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What have you done for me lately? (Managing consistency)


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By ROBERT NAYLOR JR.

 

Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit song “What Have You Done for Me Lately” recounts a relationship gone bad. She tells a friend that her boyfriend “does a lot of nice things for me.” The friend reminds her that the boyfriend used to do nice things but asks: “What has he done for you lately?”

The relationship between a company and its workforce is not so different. Employees at every level − whether managers, supervisors or rank-and-file staff − largely base their impressions of the organization on the last thing they endured, whether good or bad. Consistent organizational success requires steady performance at every level. Much like sports teams, work groups can Bullseyeman2function at widely varying levels, sometimes peaking at exactly the wrong time. Quarterback Roger Staubach, who won the Heisman Trophy at Navy before leading the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories, once said the best teams have “consistency and chemistry.”

Chemistry is something teams either have or they don’t. It develops and strengthens based on the trust and camaraderie that naturally exists between members. Trying to manage it can be disastrous. But consistency can be managed through perceptive team leadership and practical, insightful coaching of individuals.

Too many leaders believe performance management systems, anchored by appraisals, are the key to consistent organizational performance. Well-designed performance management systems are very effective tools in laying out clear expectations with achievable performance standards. However, overreliance on this type of transactional management can lead to a risk-averse, compliance-oriented culture where employees and managers alike are more concerned about their own survival than the future of the organization.

Open, effective communication must underpin all efforts to maintain consistent performance, just as a head coach must efficiently and effectively communicate with the entire team, as well as through assistants and trainers. Employees must be treated with respect and fairness, and they must feel appreciated for their contributions and successes. Giving corrective feedback is necessary, as is weeding out under performers. However, employees will show no loyalty to the organization if they are wondering what you’ve done for them lately, just as Janet Jackson did.

An overwhelming majority of millennials (by some accounts as high as 90 percent) don’t expect to stay with any company more than five years. More than a third expect to stay no more than two years. That turnover creates huge challenges for maintaining consistently high levels of organizational performance. Millennials now make up about a third of the workforce, but they are expected to comprise 75 percent by 2025.

Senior managers should consider creating an action plan designed to maintain consistently high performance at every level of the organization. Components of the plan might focus on such things as:

  1. Communication. If managers and employees on the front lines cannot easily and readily articulate the vision, mission, and key strategies of the organization, that’s a good sign that senior executives are hording information and communication is deficient.
  2. Employee Development. Comprehensive employee orientation, structured training, mentoring, and coaching programs are excellent tools for sharing information, strengthening organizational culture and elevating overall performance.
  3.  Leadership by example. The need for senior managers to model the behaviors expected of those on the front lines cannot be overstated. Senior managers must continue to lean and share knowledge with others. They must acknowledge the inherent value of every person within the organization, no matter what the role.
  4. Pathways to success. Employees and front-line managers often know very well where the roadblocks that hinder consistent performance lie. That is critical intelligence for senior managers who are willing to listen. Taking the steps necessary to clear those roadblocks can improve performance across the organization.
  5. Teambuilding. Imagine an athletic team full of stars who do not play well together.  Coaches want star players, but they want them to function as key members of the team. The same has to be true in the world of business. Recruiting and hiring stars is great, but they still need to function as leaders on the same team as everyone else. Creating an environment where every person understands and believes they are working toward the same objectives means each individual will consistently contribute to the success of the entire organization.

©2014, Robert Naylor Coaching and Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.

Robert Naylor is a journalist, consultant, certified coach, facilitator, and speaker who helps people become better leaders, improve workplace performance, and find focus in their careers and life. He is available for on-site training, private coaching, keynote presentations, and commentary. For more information visit naylorcoaching online or contact robert@naylorcoaching.com.

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