and consider their future paths
- Use insight conversations to combine hindsight and foresight
While professional development conversations between supervisors and their direct reports shouldn’t be limited to once a year, I find annual performance reviews a helpful time to focus on professional development conversations. It gives my staff an opportunity to discuss how they are wanting to grow their careers and it gives me a chance to encourage them and provide additional ideas for development that might include stretch assignments, new work projects, professional certifications, continuing education, and service opportunities.
How do you help your employees grow?
Annual performance reviews can be a useful tool in building organizational talent. On the other hand, if it’s not done well it can be like going to the dentist or getting an immunization – necessary to maintain health but not particularly fun.
From the employee’s point of view it’s a chance to focus on what we’ve done well this year and where we’d like to go in the future. I was having a bad day on Monday morning, and receiving my review from Anita actually made it much better. It’s very engaging to hear what your supervisor appreciates about you and to think about possibilities for development.
From the manager’s point of view performance reviews are a chance to reinforce things that are going well and develop goals for the next year. It’s much easier to hold people accountable for their performance if you’ve both agreed on what successful performance looks like. In my review, Anita and I created a set of goals that I will be able to report on in our ongoing conversations.
As an HR professional, I see the value in having the annual review meeting. I’m also well aware that they are going out of favor in many organizations, with the focus shifting to more frequent ongoing conversations. Since many of us at Minnesota State are starting a new cycle, here are some tips to make next year’s reviews effective.
- No surprises – the annual review should be a summary of conversations that you’ve had throughout the year. It’s a chance to focus on what’s gone well and what should happen in the future.
- It’s not about the form – whatever the process is at your institution, focus on having a meaningful conversation, not on filling out the form and selecting ratings.
- Don’t rely on memory – If your employee does something extraordinary in the next month, it will be nearly impossible to remember that a year from now. Keeping notes will make the process easier and more accurately reflect the full year.
- Take it seriously – I’ve heard way too many stories about people who don’t get a review at all, or who are asked to fill out their own form, which the supervisor then signs without comment. That’s demoralizing for the employee and can come back to bite the manager. It’s really difficult to manage a performance problem if the employee has a track record of reviews that exceed expectations.
Making the annual review the capstone to a year of effective performance management will help it feel more like getting ready for a 4th of July party than a medical appointment.
Dee Anne Bonebright
I love that I know what to expect on the 4th of July. Fireworks on Sand Island (photo from 2007); sparklers; food that is red, white and blue; mosquitoes; family fun, and ooohs and ahhhs! Yup, I can count on it!
Research shows that we also need clear expectations at work. The authors of a recent study by Gallup stated, “Even if employees feel energized and motivated, those who lack clear expectations and spend too much time working on the wrong things can’t advance key initiatives to create value for an organization.”
Based on Gallup’s decades of research and information from over 31 million employees they recommend the following four best practices for leaders to set effective expectations:
- Develop them collaboratively. Effective expectations need to include both the leader’s strategic perspective and the employee’s awareness of the day-to-day realities of the work.
- Articulate them clearly. Minimize confusion and uncertainty and maximize focus with clear and understandable language.
- Focus on excellence. Work together to identify “best-in-class” opportunities and expectations that inspire.
- Individualize to strengths. Identify and leverage the unique talents, interests and skills of each person related to their specific role and expectations.
Help build your people and your talent by setting clear expectations.
According to David Mallon of Bersin & Associates, if you want a high performance organization, it’s imperative that you build a learning culture. In his research of successful, high performing organizations, he’s found that “a culture of learning and a culture of high performance are significantly linked.” Intuitively, it makes sense that the smarter your organization is the better it can perform.
So, what is a learning culture, you might ask? Bersin & Associates define it as a “collective set of organizational values, conventions, processes and practices that continuously impels organizations and individuals to build knowledge, competence and performance.” And while a learning culture supports training and leadership development, it isn’t limited to formal development programs.
In Bersin’s comprehensive report, Mallon identifies 40 best practices and seven strategies that organizations can use to create a learning culture. Here is a sample:
- Assign staff to do jobs that surpass their skills and knowledge – Ask people to stretch. Use difficult assignments to encourage employees to push themselves to develop new skills and improve their old ones.
- Let people participate in selecting their assignments – Employees work hardest when their jobs and tasks interest them. Google takes advantage of this by permitting its engineers to devote a fifth of their time to personal projects.
- Recognize workers who learn new information and abilities – Provide rewards that show you care about each person’s learning.
- Value mistakes and failures – Employees learn best from their mistakes. Capitalize on errors as learning opportunities. And give people time to reflect on them.
- Emphasize learning as an important activity – Demonstrate its value in tangible ways; for example, make managers responsible for their staff’s professional development, not just their output. Actions always speak louder than words.
- Take a personal interest in the organizational capabilities of teams and individuals – Mentor the people you supervise.
During the next month, we’ll be exploring these ideas and more as we dive deeply into our next leadership competency of Building Organizational Talent. What strategies have you used to build a learning culture?
Julie Selander is a former colleague from the U of M. I recently came across a presentation she made for the Innovative Educators group, Execptional Front-Line Customer Service in Higher Education.
Selander is the Director of One Stop Student Services, and she had some very useful advice for creating a service culture. As an example, her unit has a goal of being knowledgeable, efficient, empathetic, and friendly. Their basic principles include:
- Understanding customers and their expectations
- Providing accurate, timely, consistent information
- Being professional and courteous
- Delivering what was promised
- Being a problem-solver
Here are some questions she proposed to help you think about service principles and standards in your area:
- Who are our customers? What are their attributes and demographics?
- What are their perceptions and expectations?
- What are we offering them – products, services, and/or resources?
- Do we have the capacity to meet and exceed their expectations? If not, how can we get where we need to be?
As Selander points out, exceptional customer service leads to increased retention, improved graduation rates, a positive reputation for the institution, and more fulfilling work for staff. How can you create and maintain a positive service culture in your team?
Dee Anne Bonebright
“They are my patients, not customers. We aren’t a Target store!”
I heard that comment, or some variation, hundreds of times when I was working in health care. Physicians, nurses, providers, technicians, clinic staff all went into their roles to help people and thinking of their patients as “mere” customers was hard. Yet when we actually talked to our patients and asked them what was important in their health care they highlighted issues like:
- later office hours
- making it easier to get a hold of you
- clear and easy to understand information
- clear billing statements
They assumed we were good medical practitioners and wanted us to be better service providers. Leaders in higher education face the same issue. Students and their families count on us to provide a high quality education but what determines their loyalty and engagement with our schools is how they are treated day-to-day in all of their interactions with us. Certainly in the classroom, but also online, on the phone, through the mail and in person at the registrar, the advising office, the dorm, the student center, the billing office, the gym, the library, and on and on. We need to show we care and understand what is important to them.
Adam Toperek, in his book Be Your Customer’s Hero, describes “Seven Service Triggers” that you can use to examine your interactions with students, or any other customers, to identify where improvements are needed.
- Being ignored.
- Being abandoned.
- Being hassled.
- Being faced with incompetence.
- Being shuffled.
- Being powerless.
- Being disrespected.
Making a difference with the education and the service we provide can make us all heroes!