Five critical steps to maximize performance

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The application of performance management aligns all employees with the overall goals of the company. This enables each employee to understand both their role in the organization and how their efforts contribute to its success, as well as to work toward the mutual accomplishment of those goals.

The manager has an important role to play in the formation of a performance management program for his or her people. Goals must be clarified and clearly communicated, and the behaviors of the individual employees must be aligned in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

This is important for managers to appreciate as performance management demands not only time and patience to properly implement, but superior communication skills to close the informational gaps between the desires of senior management as expressed in their plans and the actual behaviors and efforts exhibited by employees.

Managers will find that once they are able to effectively close these gaps and clearly communicate established company goals to their people and align their behaviors accordingly, their programs will work very efficiently to produce a more productive unit.

The role of the manager in performance management is to clearly communicate the company's goals, align their individual employees' behavior with them and monitor performance. This includes:

Clarifying Goals

Research has shown that differences in overall performance among individual employees are directly proportional to the level of internal clarity in which goals and objectives are presented to them. This is because when goals are communicated and clarified, employees have a clear understanding of what needs to be done and how to do it, and they are unified in the pursuit of that goal.

Limit Priorities

Many managers can either get strategic goals intermingled with more tactical operational goals or have entirely too many "top priorities." This blurs their focus and leads to a lack of clarity. It is the manager's responsibility to narrow the focus of their priorities and limit their number to as little as five. They should also see that individual employees do the same thing. This assures that all are focused and crisp in their execution. Additionally, too many priorities scatters the individual efforts of the unit or department in a variety of unmanageable directions, ensuring that goals and desired outcomes will not be achieved.

Execution

Good execution only happens when an employee's behavior is aligned with the company's goals. Many managers fail to align their people with company objectives because they don't know how to talk to them about change and poor performance. Additionally, many managers won't align their employees because they find it uncomfortable to challenge them and give them candid feedback or don't realize that successful execution will never happen without ongoing performance dialogue.

When employees understand how their work fits into overall company goals, they will appreciate how they need to align themselves with these efforts and make the appropriate adjustments in behavior. These changes in execution are not possible without performance feedback from the manager.

Communicating Clearly

Quite often the only feedback many employees receive over the course of the year is regarding how they are performing against their stated sales goals. It is important for managers to create the linkages between the individual employee and the company so that he or she can see not only how they fit in but also how their efforts are contributing to the company's overall success.

Numerous studies have shown that when employees clearly understand how they fit into the organization and see how their efforts contribute to the company's success, they are substantially more motivated and productive.

Managers should open up the channels of communication to their people-who oftentimes feel isolated from the company to begin with-in order to build a sense of community so that they can see how their efforts are part of the company's overall success.

Proper Acknowledgment of Progress Toward Goals

Managers must ensure that they encourage employee behaviors that are consistent with the company's goals. Employees' behavior is easily modified by a change in how their efforts are acknowledged. They will do what produces the most recognition and positive reinforcement.

Excerpt: Performance Management:The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, 2011).


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