Performance Management…even just writing those two words I imagine supervisors everywhere rolling their eyes and sighing loudly. The pencil-whipped annual reviews, the stressful meeting and the disgruntled employee that always result…why do we put ourselves though the torture?
Well, there are two pretty compelling reasons. First, if you actually start to think of performance management as an ongoing process of employee development instead of a time and place to tell your employee everything they have done wrong in the past year (or at least as far back as you can remember anyway), it will prove to be one of the best things you will ever do for your organization. It is a process that will elevate your good employees and weed out those that are not suitable for your company. If that doesn’t make you want to investigate this idea further maybe this will- your A-players not only want it but will leave you and go where they can find it.
Strong statement? Sure, but this is serious stuff and not something that can be broken down in a single blog but consider this; You are the A-Player on the team 1) you want to hear that you are appreciated and that your employer is invested in making you even better and 2) if there is no performance management in place, the B and C-Players are getting away with murder. And who is picking up the slack? That’s right! Your A-Player….and how long do you think it will be before this super star decides to take his talents elsewhere?
Hopefully, long enough for you to grab a good book on the subject or consult a professional and begin to seriously manage your staff so that everyone is on the same page, working from the same playbook and achieving the level of performance that you know they can accomplish.
Nearly all men can stand adversity,but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.–Abraham Lincoln
Every leadership class I have ever taken or given has a section devoted to power. I have, in the work environment, defined power as the ability to influence others’ actions and behaviors. Many, immediately thinks of power as a bad thing. I believe this stems from the abuse of power. Like Abe says, it is a true test of character to have power. We all have met our share of “Power Bullies”. People with a title, wielding their label like a saber. This is one type of power but there are all kinds of power in the workplace and I have broken them into three categories.
First, there is legitimate power. This includes positional power, coercive power and reward power. In this category, you have power based on your title or position and you use that to force people to do what you want. Usually, they are not acting how you want because they want to but rather, because they either fear or desire what you can do for them. Sure, this power works- for a while. Eventually, people will tire of being manipulated simply because you hold a position of power. If you have not earned their respect along with that title, you will not keep people motivated for long.
The next category is informational power. This includes expertise power (the “what you know”) or the connection power (the “who you know”). In business, leadership should have the knowledge of what they are doing and know the right people to forge solid relationships- this is almost a given. This power block does instill a little higher level of trust and devotion in the people you lead but is not enough in and of itself. So what is?
The final group is one type by itself and in my opinion the most coveted and powerful of all; referent power. This power comes from being liked and respected. People do what you want because they want to do it. No matter what you do or think, this power can not be bought or given- it is simply earned. It comes from having strong values and morals that others are aligned with such as trust, integrity and ethics. Even if your title is non-existent, people are gravitated to follow you. This makes you a true leader with real power.
I am such a strong believer that people want to do a good- if not great- job at work. I have never heard of anyone waking up and saying, ” I think I am going to go be a screw-up at work today.” People want to succeed. So if this is the case then why do so many companies feel that they do not have a good, talented workforce? They ask where can they find people that can get the job done…maybe the question should be, “what can we do to empower our current workforce to be successful?”
There are a lot of answers to this question including setting realistic goals and making sure they have proper equipment and tools to get the job done. In my eyes though, the most frequently overlooked way is to make sure that the employees are trained. Manager’s favorite lines to this are, “they can learn on the job” or “they have experience so they should know what to do”. Both of these are true- but they are not enough. It is imperative that a company is SURE the employee is trained. This is too important to leave to chance.
A manager I was having this discussion with really believes that training is spoon feeding the employee and that they should take it upon themselves if they feel they are lacking a skill or knowledge in an area. Okay, fair enough, as long as you are fine with the idea that the employee may or may not know what skill or knowledge is lacking. Proactive training is not such a crazy idea as long as the employee AND the employer are active in the process and get to enjoy the fruits of the labor.
Enjoying the beautiful spring day (finally), I really noticed how quickly the trees and flowers had changed from the stark, colorless state that they were in just a few short weeks ago to showy wonders of nature. This started thinking about change in general (not just as it applies to HR or business) and I remembered the quote, “The only thing constant is change”. While of course I believe that to be true, I was hoping that I could find even one thing that remained the same; something that I can count on to be steady and stable. I pondered this and ran through all kinds of stuff I thought had the chance of being unchanged. Nothing, and I mean nothing that I could consider, held true. Even a rock changes-albeit usually gradually over time.
So then it comes down to perception. The rock is changed- maybe by elements of nature, maybe by force of humans- but the question becomes, does this change matter to me? A rock that changes ever so subtly by flowing water is nonetheless changing but the change is so small and the effects of the change is so insignificant that no one really even notices- or cares. But what happens when the change does matter?
William Bridges’ book, Managing Transitions, (http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Transitions-Making-Most-Change/dp/0738213802/ref=pd_sim_b_5) really breaks down how we can make the most of change when it hits home. He reminds us that the situational shift is not the most difficult to manage but the psychological components is where the real work lies.
Unfortunately in my experiences, it is the psychological effects that the managers will do anything to avoid. I have seen everything from telling staff that nothing has changed (when in all actuality a significant shift in culture and business operation was taking place), to trying to make it seem like the change is wonderful- which it may be for some people and the company itself- but for others it may be mean job elimination or other consequential variation. Both efforts generally seem to do more harm than good. Managers need to accept that there will be grieving, fear, and other really uncomfortable emotions that must be honored and not simply pushed under the rug if they want to help minimize the distress and disruptions caused by the change.
Okay, this is my first shot at an HR blog. I have talked about doing this for years- literally. Please don’t ask what stopped me because I don’t really know and am just glad to be here now- hoping to share some of what I have learned over a rather long and interesting HR career thus far and what I think when it comes to what we do in business in this regard. But first, I think I just need to explain the name, HonestlyHR.
Well, I picked HonestlyHR for several reasons. First, HR Bartender was already taken! I really am not kidding when I say this because I do hope that this blog can be a place (I am thinking “Cheers” here) where “everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came”. A place where we can all belly up to the bar and swap our stories, questions and best practices. The name HR Bartender embodies that philosophy.
Second, I feel like HR is always charged with being the moral and ethical compass of a company. I really wanted honest to be a featured part of the name. I grappled with HonestHR, HonestyHR and other combinations. Finally I settled with HonestlyHR because I want everyone including myself to approach the content I hope to share here honestly. Honestly is an adverb meaning in an honest manner.
This brings us to the final reason I chose HonestlyHR. If honestly is an adverb, that forces us to look at HR as a verb. Crazy sounding? Maybe a little but I have found in far too many companies I have worked with over the years that HR is a noun that is viewed as a trophy. ”We have HR in our company! Yippee!” But in actuality it was a person or a group of people with the title and little or no power to impact the people of the company- the H in HR. So if we think of HR as a verb- an action- it means that something wonderful could happen.
I know, especially in the beginning, my thoughts may be all over the place…let’s face it, HR is a huge collection of disciplines (Compensation & Benefits, Employee Relations, Training & Development, Talent Acquisition to just name a few), but I hope you bear with me and feel free to weigh in on anything I have said here. That ultimately is how we learn and grow after all-listening, sharing and evaluating what we find.