Performance Planning, Coaching, and Review. How’s your organisation in Ireland doing in these three key areas?
Why all the surprise when targets aren’t hit and people seem confused? If you look at most organisations, processes and procedures are not in place to help leaders set goals, manage performance, and conduct reviews in a way that brings out the best in people. To be effective, a performance management system has to provide people with direction, support, and encouragement. See how your organisation is doing in these three key areas:

1. Performance Planning
All good performance starts with clear goals. Clarifying goals involves making sure that people understand two things: first, what they are being asked to do—their areas of accountability—and second, what good performance looks like—the performance standards by which they will be evaluated. Most organisations do a good job on performance planning and set very clear goals. However, after goal setting, what do you think happens to those goals? Most often they get filed, and no one looks at them until they are told it’s time for performance reviews. Then everybody runs around, bumping into each other, trying to find the goals.

2. Performance Coaching Leaders often assume that their work direction conversations are so clear that there is no need for follow-up or that they are so busy that they can’t take the time. Many managers do that very same thing. They hire people, tell them what to do, and then leave them alone and assume good performance will follow. In other words, they abdicate; they don’t delegate. This sets up the old leave alone management style. To counteract this, schedule and hold progress-check meetings. You will be able to catch problems before they become major and significantly increase the probability that your direct report’s performance on the goal will meet your expectations. Progress-check conversations enhance the quality of your relationships, build trust and commitment, open lines of communication, and diminish the amount of time spent fighting brush fires.

3. Performance Review This is where a person’s performance over the course of a year is summed up. If steps one and two have been done properly, the year-end performance review will just be a review of what has already been discussed. There will be no surprises. Instead, managers and direct reports will be reviewing and celebrating the tasks they have already been working on. When progress-check meetings are scheduled according to development level, open, honest discussions about the direct report’s performance take place on an ongoing basis, creating mutual understanding and agreement.

How is your organisation doing in these three key areas?
Clear goals, solid day-to-day coaching, and “no surprise” performance reviews are hallmarks of a great performance management system. Think about your own organisation, and your own conversations with managers and direct reports you work with. Are there areas where you could improve? Check out www.blanchardinternational.ie for more information.

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, a Australian Executive and powerful leader of people, still rembers the first time he heard Ken Blanchard talk about how as a college professor he would hand out the final exam on the first day of class and then he would teach everybody the answers throughout the course of the year.

It made Ridge ask himself, “Why don’t we do that in business?”

Ridge turned the idea over in his mind and eventually partnered up with Blanchard to write the 2009 best-selling business book, Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A”

In addition to writing about the subject, Ridge put the concepts into practice. Similar to what Ken Blanchard had done as a college professor, Ridge set out to do the same with the employees at his company, WD-40. He would give each employee a copy of the final exam at the beginning of the year—in the form of annual goals—and then have managers and supervisors partner with their employees to help them get an “A”

As Ridge explains, “In most organisations, after goals are set, managers file the goals away and don’t think much about the people’s performance until they realise they have to do their annual performance reviews. The only other time they think about their people’s performance is when something goes wrong. These managers tend to manage by exception. When a red flag goes up, they go to work and start managing.”

At WD-40 Company, the agreed-on final exam is just the beginning. Now comes the key step: the leader has to keep up his or her end of the partnership relationship on a day-to-day basis, by helping in coaching and supporting the individual to get an “A.”

Leaders and direct reports get together to analyse the employee’s development level on each of his or her goals and determines the leadership style that is a match. This process helps employees ask for the help they need from their managers as they move toward their “A” in each of their agreed-upon goal areas. It provides the basis for the day-to-day coaching of team members.

“You’ll hear people say, ‘I think I’m getting an “A” here, but I think I’m getting a “B” here.’ And then we want to talk about the B’s. We will ask, ‘What is getting in the way of you doing great work? Is it something within the company? Do we need to get some help? Are things just crappy out there? Do we need to adjust a little bit?’

“And so we have these check-in meetings four times a year. And there are no surprises. You know exactly where you are.”

What’s the focus of performance management in your organisation?

Setting goals and monitoring progress is only part of the story. Helping people achieve their goals is where the action is really at.

To learn more about Garry Ridge’s approach to performance management, you can see him on a short You Tube Video of Garry. Also, be sure to check out a complimentary webinar Ridge is conducting on February 17 titled 3 Keys to Effective Performance Management.

One of the most powerful ways you can improve the performance of your company is by evaluating the quality of your leadership. What can you do for this coming year? Here’s some advice for leaders from bestselling author and management guru Ken Blanchard.

How can a leader reinvent himself or herself?

A. I think a leader reinvents himself or herself by constantly wanting to learn. When you stop learning, you might as well lie down because you’re dead. I think every leader ought to set a personal goal each year about what will they be able to put on their resume next year that they didn’t have last year. It might be learning a new language. It could be learning a new computer program. Constantly put yourself in a learning mode.

What does it take to be a good leader?

A. The biggest thing it takes to be a good leader is humility. People with humility don’t think less of themselves—they just think about themselves less. I think Rick Warren said it well in his book, The Purpose Driven Life. The first sentence of that book is a whole leadership training program. He said, “It’s not about you.” We can accomplish that if we can get leaders to realize that they are there for the mission, for their clients, for their people, and not for themselves.

Can a leader also be a good coach?

A. Yes, coaching is a definite part of leadership. There are two parts of leadership. One is the visionary direction part of leadership which is, “Where are we going?” and “What are we trying to accomplish?” That has to be the responsibility of the traditional hierarchy. It doesn’t mean that you don’t involve other people, but people look to the president, department chairman, and other traditional leaders to make sure that everybody knows where they are going.

The second part of leadership is implementation, which is “How do we live according to the vision, direction, and values that we have established?” With that you have to turn the traditional hierarchy upside down. So now the leaders who played a major role in setting the vision are at the bottom cheerleading, supporting, and coaching.

This is where the coaching process comes in because in developing your people there are three parts: Performance Planning where you are setting the goals and objectives; Day-to-Day Coaching when you are helping people win and accomplish their goals; and then there is Performance Evaluation.

In most companies, the majority of time is spent on performance evaluation with managers focused on judging people’s behavior. Some companies do a pretty good job of goal setting but then they file the goals away until somebody says it is performance review time and then they run around looking for the goals. The thing that is least done is the day-to-day coaching, so coaching is a very important part of leadership.

What can you do from a personal leadership perspective to help your people and your organization perform at a higher level in 2011?

Successful leaders recognise that profit is the applause you get for taking care of your customers and creating a motivating environment for your people. What can you do to create that type of environment within your organisation? The New Year is a great time to start! More at www.blanchardinternational.ie

New research suggests employees who must appear dispassionate at work may have less energy to devote to work tasks and may receive less than positive appraisals from others. There are a lot of dispassionate people I am meeting in Ireland these days.

“Our study shows that emotion suppression takes a toll on people,” according to Dr. Daniel Beal, assistant professor of psychology at Rice University and co-author of a new study.

“It takes energy to suppress emotions, so it’s not surprising that workers who must remain neutral are often more rundown or show greater levels of burnout. The more energy you spend controlling your emotions, the less energy you have to devote to the task at hand.”

The research also found that customers who interacted with a neutrally expressive employee were in less-positive moods and, in turn, gave lower ratings of service quality and held less-positive attitudes toward that employee’s organisation.

Are You Trying to Be Neutral?

What’s the culture like in your organisation and what is your role in influencing it in a positive or negative direction. Sometimes employees want to stand outside of the fray, not getting involved. Their attitude is that they are neutral—neither acting in a positive or negative manner. But what type of signal does “being neutral” really send to fellow employees?

This research shows that being neutral is actually perceived as being negative. Take a more proactive approach to influencing the culture in your organisation. Every person who joins a company, department, or team changes the personality mix. Don’t buy into the myth of neutral. Instead, actively promote a positive mood!

To read the entire article, Neutral Disposition at Work May Take Toll, check it out here at PsychCentral.

Happy New Year To Everyone. Just to get you as a leader energised on what Ireland Inc has to offer, I think it would be worth your while to see about the positive side of business in Ireland.

View Ireland By Numbers and see what’s good about this great nation.

Join The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Kathy Cuff and David Witt for a live, online chat today at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time. Cuff and Witt will be answering questions immediately after their webinar on The High Cost of Doing Nothing: Quantifying the Impact of Leadership on the Bottom Line. Cuff and Witt will be exploring how leadership impacts employee productivity, turnover, and customer satisfaction levels. The webinar is free and is a part of The Ken Blanchard Companies monthly webinar series co-sponsored with Cisco Webex.

To participate in the online discussion, stop by http://www.leaderchat.org beginning at 10:05 a.m. Pacific Time.

Instructions for Participating in the Online Chat

If you have a question that you would like to ask Kathy Cuff or David Witt, just click on the COMMENTS link above. Then post your question and push SUBMIT COMMENT. Kathy and Dave will answer as many questions as possible during the 30-minute online Q&A. (Be sure to press F5 to refresh your screen occasionally to see the latest responses.)

If you can’t stay for the entire 30-minute chat, but would like to see all of the questions and responses, you can always stop by later. You can also click on the RSS FEED button in the right-hand column to receive updates automatically through email.

IBM recently surveyed 700 human resource executives to find out the key challenges they expect to face in the near future and their degree of readiness to meet those challenges successfully. Nine different areas of concern were identified:

Managing labor costs
Sourcing and recruiting from outside the organization
Evaluating workforce performance
Efficiently allocating the workforce
Retaining valued talent within the organization
Enhancing workforce productivity
Developing future leaders
Developing workforce skills and capabilities
Fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing
Next the researchers asked the human resource executives which of the nine challenges were the most important from their perspective and which did they feel least prepared to meet successfully. Three of the nine challenges appeared on both lists

Developing Future Leaders—HR executives say the ability to develop future leaders will have the greatest impact on their organizations’ future success. Yet, only one in three believes they are prepared to do this effectively.
Developing Workforce Skills and Capabilities—Executives identified developing workforce capabilities as the second of their most important imperatives, but rated their effectiveness in this area among the bottom three as well.
Fostering Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing—HR executives also rated their organizations as least effective and least prepared in fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing.
How does this match up with your experience? Are these the same concerns you have for your organization? While the IBM study does not provide specific solutions for addressing each of these areas of concern, it does present some questions that can get you thinking about these issues in your own organization.