Archive for the 'Performance Management' Category

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, projecs 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.

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Remediating Poor Performance

Virtually everyone, when looking over their careers, has experienced some sort of performance remediation at some time.  If properly and effectively handled, the action was beneficial.  It’s really all about learning – one actively engages in an activity (or may not), someone notices that the performance could be better, gives feedback and perhaps instructions, and we change the way we perform in a better way.  It helps us grow professionally and personally.  So why is performance remediation so detested and subject to frequent procrastination? 

Most managers view the process as a conflict, and most people avoid conflict or deal with it poorly.   The prospect of telling someone that they are not doing something in the best way or not meeting expectations can be unbearable.  Conflict is natural and the process of resolving conflict in a healthy manner helps us grow emotionally and professionally. 

The most important aspect of engaging in a disciplinary action is to treat the recipient with respect at all times and to focus on the action as a learning experience that will help the employee’s performance become more valuable to the organization and to themselves personally.  In fact, the word discipline comes from the Latin disciplina, which means teaching and learning, and discipulus, which means student.  So, imagine your employee doing a task incorrectly.  Your first thought is “Wow, here’s an opportunity to help Joe grow professionally and become a better worker!”  You are starting on a positive and upbeat note…don’t lose this mental setting!  Half the challenge is keeping yourself on a positive platform.

My favored way of engaging in performance remediation is using a process coined by Dick Grote as “Discipline without Punishment”.   He differentiates “discipline” into three categories:  building superior performance, coaching and formal disciplinary action. 

In the building superior performance stage, concentration is given to getting the employee on track and keeping them on track.  Rule #1, the platinum rule, is to acknowledge good performance.   Since we expect good performance, it often goes without mention, but surveys show that praise is the number one motivator, much more than money.  The flip side is to confront poor performance, or to put it more positively, engage in improvement.  First, consider the expected performance.  Then, verbalize the actual performance, being mindful of an objective presentation.  For example, “You always show up late” is an arguable statement.  “I noticed that you came in fifteen minutes late last Wednesday and Friday” is factual.   The next step is to determine the cause:  is it a deficiency in knowledge or a deficiency in execution?  For a deficiency in knowledge, the action may be formal training, on the job training or job aids, such as process flow charts.  For a deficiency in execution, the action may be removing obstacles, providing feedback or assessing what performance you’re actually incentivizing.  For example, if you’re pushing the number of calls answered in a call center and what you really want is great customer service, you may have to reconsider what the employees’ goals really are.  After an appropriate timeframe, reassess the employee’s improvement.  If there is a positive change, practice the platinum rule:  acknowledge good performance.  If not, move to the second phase:  coaching.

The coaching session requires some preparation.  The desired and actual performance must be defined, the good business reason for the change must be verbalized, the logical consequences must be determined and the subsequent action steps must be formulated. The meeting should be planned with care:  a private setting and a reasonable time.  During the coaching session, get right to the point, but allow time for the employee to be heard; by listening to their side, you will be able to ascertain that your planned action is appropriate.  Next, discuss why the employee must change and get the employee’s agreement to change.  This is important because not many people will default on a commitment.  It’s not only the behavior/performance that is at stake, but also the employee’s word.  The action steps for improvement should be determined and confirmed; it is advisable to have the employee suggest the changes that need to happen – they will have more of a stake in the improvement.  Lastly, agree on the consequences for failure to improve and be committed to enacting them.  After the coaching meeting, be sure to document the discussion and to follow up in a reasonable timeframe.  If the employee improves satisfactorily, apply the platinum rule; otherwise you will need to engage in the formal disciplinary process.

Your organization may have a progressive disciplinary process; be sure to follow it and/or consult with the appropriate official when engaging in formal disciplinary action.  This has become an area for litigation risk.  The Discipline without Punishment model suggests the following steps: 

               1.  Oral reminder:  after an oral reminder, check in to see if the situation has improved satisfactorily.  If yes, commend the employee; if no, move on to a written reminder.

               2.  Written reminder:  it is advised that a preprinted memo is not appropriate – it’s intimidating and there’s no room for documenting the discussion at hand.  Instead, have the discussion with the employee and tell him/her that you will document the conversation.  Stress that it’s the employee’s responsibility to remediate the situation, and that they had agreed to do just that.  Probe deeper into the issues.  Gain the employee’s agreement to change.  Let him/her know that this meeting constitutes a written reminder and that you’ll follow up with a memo documenting the discussion, agreement and consequences for failing to remediate.  Here’s what should be included in the memo TO the employee, not ABOUT the employee:

  • Names of all present
  • Date and location
  • The specific problem
  • A record of all previous conversations
  • A detailed statement of the continuing problem
  • A statement that the situation must be corrected (not improved)
  • A statement of the specific change that must be made
  • A statement that failure to correct will lead to further action
  • A statement that in addition to solving the immediate problem, the organization expects the employee to maintain an acceptable level of performance in every area of the job.
  • A record of the agreement made with the employee to correct the problem
  • A record of any action the employee agreed to take to correct the situation
  • A closing statement that expresses the belief that the situation will in fact be corrected.

Meet with the employee later – a tight, focused meeting.  Review the memo.

Should the employee sign?  Legal advice would say “yes”.  Dick Grote feels that you’re telling the employee that they’re a liar and that in fact, most employees will not deny the meeting took place.  Again, follow up:  commend an improvement, move on if there is none.

Step 3:  Decision Making Leave:  when deciding to enact the decision making leave, give some notice and make arrangements for the employee’s absence.  It is advised to pay the employee for the leave.  Why?  Although unpleasant, on an unpaid leave the employee simply “does the time”.  A paid leave sends the message that it is the employee’s duty to really think about a serious change or choose to leave.  Have a preplanned meeting for the employee’s return and ask for their decision.  Document the actions.   As always, follow up.  Commend improvement.  If the situation remains unchanged, move to the final step:  termination.

Step 4:  Termination:  at this point the employee has been given every chance to change.  It is their decision that the termination is enacted.  Dick Grote says “termination is not the final step in a disciplinary process, it is the failed result of a disciplinary process”.  It is wise to consult your organization’s HR representative before moving to a discharge.  Prepare yourself; ask yourself the questions you may face should you face a jury, such as “Did you do everything possible?”, “Was the employee given reasonable time to improve?”, etc.  Have all the necessary paperwork complete (in California, have the final check including unpaid vacation and unemployment information).  Be prepared for anger or tears.  When you meet with the employee, get to the point and hold to your decision.  Afterwards, document the action.  Remember, be respectful no matter what the employee’s response is.

Hopefully, “nipping issues in the bud”, or dealing with performance issues as they come up, will lead to a successful resolution and the employee will be better for it.  A manager’s job is to develop, teach; therefore remediation is a manager’s duty.  Helping your employees develop brings great satisfaction and success to your management career.

Much of the information presented is included in Dick Grote’s “Discipline without Punishment”.  It is a “must have” for anyone managing employees – and “oldie but goodie”.

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!


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Cathy S. Taylor, SPHR