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Posted: April 30, 2013

Four conditions for high performance

The first: clear management expectations

Timothy LaMacchio

(Editor's note: This is the third of three parts. Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

Here are specific methods and instructions for building the four environmental conditions that influence job performance. 

Clear Management Expectations:

Imagine a consultant spending one hour with your team to discuss a single question, “What does your manager expect of you?”

Would the consultant see blank faces?  Would they receive a flood of, “I don’t know?”  Would employees provide vague and hesitant responses such as, “customer service” or “responsiveness”?   Would this discussion reveal something alarming --- employees lack the direction they need to be successful?

If employees are to be successful, they must receive management expectations and direction that are:

  • Based upon a definition of job success
  • Focused on achieving a clear outcomes or goals
  • Clearly communicated and agreed upon

An everyday example of a clear expectation is a roadside sign, “Speed Limit 45.” 

When employees receive unclear management expectations they get evaluated for their ability to read their manager’s mind and guess how to do their job.  These employees are set up for failure.

However, employees evaluated for their ability to meet clear management expectations are provided an opportunity for job success.

Usable Performance Feedback

A baby crying.  A police officer writing a traffic citation.  A barking dog.  A car’s “Check Engine” light.  A teenager’s unending, “Why not?”  A spouse’s look of disapproval.

All examples of feedback.

If employees are to be successful in their job, they must receive usable feedback about their work that is:

  • Based upon progress toward an established expectation
  • Objective, accurate, and trusted
  • Easy to access and understand

As you approach the “Speed Limit 45” road sign another sign blinks, “Your Speed is 55.”

The expectation is clear.  Now you have usable feedback.  You can change your speed and be successful — or continue unchanged and risk a traffic citation.  Feedback gives you the opportunity to be successful.

An employee without feedback is like a pilot with a destination ---- fly from Los Angeles to New York --- but no information during the flight.

Successfully arrival in New York requires the pilots receive usable information about their progress.  This feedback is automated real-time data from the cockpit controls.  It is information from the co-pilot and air traffic control.  Perhaps even information from passengers.

Supporting Resources

Think back over the past week.

How often was work hindered because the tools, material, equipment, and people that support your work were unavailable, difficult to access, or cumbersome to use?
 

Job success has two parts.  It is about completing work AND completing work correctly.  Resources needed to complete work and complete it correctly include:

  • Tools, material, and equipment
  • Key decision makers
  • Relevant subject matter experts
  • Decision-making data

To be successful and meet management expectations the resources supporting your work need to be:

  • Available
  • Easy-to-access
  • Easy-to-navigate
  • Accurate

How will a time-pressed insurance claims representative respond when accessing needed decision-making data/information is cumbersome and time consuming?   They bypass the data verification and make an educated guess --- risking a wrong decision.   

Without the resources needed to complete work and complete it correctly, employees are forced into “workarounds.”  These employee workarounds have unintended and delayed outcomes that adversely impact the business and external customer.

Aligned Incentives:

Formal and informal workplace consequences or incentives are always influencing employees.  These consequences are encouraging or discouraging job success and high performance.  Unofficial consequences influencing job success include: politicking, frustration, conflicting priorities, and contradicting expectations.

If workplace incentives or consequences are to encourage job success they must:
(1) Reflect management’s expectations
(2) Make performance easier than nonperformance
(3) Deliver adverse consequences for nonperformance

Our busy claims representative from Supporting Resources faced an informal incentive/consequence.  With the decision-making data they needed time consuming to access, performance (making decision based on data) is discouraged and nonperformance (guessing) is encouraged.

When incentive/consequences discourage performance and encourage nonperformance, teams work in a manner that compromise business results and creates rework.

Take Action

When faced with a performance problem or opportunity use this six conditions --- six influencers of high performance --- to guide your efforts.  These conditions are key influencers in the ability of teams to be successful.

However, avoid the common mistake of simply sending employee to costly training.   Instead build a high performance environment by ensuring:

  1. Management expectations are clear
  2. Work is guided by usable feedback 
  3. Resources support daily task
  4. Formal and informal incentives encourage performance

Share your experience with these four environmental conditions of success with other professionals by leaving a reader response and comment.  Use these questions to help initiate discussion with other professionals:

  1. Which environmental condition has most influenced your ability to be successful in your job? Why?
  2. Which environmental condition is lacking in your organization or job? Why do you think it is lacking?  What can you do to make it a part of the job?
  3. Which environmental condition has your organizations successfully provided to employees?  How have they been successful at this?

Timothy LaMacchio is the owner of www.GoToManagers.com. A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, he works with organizations to connect everyday “desk-level” work to strategic business goals. Tim solves a problems root cause --- not just the symptoms.  His practical solutions develop people and the environment people need to perform. Tim's work is about providing new knowledge and skills and achieving business results. Contact Timothy at tel@GoToManagers.com or 303.917.5775

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