By John Lankford
What exactly does team accountability mean? And how does a performance management system factor into this? In a nutshell, they are both critical to your company’s success. If one of these elements is missing, the other can’t succeed.
Employees at every level play an important part in your organization’s goals. A Performance Management System is the glue that binds and guides each employee’s individual performance towards the mission of the company. If leveraged properly, employees will be aligned at every stage of the overall goal.
As a number-one-rated business coach of an internationally acclaimed coaching/consulting company, I draw heavily on my 26-year history that includes three Fortune 500 Companies and dozens of benchmarking trips to well-run companies. Surprising though, it has been my experience that less than 5 percent of today’s business leaders understand and/or use their Performance Management System the way it was designed. Changing this low perception percentage has become a personal goal.
For example, in 2008, I had the opportunity to coach 17 CEOs, all of whom experienced improvements between 39 percent and 640 percent across various measures. These are sizable improvements in the levels of performance that prove a Performance Management System works when used properly. So is it fair to expect results like these in today’s trying economy? In a word, yes…by using the same five key factors that led to my client’s off-the-chart performance and success. And it’s no surprise that one of these key components is accountability. After all, accountability is an integral part of any successful Performance Management System.
So, that brings us to the question of how should a Performance Management System be used? Let’s do it a step at a time, beginning by breaking down a company’s annual cycle into three major sections. These sections provide the framework to gain employee commitment, align them with the company mission, and measure both individual and bottom-line results.
STEP 1: Setting Expectations
Clearly define and communicate the company’s goals for the coming year to employees at every level as follows:
· The CEO and/or board finalizes the strategic direction and goals for the coming year
· The CEO communicates the organizational goals to all direct reports
· The CEO meets one-on-one with all direct reports to reach agreement on their department or division goals and priorities for the coming year
· The division or department manager meets one-on-one with all direct reports.
· Each front line manager meets with all direct reports to discuss and finalize their individual goals for the coming year
Note that a commonly made mistake in this step is when the goals are mandated rather than presented in a way to engage employees in dialogue to reach consensus and gain 100 percent commitment. Be aware that compliant head nodding does not translate into true commitment. It is critical to conduct this first series of conversations correctly in order to align every human resource to the annual business goals. If you fail to truly align individuals, teams and divisions substantially, then the company’s ability to hit or exceed performance goals will be dramatically lower.
Far too many organizations are so busy they don’t strategically plan for success, leaving the outcome to pure luck. When it comes to business and life, there’s no such thing as luck. Strategic planning that incorporates accountability is one of the main criteria for becoming anEmployer of Choice.
STEP 2: Coaching and Feedback
Leaders must be competent at all levels and have the ability to provide effective coaching and feedback to their direct reports in a timely manner. This one ability has a huge impact on the effectiveness of every employee. One tool used to assist managers is conducting a mid-year review after six months where employees discuss how their first-half performance measures up to the agreement made at the beginning of the year. Same principle as the mid-term report cards we all got when we were in school.
STEP 3: Year-End Review
Let’s face it. Managers dread giving year-end reviews. Employees hate receiving them. After gathering input from more than 50,000 employees over a 29-year period, the number one reason for this attitude came clear — too often employees are broadsided by surprise feedback. The good news is that this anxiety can and should be avoided with regular coaching and feedback during the ten month period between January and December.
Once all year-end conversations and performance reviews are completed, it’s critical that each team or division’s actual performance mirrors the individual team member’s collective ratings. In other words, the sum of the parts must equal the whole. Keeping the Performance Management System simple makes it much more likely to be used effectively. Implementing a Performance Management System that really works not only contributes to long-term viability and profitability, but also impacts a company’s ability to thrive in any economy.