Avoid these infuriating phrases in end-of-year feedback

Avoid These Infuriating Phrases in End-of-Year Feedback

For most managers, the only thing they dread more than going to their own end-of-year performance appraisal is holding end-of-year feedback discussions with their team. Why?

Because the performance appraisal system is unnatural by design. Imagine if we burdened our home relationships with some of the same formal systems we impose at work.

“Honey, I’ve decided to give you an end-of-year appraisal. Your cooking has improved and you’re taking out the trash without being reminded, you get an “Exceeds Expectations” in domestic duties. “But you’ve been so stressed lately, and it’s been months since you brought me flowers, I have to give romance a B-.”

And if your company is using a stack ranking system, made worse with forced ratings quotas,  it’s even more tricky.

I’ll save the rant about these old school systems for another day since chances are you’re already neck-deep in preparing for these required conversations. Instead, I’ve collected a list of the most infuriating phrases many employees have told me have ticked them off (or made them quit).

6 Infuriating End-Of-Year Feedback Phrases That Crush Morale

1. “I don’t have much feedback for you. You know you’re doing great.”

Why it’s infuriating: You know who hears this? The people that have been killing themselves going above and beyond expectations. Every single week I hear from high-performers who feel overlooked and are starving for recognition.

What to Do Instead: If they’re doing great, be sure to give specific feedback about what was so great and why it mattered. Also, care enough to offer specific ideas for how they can grow and do even better. See Also:  7 Things Your High-Performing Employees Long to Hear You Say.

2. “I rated you a meets expectations. Your performance really was an “exceeds” but I had to make the math work out.” Or, even worse, “I could only have one in that category.”

Why it’s infuriating: Basically this is saying, I’m rating you lower than you deserve. And nothing is more infuriating than injustice.

What to Do Instead: It’s always best to stay focused on results and behaviors, rather than the rating. But if an employee is frustrated, they may be so distracted by the rating it’s difficult for them to think about anything else. Be clear about the criteria that you used to calibrate performance and where they met and exceeded that criteria and opportunities to improve in the future. Stay away from comparisons to other employees, or blaming other people for the rating they received.

3. “I know we haven’t had a chance to talk about this before, but _____”

Why it’s infuriating: Nothing new should be surfacing in end-of-year feedback. And yet so frequently employees tell us they were completely blindsided by observations of behaviors from earlier in the year. It’s frustrating because it feels like a gotcha game instead of constructive feedback that they could have acted on if they had heard about it sooner.

What to Do Instead: Never bring up new feedback in a performance review. Be proactive in sharing observations as close to when it occurred as possible.

4. “Well, I don’t really have any specific examples, but it’s become a real issue.”

Why it’s infuriating: Feedback without specifics feels unfounded; not to mention generalized feedback with no examples would never hold up if they challenged you in a formal way (e.g. lawsuit).

What to Do Instead: Be sure you can offer specific examples of the behavior for any feedback you are giving

5. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from other people about your performance in this arena. Who?  I’m not at liberty to say. Have I noticed it, well, no but everybody is telling me about it.”

Why it’s infuriating: You lose credibility and trust by acting on feedback you’ve heard thirdhand—you’re essentially saying, “I trust them and doubt you.” Ouch.

What to Do Instead: Find a way to observe the issue yourself. Or encourage the person with the feedback to offer it directly.

6. “Just write up your accomplishments and I’ll sign it.”

Why it’s infuriating: Why bother? “You want me to do YOUR job?

What to Do Instead: Have them submit their accomplishments, and then invest the time to share your observations and a well-thought-through commentary. Make the effort to ensure they feel seen and understood.

Done well end-of-year feedback conversations can go a long way in building trust, aligning expectations with results, and laying the foundation for a great start to the new year. If you show up with confident-humility, focused on both results and relationships.

Other Helpful Tools For Your End-Of-Year Feedback Sessions

MIT Huddle Planner (a tool to use weekly to make your end of year sessions smooth sailing)

How to Prepare for a Better Development Discussion

Creative Ways to Develop Your Managers

the mot important factor to ensure your feedback is heard

The Most Important Factor To Ensure Your Feedback is Heard

Last week we shared reasons employees might resist your coaching. There’s one other vital factor to ensure your feedback is heard.

Ground Yourself Here Before Giving Feedback

Steve had thrown every ounce of energy into launching his most important strategic initiative. Everyone knew what was important and why, and his five times, five different ways communication strategy was more like thirty by thirty.

He ensured all the best people were on it, and yet the program was still struggling to gain traction.

“I was getting so frustrated about the lack of sales of our new strategic program. I had reinforced why this was so important to our company so many times, I was sick of hearing myself talk about it. But the service reps were struggling to convert inquiries to sales. Then one day, I just went into the contact center and took a few customers’ calls myself. The questions were tough. I realized how hard our new program was to explain. I learned that our training had not prepared our reps to take those calls. No amount of explaining “why this program mattered” would help until the reps knew how to answer our customers’ questions.”

– Steve, CEO Home Services Company

Steve understood what best-selling author and vulnerability expert, Brené Brown calls “being in the arena.”

“If you’re not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

Brené Brown

Steve realized before his team could take his feedback seriously, he needed to experience this initiative from inside “the arena.”  This meant being willing to face the discomfort of hearing what customers really were experiencing himself. His reps needed to know that HE KNEW how hard it was and that they were in this together.

This is far different than micro-managing. I’m not advocating getting in the weeds and staying there. That won’t benefit your mission, you or your team. What I’m talking about here is showing up vulnerable, knowing that you don’t have all the answers and taking some risks to figure it out. Going first, particularly when it’s hard. Never making your team look bad so you can look good.

Show Me You’re With Me

Every week, I hear stories of wimpy managers, asking their teams to take risks so they don’t have to.

  • “If a meeting is going to be contentious, my boss always finds a way to send me instead of going herself. And when I get back she’s full of feedback of how I could have positioned our argument differently.”
  • “My manager is too scared to advocate for what we need, she puts politics over progress every time.”
  • “We’re trying to get this project moving but we’re all getting different marching orders from our supervisors. When we suggest they work out the issues at their level, they say the decision is “above their paygrade and they don’t want to make waves.”

Oh, and here’s one I got from a previous boss, “Karin I think it’s a great idea, but it might not work. You can do it if you want, but,  if it fails or if the senior team disapproves of your approach, I’m going to pretend I didn’t know about it.”

I bet you can guess how that story ends, It worked. And he was happy to act like he was for it all along.

Gut Check

Does your team look forward to your visits? Are they excited to see you walk through the door?

What do you do when numbers dip, do you focus on the game, not just the score?

Does your feedback come from a place of judgment or support?

Don’t ask your team to fight battles, if you’re scared of the war.

Your turn.

How do you show up in the arena?

What makes it hard?

5 Reasons Your Employees Ignore Your Coaching

5 Reasons Your Employees Ignore Your Coaching

Have you ever had (what you thought was) a great coaching conversation—your employee seems to get it—but fifteen minutes later they’re back to their old habits?

So you give them more coaching, this time “louder” either literally, or through progressive discipline. But even so, nothing changes.

What’s going on?

Most employees don’t come to work hoping to screw up.

They want to improve. So why does so much coaching fall on deaf ears?

5 Reasons Your Coaching Falls on Deaf Ears

When we ask employees in our training programs why it’s hard to hear their manager’s feedback, here’s what they tell us.

1. “I’m overwhelmed.”

“I’m trying to do better, I really am. But it’s all just too much. Every time we meet, he’s giving me something else to work on. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get it right, so I just ignore him and do the best I can.”

If you want real change, focus on one behavior at a time.

2. “I’m watching how it REALLY works around here.”

“My boss keeps telling me my customer courtesy credits are too high—that I’m costing the business too much money. So I stopped giving credits. But when my customers get mad, they escalate to my supervisor.  And guess, what? She ALWAYS gives them the credit! She’s the hero, and the credit goes against my numbers and I still end up on progressive action. I can’t win. So now I’m back to giving them the credit.”

If you want your employees to hear your coaching, be sure you’re following your own standards.

If there are reasons you make exceptions, be sure you clearly differentiate and explain the thought process, so they can follow consistent parameters.

3. “I don’t know how.”

“My manager says I need to be more strategic. That sounds awesome. I’m all for that. But what does that mean? How do I do that?”

Be sure your coaching is specific and actionable. Explain what success looks like in terms of behaviors.

4. “I disagree.”

“My supervisor keeps asking me to do this, but I just don’t think it’s right. It will have a negative impact on MY customers. I’ve tried to explain my concerns, but she just keeps citing policy, and that this decision is ‘above my pay grade.'”

Sure, we all have to implement policies we may not agree with, the important factor here is to really listen to the concerns and explain why. 

AND to help challenge the status quo when it doesn’t make sense. 

5. “I’m confused.”

“I’m not really sure what’s important, because everything seems to be. I feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions.”

Help your employees sort through the noise and stay focused on what matters most.

Coaching is an art. If you’re not getting the results you want, talk to your employee. “I’ve noticed, that even though we’ve talked about this before, you’re continuing to ______ (insert behavior here.) I really care about you and want you to be successful. What’s going on? Why do you think this is still happening?”

And really listen to their response.

A Few More Articles to Help Your Coaching and Performance Feedback

Fast Company: This 7 Step Guide For Dishing Out Feedback is Completely Idiot-Proof

What Do I Do if They Cry?

Pushover No More: It’s Never Too Late to Start Practicing Team Accountability

Forced Ratings - Awful Problems and What Leaders Do Instead

Forced Ratings – Awful Problems and What Leaders Do Instead

Forced Ratings Cause More Problems Than They Fix

Recently we were working with senior leaders in a global company who faced a challenging morale problem. They hired talented capable people who were producing good work – but their talent was leaving. Leaders at every level were frustrated at the forced ratings performance management system.

Tracie, the Senior Vice President of Product Management, summarized the problem: “We’re wasting time and energy competing against each other. I’ve got good people on my team and I’d keep every one of them, but I have to rate everyone on a bell curve – so someone gets told they’re not doing a good job even when they are. No wonder they leave.”

It goes by many names: forced rating, stack ranking, and bell curves. You rate people’s performance by comparing them to one another. Those who finish lowest in the ratings are put on performance improvement plans, aren’t recognized for their performance or are even told to leave.

These systems are appealing because it seems like the formula (keep your top performers, replace the low) will ratchet up performance as everyone competes to be at the top of the ratings.

Problems That Prevent Performance

In practice, however, these forced ratings systems run into real-world challenges. There are several problems with stack ranks and bell curve rating systems:

  • You create contradictions as you hire great employees, but then tell a segment of them that they’re not great after all.
  • You create internal competition rather than outward competition.
  • You create strong incentives to game the score rather than play the real game of serving your customer.
  • You’re asking people for their least-best effort (what they have to do to stay alive) rather than their true best.
  • Leaders don’t learn how to lead and manage for sustainable results.
  • Managers aren’t allowed to reward genuine performance when talented performers end up on the low end of the rank.

Forced rating systems are helpful when a leader needs to jumpstart a large organization that’s caught in a morass of sloth, no accountability, and poor execution at every level. A quick ranking to identify truly poor performance and remove it from the organization sends a message that things are changing.

In essence, forced rankings are used to compensate for poor leadership. Successful frontline and middle-level leaders frequently succeed despite, not because of, forced ranking systems. These systems become another barrier they have to overcome on the way to sustained results.

Forced ratings are an attempt to compensate for poor leadership.

For the long-term, however, the answer to sustained transformational results isn’t forced rankings. If the problem is poor leadership, it should be fairly obvious: fix the problem.

Motivate Your Team: The Alternative to Forced Ratings

If you’re struggling to reboot the leadership in your organization, or if you’re a team leader who wants to transform and sustain breakthrough results, start here:

  • Hire fantastic people.  Identify the competencies your top performers share in common and interview for those traits.
  • Cultivate and create systems that help top performers to excel. What is the number one frustration that prevents your team from excelling? What can you do to remove it or lessen its disruptive impact?
  • Align compensation with what you really want. If you need a team to perform at an objective level of excellence, compensate them for that performance. Don’t turn the team against itself with artificial comparisons that don’t benefit the work that’s done for your customers.
  • Invest in your leaders and managers – formally or informally, with budget or without the budget. No excuses. Give your managers and leaders the tools they need to succeed. If you need a place to begin, check out the free Let’s Grow Leaders Facilitator’s Guide that accompanies Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul.
  • At a minimum, equip and expect yourself and your managers and leaders to:
    • Set clear, shared, mutually understood expectations that include purpose & meaning and the MIT behaviors that lead to success.
    • Train and equip their people to perform well.
    • Hold themselves and their people accountable.
    • Help team members to grow with training, coaching, encouragement, and challenge for high performers.
    • Celebrate success.
    • Hold leaders accountable for their results and how they achieve them. I often see senior leaders talk about how they expect their team leaders to perform, but they never actually reinforce the behaviors or hold their direct reports accountable.

Your Turn

Remember, you can’t replace the work of a human leader with a formula. Invest in your leaders and hold them accountable for leading.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts about forced ranking systems or your #1 tip to make them unnecessary.

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

Managing Millennials: What's Really Different

A working student in my evening MBA program approached me to talk about a work situation that was driving her crazy.

She gave me the gory behind-the-scenes view: a few apathetic employees were fully taking advantage of a system that had let them get away with ridiculous performance for too long. She was a new supervisor and knew what was right. Apparently her instincts had been reinforced in our class that night. But the situation felt difficult to reverse. She shrugged and said, “It’s probably because they’re millennials.”

I laughed, “Uh…you do realize YOU are a millennial. right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she acknowledged, “but I’m a DIFFERENT kind of millennial.”

Of course she is. Every millennial is.

Whatever your generation, I’d bet money you don’t feel like you fully fit the stereotype.

Don’t let generational labels and stereotypes screw up your ability to build a winning team. 

What Every Employee Needs

All this talk of the millennial situation is aggravating the perceived “generation gap.” It happens every time a new crop of growing leaders gains traction.  The truth is, the problem she was describing was not generational. It was a hard-core, poster-child example of weak expectations, exacerbated by low-reinforcement and no consequences.

I had those same slippery characters working for me when I was 26. Oh sure their names and contexts were different, but I recognized the story. Back then, I was a gen-Xer trying to manage gen-Xers (I even had to take a course on managing gen-Xers before I could move into management). I recall telling the trainer I was a DIFFERENT kind of gen-Xer.

Yes, we need to understand and value the millennial generation. They bring insights and values we may not understand.

For example, I was all ears when my informal millennial coaches (employees in my organization at the front lines who I specifically put on my informal board of directors to tell me the truth) told me how to become more trusted and accessible to the front lines: Stop wearing a suit and heels to the call centers–it was too intimidating; bring my humor to the next corporate video; and for God’s sake watch some TV every now and then so I can chime in on the break room small talk. It worked. Sure there are few things you can do to be more relevant to the masses.

But the truth is, it didn’t work because they were millennial. It worked because it was a way to meet people where they are. That wisdom has worked for centuries.

Figure out the easy things you can change to connect better at a broad scale, but never forget that teams are built of unique human beings. 

The next time you’re faced with a “millennial” problem, I encourage you to resist the label and dig deeper. What’s really going on at the individual level? Do they get the big picture, so they have the skills to do the job, are they confident and competent…? You get the picture.

Are you struggling with a difficult employee engagement scene? Please call me at 443 750-1249 for a free consultation.

Managing Millennials: What’s Really Different

A working student in my evening MBA program approached me to talk about a work situation that was driving her crazy.

She gave me the gory behind-the-scenes view: a few apathetic employees were fully taking advantage of a system that had let them get away with ridiculous performance for too long. She was a new supervisor and knew what was right. Apparently her instincts had been reinforced in our class that night. But the situation felt difficult to reverse. She shrugged and said, “It’s probably because they’re millennials.”

I laughed, “Uh…you do realize YOU are a millennial. right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she acknowledged, “but I’m a DIFFERENT kind of millennial.”

Of course she is. Every millennial is.

Whatever your generation, I’d bet money you don’t feel like you fully fit the stereotype.

Don’t let generational labels and stereotypes screw up your ability to build a winning team. 

What Every Employee Needs

All this talk of the millennial situation is aggravating the perceived “generation gap.” It happens every time a new crop of growing leaders gains traction.  The truth is, the problem she was describing was not generational. It was a hard-core, poster-child example of weak expectations, exacerbated by low-reinforcement and no consequences.

I had those same slippery characters working for me when I was 26. Oh sure their names and contexts were different, but I recognized the story. Back then, I was a gen-Xer trying to manage gen-Xers (I even had to take a course on managing gen-Xers before I could move into management). I recall telling the trainer I was a DIFFERENT kind of gen-Xer.

Yes, we need to understand and value the millennial generation. They bring insights and values we may not understand.

For example, I was all ears when my informal millennial coaches (employees in my organization at the front lines who I specifically put on my informal board of directors to tell me the truth) told me how to become more trusted and accessible to the front lines: Stop wearing a suit and heels to the call centers–it was too intimidating; bring my humor to the next corporate video; and for God’s sake watch some TV every now and then so I can chime in on the break room small talk. It worked. Sure there are few things you can do to be more relevant to the masses.

But the truth is, it didn’t work because they were millennial. It worked because it was a way to meet people where they are. That wisdom has worked for centuries.

Figure out the easy things you can change to connect better at a broad scale, but never forget that teams are built of unique human beings. 

The next time you’re faced with a “millennial” problem, I encourage you to resist the label and dig deeper. What’s really going on at the individual level? Do they get the big picture, so they have the skills to do the job, are they confident and competent…? You get the picture.

Are you struggling with a difficult employee engagement scene? Please call me at 443 750-1249 for a free consultation.

The Powerful Side Effect of High Standards

My friend, Regina, says that she considers a kid’s book report a win if only one person ends up crying. I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth I put my parents through in the early years. And last night was one of those nights at the Hurt household. My husband, a firefighter, was on an overnight shift, so it was just me, Sebastian, a bucket of Swedish Fish and the promise of a very long night.

I imagine most parents are familiar with the “I didn’t start early enough, and now we need to go to the Walgreens for supplies, stay up half the night and get up early in the a.m., finish just in time to get to school with wet hair and no breakfast kind of loving feeling.”

What makes these nights so hard is that the parent holds the standards.

“Nope, that’s not what the rubric says. We have to follow the guidelines or you’ll lose points.”

“I know it’s late, but your handwriting is getting really sloppy. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to re-write that part.”

Cue the tears.

“Okay, you’ve done all the basics, now how are we going to make this really stand out?”

“But Mom…”

It be much easier to just get through the basics. After all, it’s JUST a book report.

The Powerful Side Effect

And then there’s the side effect. On the ride to school this morning, Sebastian was glowing. “I think this is the best report I’ve ever done.” “I’m sure this is going to be the very best one.” “I can’t imagine I won’t get an A.” “I can’t wait to show my teacher.” And my personal favorite, “Mom, you know you did a really good job too.” 😉

Pride. Confidence. Energy.

Too often I see managers back off their standards, letting their team just get by. After all it’s only a ______.

That’s not leadership.

Tough standards, gentle inspiration.

When you’re tempted to buy into “This is impossible,” consider the side effect.

See also The Power of Great Expectations

7 Ways to Outsmart the Competition: The Series

This is the final post in the series of 7 ways to outsmart the competition. Links below. I’m considering turning this into a keynote. What do you think?

1. Get there early

2. Be an explainer

3. Pay attention to your own game.

4. Help your team get smarter

5. Be easy to follow

6.Ignore them 

7. And today’s: Hold a higher standard

 

why team leaders tolerate poor performance

5 Sad Reasons Team Leaders Tolerate Poor Performance

Letting slackers slide reduces your credibility, causes your best performers to bolt, and leaves the rest of the team wondering why they bother. No one wants to mire in their own mediocrity. And high-performers hate nothing more than watching their poor-performing teammates drag down results. Tolerating poor performance creates a morale death spiral that takes Herculean force to reverse.

Of course there’s also the over-the-cube talk about the two slackers– the poor performing guy and you. The more you allow the poor performance to go on, the more the rest of the team will shrug their shoulders and join the poor performance bandwagon. Now the death spiral is accelerating with centripetal force, squandering time and draining vital energy from your team.

The sad truth is that every day, team leaders around the world turn their heads and let the poor performance continue.

Don’t fall into these traps.

Why Team Leaders Tolerate Poor Performance

I’m going to start with the benefit of the doubt: that you (or the team leader you’re trying to help) cares, and is not a performance problem. If that’s not the case, same rules apply, one level up.

Beyond that, here’s a gut check for why you’re allowing poor performance to continue.

    1. Guilt- You worry you haven’t done enough to develop to support, develop, encourage, and build confidence, empower, or recognize. If that’s truly the case, you’re right. You’ve got more work to do. Get going. BUT, if you have invested and invested again and it’s still not working it’s time to face that this job may not be the right fit. Stop feeling guilty. You need to do what’s right for the greater good of the company and the team
    2. Morale – I’ve seen so many team leaders so worried about building great morale, that they actually destroy it. If everything everyone does is just great then the folks who are really giving their all wonder why they do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the rest of the team thank me for addressing poor performance. Of course such things are private, but trust me, your team is more astute than you may think.
    3. Saving Face – You hired the guy. Perhaps you even convinced you boss that he was the one. If you’ve done everything you can to make it work, and it still isn’t, it’s far better to admit you were wrong, learn from your experience and move on. Don’t magnify one poor decision with another.
    4. Confidence – You’re scared. You’re not sure how to approach the situation. Get some help. There’s nothing harder for a leader to do than to address poor performance, or remove someone from the team. It never is easy, but it does get easier. Practice your conversation with a peer or mentor. Plan the conversation and anticipate responses. You can do this.
    5. Lack of Alternatives – I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me for an internal reference for a poor performer they are about to hire, and after I share the issues and concerns, they hire them any way. I actually had one guy say recently, ‘well, Karin you have a very high standards, I’m not sure that’s realistic. The funny part is that I had back-filled this guy with someone who was running circles around his predecessor. Hire slow. The great ones are out there and deserve a chance.

If you’ve got a struggling performer on your team, do all you can to help. And if It’s time to let them move on, help them to do that gracefully.

stack ranking performance management systems

Stack Ranking Performance Management Systems

You’re looking to drive performance. Have you ever considered how your performance management system is impacting your results? Here are a few thoughts to consider as you consider stack ranking the pros and cons of your performance management system.

Stack Ranking Performance Management Systems: Alternatives to the Stack Rank

My boss’ voice was visibly shaken on the other end of the phone. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “We have too many ‘leadings’ this year. You won’t be able to rate your top performer leading, or give her the extra pay.”

“What?” I was shocked. This woman had a hell of year. Plus, I had only submitted one name at that level. “How can that be?, I questioned, still stunned.

“Well you see, I’ve rated you as leading and that counts in the same bucket. It’s either you or her.

“Then let it be her, I responded.” This was unfair but if it was going to be unfair, let it be for me, not her. I’ll have another shot next year.

“No way. It’s done. The forms are submitted. You need to stop arguing. We’ll find another way to ensure she’s recognized.

Scenarios such as this play out in companies every day. Stack ranking performance management systems force leaders to choose between top performers, leaving a wake of frustration and disappointment.

Why More Companies Should Follow Microsoft

Last week the world echoed with virtual high-fives as Microsoft announced the abolishment of their stack ranking performance management system. Marissa Mayer received equally intense grief as Yahoo put one in place. It’s estimated that 30% of Fortune 500 companies still use stack ranking.

I’ve written before about making the best of such systems, inspiring a vision that motivates sacrifice, defining “extraordinary” as behaviors as well as results, involving the team in the evaluation. If you’re stuck in such a system, you must work it well to keep your team highly motivated. I’ve been there, done these things. But this is duck tape on a broken system.

Stack ranking is most destructive when you’ve:

  • attracted a team of rock stars
  • built extraordinary teamwork
  • managed out your lowest performers throughout the year (such systems can actually encourage holding on to poor performers until review time)
  • been given a stack rank curve to achieve at a micro-level
  • accomplished groundbreaking results

The strongest leaders with the strongest results are the victims of such systems.

PS: If you know others who would be enriched from, or enrich this community, please encourage them to subscribe. Every day we grow more interesting thanks to each of you.

A great alternative to the stack rank: The Crowd Sourced Performance Review (download a free chapter).

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.