Monday, December 19, 2011

Does Ranking Team Member Performance Make Sense?

Do you rank employees?

Does your organization use a system of listing employees from "top performers" to "bottom performers"? You may call them something else, but do you use that kind of system?

When I worked at GE we were forced, as leaders, to force rank our employees. Everyone had to fit within 9 categories. We used whatever measures we could to arrive at something resembling a logical order.

The problem is, how do you compare across job platforms? How do you compare the performance of a claims adjuster to recruiter? How do you compare a customer service rep to an underwriter?

How do you know that you are measuring the right things?

How do you know that your assessment is accurate and unbiased?

How do you know that next year your company will need the same skills and goals as this year?

If you hired correctly in the first place and have been doing your job as a team leader to develop a cohesive, high performance team that works collaboratively with each other instead of competitively, what gives you the right to assess one of your team members as the "bottom of the pack"?

Ranking team member performance lacks both accuracy and usefulness.

Used as a way to cut the bottom 5% or 10% it is cruel, non-compassionate, and foolhardy.

As leaders, we can do better than that.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, December 10, 2011

High Performance Leaders And Possibilities

Life is too short. Life is full of infinite possibilities. Which scenario are you working?

It's your choice.

There's no doubt that time is our highest premium. And yet, there is so much that we can do. So many possibilities. So many problems to solve, so many goals to achieve. High performance leaders go after those possibilities. They find the people who can best help them, and they find people who they can help.

Possibilities are right there for the right leader to move forward.

Why not get busy on them today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Monday, December 5, 2011

Centered Leaders Create Positive Change

Do you feel the need to make radical changes in your team?

Are there deep flaws within your organization that you've just got to transform?

It can be tempting to equate radical with rude. It can seem reasonable to bend rules to change them. Centered leaders know, and practice better habits for change.

Maybe it takes longer. Maybe it involves more people. Certainly, it involves all the clarity, courage, creativity and compassion that a leader can invoke -- but centered leaders find ways to radically change things with dignity and respect.

Revolutionaries need not be ill-mannered or violent.

There are an infinite number of paths to positive change.

How can you approach change more positively today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Saturday, December 3, 2011

High Performance Leaders Use End-Runs Very Carefully

Have you ever gone over your boss's head?

Have you ever by-passed a team member who could have helped you solve a problem and instead gone to her boss?

It can feel fast. It can feel satisfying. It can ruin your team.

Yes, there ARE times to use an end-run and get to the part of the chain of command that will act fast and solve a pressing problem. But those times are few and tend to look very much like emergencies, or matters of personal privacy. If a team member is breaking the law, you have no viable choice other than to go over their head to authority. To avoid doing so is irresponsible, and in some cases even criminal.

But hopefully in your organization, those instances are rare. Much more common are those times when it simply feels more convenient to skip over someone who seems to be obstructing us and talking to a more powerful, more friendly decision maker.

What does that do to your relationships, though? Does it build, or damage trust?

Does it help your team in the long run to have people skipping boundaries and avoiding the chain of command?

If your chain of command is too long and too complicated, work within your system to change that. Unilaterally dismantling a chain of command though usually creates unsavory side-effects that you probably don't want and certainly don't want to be responsible for.

Breaking the chain of command risks breaking the entire chain of command. Use end runs very, very carefully.

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mistakes for Supervisors to Avoid

What kind of mistakes should a supervisor avoid?

There are all kinds of mistakes that you can benefit from, but also an endless number of mistakes that could put you out of business.

One kind of mistake is easily avoided: the mistake you've already made. At least, in theory. Shouldn't we learn the lesson the first time? Shouldn't we be able to re-direct our efforts and do it right? Maybe, but also it's possible that we will repeat the mistake -- again and again, until the lesson is truly learned.

Seriously, mistakes can be valuable learning lessons -- but only if we learn. If we do not learn from our mistakes we most likely get more opportunities in the form of mistakes until we do.

Making mistakes once is no guarantee against repeating them. It takes learning and change to avoid the obvious.

It can be helpful to learn from the mistakes of others. Think about the worst boss you've ever had. You wouldn't want to repeat that set of behaviors would you? But do you (sometimes)? I know that I have caught myself doing exactly what I know to be counter-productive -- only because it was so familiar that it seems easy.

What sorts of mistakes should supervisors avoid?

- Keeping your people in the dark.
- Going over people's heads repeatedly to get things done (this will come back to bite you)
- Yelling, harassing, or being a jerk. Seriously, don't do it.
- Breaking the law
- Hiring people based on your gut instincts.
- Thinking that the answer to every performance problem is "just work harder"
- Taking on too much without establishing clear priorities
- Failing to develop yourself AND your people

... and on and on. What mistakes would you add to the list?

Think about a mistake that you've only made once and were able to improve your performance as a result. What did you do differently? How did you leverage your mistake into a new opportunity?

What mistakes can you avoid today?

-- Douglas Brent Smith

Front Range Leadership