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Solving Employee Performance Problems
How to Spot Problems Early, Take Appropriate Action, and Bring Out the Best in Everyone
By Anne Bruce, Brenda Hampel, Erika Lamont
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2011The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Set Expectations to Avoid Performance Issues
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
As our research and our work has told us, many performance issues result from the lack of understanding of performance expectations or the lack of clarity of those expectations. Without a clear target, it is impossible for employees to know where and for what to aim. On the flip side, their managers should not be able to hold them accountable without these same measures or tools.
Leaders need to build a performance-based team whose objectives are consistent with the organization's vision and mission.
The synergy that comes from putting employees together to form teams to solve problems, make decisions, and take action is power that organizations can harness for greater success. In these increasingly complex, changing times for your business, using the principles of teams can supply more creative solutions and more powerful support for your teams and the organization as a whole. With an effective team, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
Creating teams and leading them to success require skill and finesse on the part of the team leaders. We discuss and provide practice for the skills that can help make you successful in creating a good team environment.
WHAT DOES A TEAM LOOK LIKE?
To help you determine whether you have a team or just a group of individuals, consider the following questions:
* How do you make decisions?
* How do you deal with conflicts?
* How do you solve problems?
* What happens when things go wrong?
* How do you build a team that makes effective decisions, surfaces and manages conflicts, and works together to solve problems and handle issues?
BUILDING THE VISION
At the center of every high-performance team is a common purpose, a mission that rises above and beyond each of the individual team members. To be successful, the team's interests and needs must come first. This requires, "we-opic" vision ("What's in it for 'we'?"). A challenging step up from the common, "me-opic" mindset.
To embrace this principle, make sure your team purpose and priorities are clear. What is your overall mission? What is your game plan? What is expected of each team member? How can each member contribute most effectively? What constants will hold the team together? Then stop and ask yourself whether you are putting the team first.
In order to develop successful plans, it is necessary for managers both to understand their organization's strategic vision and to incorporate that vision into their plans and day-to-day operations. To accomplish this, consider the following steps:
1. Become comfortable articulating your organization's vision and strategic direction. To clarify and increase your understanding in this area, ask yourself questions such as:
* What is the organization's strategic vision?
* What does the strategic vision mean for me and my department?
* What are the future opportunities?
* What talents and resources will I need to accomplish my part?
2. Ask for whatever information you need to understand the strategy and direction.
3. Link your operational plans with the organization's vision and strategic direction.
4. Plan for ongoing review and updates to ensure that your departmental plans support your organization's strategic vision.
If you are unclear about your company's vision, you can get more information by:
* Reading the annual report.
* Attending company meetings, such as town meetings, and reading quarterly updates, newsletters, and press releases.
* Talking with members of the management team.
* Reviewing annual objectives.
Your Team's Vision
What is the vision for your current team? What is the purpose of the team? How does your vision fit into the company's overall vision and strategy?
MAKING THE VISION HAPPEN
Now that you have established your vision, established clear expectations for each team member, and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of your team, it is time to implement the vision and make it happen. The first step in making it happen is communicating the vision and keeping it alive. Use the following worksheet to develop your communication plan.
COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE
The communication process can also be thought of as a public relations initiative. As we learn in the case studies in Chapter 8, the team's purpose and vision not only needs to be communicated to the team members, but they also need to be communicated to the rest of the organization, particularly those functions with which the teams will be working closely.
STRATEGIES FOR COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR TEAM
Many leaders are focused on tasks, results, and projects. While these items are important, leaders must also take the time to communicate with their teams. Effectively communicating with team members increases productivity and minimizes confusion and wasted effort. The following strategies outline opportunities for leaders to communicate with their teams.
* Hold regular staff meetings:
* Make these important meetings a priority.
* Plan an agenda, allowing for changes when needed.
* Include a development activity on a regular basis.
* Keep formal department documents up to date, such as:
* Organizational charts
* Department vision
* Management by objectives (MBOs)
* Hold regular breakfast or lunch meetings monthly or quarterly:
* Discuss current items affecting the department.
* Cover broader items that are happening in the organization.
* Allow for and encourage questions.
* Display current "news" items. Put up a bulletin board or something similar for department and company news items to be placed. Keep it current.
* Hold impromptu meetings as needed. When new, urgent information comes to your attention, share this information with those on your team who are affected.
* Return phone and e-mail messages to your team members promptly.
* Develop your own way of sending handwritten notes to your team members.
How to communicate with your manager:
* Have regularly scheduled meetings with your manager. If he or she does not initiate them, arrange to get on his or her calendar.
* Know how your manager prefers to receive information.
* Make sure there are no surprises:
* Keep your manager informed of any important issues that affect your team.
* Invite your manager periodically to attend your staff meetings.
* Make use of informal opportunities, such as lunches, travel, and social events to communicate with your manager.
STRATEGIES FOR COMMUNICATING WITH OTHER KEY GROUPS
In addition to effectively communicating inside the team, it is also critical that leaders develop strong communication across departments. Clear and open communication channels between departments have several advantages: surfaces issues, problem solving, minimizes rework, and increases productivity. Below is a list of strategies to first identify these key groups and then foster strong communication with them.
* Identify the key groups that your team needs to interact with.
* Develop relationships with your peers
Excerpted from Solving Employee Performance Problems by Anne Bruce. Copyright © 2011 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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