"The vacuum created by a failure to communicate will quickly be filled with rumour,
misrepresentations, drivel and poison" – C. Northcote Parkinson
When was the last time you sat down on a 121 basis with your senior team? Do you know what they are really thinking? Perhaps more importantly do they know what you are thinking? Perhaps you intend to sit down but life gets in the way, busy doing, planning the next project or innovation, pouring over the numbers.
You will achieve your vision because of your team not in spite of them.
‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place’ – George Bernard Shaw
At least start by creating a place where it might!
Having regular reviews with your team ensures that ‘molehills don’t become mountains,’ builds trust and enables honest discussions about performance.
Remember when having reviews with your team ‘God gave us two ears and one mouth.’ Feedback is useful for us all.
How approachable are you? Trust is more likely if we are prepared to show our own vulnerability. What is your ‘leadership shadow?’ What do people say when you are not in the room? Model the behaviours you want to see. Ensure that your team know that performance issues are part of their own personal development and learning and not just their failure to meet your business goals.
As Lencioni highlights in his model ‘The five behaviours of a cohesive team’ trust is the basic ingredient for high performing teams and getting results. It also takes a long time to build but seconds to destroy.
What is your performance management culture?
Having regular dialogue with your team is part of your overall performance management culture.
We work with clients on their “employee journey’ to develop a clear performance management culture. Assuming that you have got the right people on the bus in the first place (probably one of the greatest challenges in a growing business) then your ability to lead, manage and develop your team will determine your ultimate success. Performance management is a continuum, a journey of continuous improvement that is about celebrating success and not just about when things aren’t going well.
Be sure to create a real clarity of purpose and objectives that the whole organisation is focused on. Are you then measuring the output? What are the key results you are expecting and remember ‘less is more’ when setting objectives. As Google cofounder Larry Page says ‘put more wood behind fewer arrows.’
With clarity of priorities, expectations, key results and regular dialogue you can now have those ‘crucial conversations’ and encourage others to do the same. Our job as leaders is to create the right environment for great performance. Sometimes this means having difficult conversations when we don’t meet our objectives. As Ken Blanchard wrote ‘feedback is the food of champions.’ None of us take criticism well but it is better when it is constructive, evidenced and we know it comes from the right place.
What does good look like?
It often surprises me how frequently poor performance stems from a misunderstanding of what good looks like. When you are starting out we build our success on lots of informal conversations, everyone knows what to do, almost by osmosis. Then we experience accelerated growth, more and more people join the organisation and suddenly we start to hit some hurdles and performance starts to falter. Be sure that people know what good looks like as well as the expected behaviours. If your ‘why’ is key to your success then ‘how’ you achieve it is a pretty close second!
Successful business growth depends on the day to day performance of lots of individuals. Stay focused on making ‘marginal gains’ every day towards your business goals and be sure you are part of the solution rather than the problem.