Building Behaviors that Inspire Sustained Results

If you are just tuning in this week, we are in the midst of a series on Building Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure.

An important component to achieve your vision and accomplish your goals, is identifying the right behaviors at every level.

Just as with creating the vision, you have choices.

You can identify the key behaviors and build performance management systems and rewards to reinforce them. That may work, if your entire performance management system is carefully aligned.

What I find works even better is involving each level of the organization in the process.

How to Identify Key Behaviors: An Exercise

I have been using variations of this exercise in different roles and contexts for many years– sometimes on the outside as a facilitator, sometimes on the inside as leader. It’s easy, and mostly involves an open mind and enough time to really engage.

Set the stage:

Start with your vision and goals. Ensure everyone understands the big picture and how they fit in. You have choices on how to do this. If you missed the post on How To Develop a Team Vision, you may want to take a moment and start there.

Brainstorm Key Behaviors:

Next, brainstorm what specific behaviors each role on the team would need to exhibit to make that vision a reality. What behaviors must the leader exhibit? How about the sales reps? How about the HR team? How about…

For example:

What would the team leader most need to do each day to achieve the vision?

Be more visible?

That’s a start, but too vague.

How about if she spent 3 hours on the floor each day.

Better.

What would she be doing on the floor?

Keep drilling down until you find specific measurable behaviors that will work.

This can be done for every role on the team.

Drilling Down:

Next, consider formalizing this exercise at every level of the organization.

Start with your direct reports, and take it down as many levels as you have.

Ask.

In order for us to accomplish our vision, what behaviors do you need from me?

Then narrow it down to specific behaviors and write them down.

Next, what behaviors must they exhibit? Again, narrow it down and record.

Ask them to repeat this exercise with their teams to discuss the specific behaviors for their roles.

And then a level down.

Take all those behaviors and publish them into a matrix. Everyone then knows what behaviors are expected at every level to accomplish the vision. You can then work to hold one another accountable for those behaviors.

It’s a lot harder to ignore the leadership behaviors you committed to when everyone has a matrix of expectations they can pull out at any time.

The Problem with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Joe (not his real name) began the team meeting by covering the team’s scorecard and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

“Great work on your sales KPIs, we’re in the top-tier across the board. We are so close to beating Sharon’s district. If everyone just sold one more today, I think we can do it!
Also, we seem to be struggling in the customer service KPIs. We have a downward trend and there are 4 districts ahead of us. I need more focus there across the board. Janet, you are doing the best so whatever you’re doing keep it up. Everyone else, I need you to try a bit harder. Awesome. Thanks everyone, now let’s go make it a great day. Remember, fantastic customer service!”

If that sounds like a team huddle you’ve ever been in, you know why I have a love/hate relationship with KPIs. Joe’s team may understand the KPIs, but they don’t have a clue what they are supposed to do when they leave that meeting.

What should they DO to sell one more?

How DO they improve the customer experience?

KPIs Are Indicators, Not Action

Scorecards and KPIs provide wonderful directional indicators. Good trends point to actions worth replicating. Bad trends shine a spotlight on what must change. A hard look at the data can help you to identify best practices. Comparative scorecards will also help you identify outliers who need more support.

KPIs are important.

One of the biggest mistakes I see team leaders make is talking about the KPIs instead of the behaviors needed to achieve them.

KPIs are a terrible topic of conversation.

People don’t change scorecards, they change behaviors.

A focus on KPIs versus behaviors can lead to useless, if not stupid actions.

Almost any behavior applied with enough focus will create a short-term lift in results.

Micromanagement can get you there for a hot minute. Fear and intimidation will work for a while. Heavy incentives and hoopla will create a short-term lift. Ice cream and pizza can’t hurt either.

Upward trends in KPIs without an underlying change in behaviors, can lead to a false sense of security.

When the fear goes away or the sugar wears off, the results go back down.

The Behaviors That Matter

The only way to build sustained results is to improve the underlying behaviors. Don’t ask a sales rep to be more courteous. Ask her to open the door for the customer, use the customer’s name, and walk around the counter with the bag. Talking about the frequency of those behaviors will do more good than talking about her customer service survey percentages.

So what are the right behaviors? Why not ask the team?

What tools and techniques have you used to ensure the conversation focuses on behaviors?
How have you avoided the distraction of numbers and KPIs?