Concluding Words for Building Performance Oriented Cultures

So there you have it – four steps towards building a high performance culture:  staffing, teams, mission and values, and planning.  Any movement up the slope to establishing these cornerstones will prove valuable.  You will also learn by doing – so do not contemplate your next steps…get going!  Let us know how you do and what you are learning and developing. Please leave your comments below or email...

Planning: The 4th Cornerstone of Performance Oriented Cultures

Strategic planning creates the platform for a healthy company. Strategic planning is a critical part of growing a successful business. A high performance work culture needs a system that makes sure that employee goals are aligned and everyone is focused on the right stuff. The fact is that many small- to mid-sized companies do not have a structured process from which to conduct strategic planning. This is like many adults who do not exercise, despite knowing it’s good for them. Perfect health isn’t guaranteed by regular exercise, but the likelihood of attaining good health is dramatically increased. Strategic breakthrough business guessing/planning works for businesses in much the same way as exercise works for the individual. The process should take place over two to three months and take three to four days. It is predicated on White Papers and dialogue. Listening and understanding are critical. Better research ensures better debate and thinking. “What is a White Paper?” you ask hysterically. A White Paper is a three- to five-page paper that addresses the critical issue. The paper should deal directly with the issues. It is, with research and analysis, the “answer” submitted by the smaller group to the entire planning team. Once you have created the plan, you need to make sure it is acted upon. Monthly meetings of one to three hours and spending time on objectives and action plans will ensure focus. Then, once a quarter, the planning team should meet offsite, preferably with a coaching resource like yours truly. (Bonus points if the coach is bald-headed. It makes the coach smarter and buffer…really.) At the session, the group...

Mission & Values: The 3rd Cornerstone of Performance Oriented Cultures

Create corporate mission & values that employees are aligned with. The foundational material—mission and values—of a company can be critical to the overall success of the organization – but they’re often forgotten. The corporate mission and values are created by the senior leadership team, captured on posters, and strategically tacked up around the building. Meanwhile, how does a corporate citizen react to this phenomenon? They see it as “Horse manure!” Whatever is in the mission or values statement is not seen as relevant to the organization’s day-to-day operations. In other words, the organization’s behavior is not congruent with its declaration of ideals. However, at their best, a mission (or “Reason for Being”) and values give an organization a future to live into. This potential future galvanizes and focuses the organization. Whether or not goals are met entirely, movement toward them develops teamwork and is valuable to the company. So how do organizations get to this point? Some of the following thinking and exercises were inspired by an article called “Building Your Company’s Vision,” by Collins and Porras, the authors of Built to Last. In the article, the authors describe how to write a reason for being and values. When thinking about your company’s mission, think about purpose. Ask participants in your session to consider the following: What is the purpose of your organization? What would be lost if the organization ceased to exist? What kind of organization would you work for regardless if you got a salary or not, etc. Now onto values. In this process, when I say “values,” I mean the right behaviors that will support the...

Teams: The 2nd Cornerstone of Performance Oriented Cultures

Have High Performance Work Teams throughout your company. Teams are powerful constructs, and high-performance ones do not spring up by magic. By the same token, business teams are not the answer for every performance issue. In corporations, while the talk is about teams and working together, there is actually a focus on individual performance. For the most part, there is no formal practice designed to enhance or improve group performance. High-performance teams are “a small number of people with complementary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and a working approach in which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” This definition of real teams comes from the article “The Wisdom of Teams”, by Katzenbach and Smith. Real teams are basic units of performance, and members of the team are mutually accountable for the results. This is quite different from how most of the work world is organized. When a group takes on mutual accountability for customers’ experiences, it can generate real customer-focused actions. From this, tangible and positive business results will occur. At my favorite restaurant, for example, the waiter greets me with my preferred glass of wine, letting me know that Chuck, the chef, has a special dish waiting. Everyone is clearly into giving me a personalized, pleasant experience, and I have not even ordered yet. I have found that having a team design its structure allows the team to develop and perform more quickly. This is because in doing so, the team has to confront the performance issues it will encounter. The process allows for those issues to come to the forefront sooner than later,...

Staffing: The 1st Cornerstone of a High Performance Culture

Staffing with the best – mediocrity can work with your competition. This is the mantra of a high performance culture. As business people, we do not directly control terrorist plots, the economy, our competition, taxes, healthcare plans, or national events. But even with unions, executives and managers do ultimately control who works in the company. We should make the most of this opportunity and leverage the “people piece” to enhance our companies’ performance advantage.   Here are some suggestions for raising performance and driving out mediocrity from CMI’s ABC process. Educate managers: Help them understand the definitions of A, B, and C players. Jointly gauge employee performance: at specific meetings, managers should jointly assess employee performance.  Only those who interact directly with the employee should state their opinions. This allows the employee’s manager to get candid feedback. In assessing performance, avoid grey areas – no pluses and minuses – managers must make a choice whether the employee is an A, B, C player. Take action: Ditch the D&F;’s. D & F employees will drag your company down. If you have more than a few D and F employees, sell the firm and do something to save yourself. Decide what to do with your C players. C Players are mediocre employees; these employees are marginal in their performance and unremarkable in any positive attribute they bring to the workplace. They exist, take up space, and just get their jobs done, sort of.  A test for “C-ness” is putting yourself in this scenario: if one of these employees came up to you and said they were quitting, would you be relieved?...

CMI’s ABC process

So many aspects of business are uncontrollable – the stock market, consumer demand, new competition – so what can businesses do to minimize their risks? One way to gain control is to build a work team that you can count on who perform. CMI’s ABC Process is designed to give your company both a people and a performance edge. Let me preface this by saying that I do not endorse management’s system of ranking employees. What I do endorse is only having outstanding employees. Here are some suggestions for managers from CMI’s ABC process: Educate your managers: Help them understand the definitions of A, B, and C players by reading some of the following: The ABC’s chapter from “Front Line Heroes: Battling the Business Tsunami While Developing Performance Oriented Cultures” by Bruce Hodes “A New Game Plan for C Players” by Beth Axelrod, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Ed Michaels Jointly gauge employee performance: Specifically, managers should jointly assess employee performance. Only those who interact directly with the employee should state their opinions. This allows the employee’s manager to get candid feedback. Avoid the grey – no plus and no minuses – managers must make a choice. Take action:  Ditch the D & F’s: D & F employees will drag your company down. If you have more than a few D and F employees, sell the firm and do something to save yourself. Decide what to do with your C players: give them a new role, develop them in their current role, or let them go. Distinguish between A vs. B: The difference between A and B players is their ability to be...

Creating a High-Performance Team

Many business leaders are dunderheads. “Why?” do you ask in shocked dismay. Because they routinely miss a huge improvement opportunity. Business organizations and companies, when they are enlightened and awake, are interested in high-performance teams. When internal business groups can powerfully collaborate, business problems are solved in an efficient manner and solutions are implemented quickly. This then gives the business a strategic advantage. Over my years in business as a coach, I’ve heard business leaders refer to many groups of individuals as “teams.” You hear business leaders use the term all the time. For the most part I cringe and hyperventilate when the word “team” is used in business. I react this way because it is usually not an accurate description for the group being described. I then get a rash. I’ve found it to be useful to distinguish business groups from business teams. In business organizations, you either have groups or you have teams. For the most part you have groups. A group is made up of individuals each accountable and focused on doing their own thing. In a group there is no common work agenda other than that they work for the same company. Imagine a group of individuals waiting at a bus stop or a group of operators at an online call center taking reservations. In groups there is no need for joint collaboration or group output. Everyone involved is focused on their individual activity. The individuals involved are not connected by having any type of joint work produced. In teams there are a number of people involved with complementary skills focused on the same outcome....

Performance Reviews…the New Way

I have seen companies where people have never received any type of formal coaching about their performance or focus. There is communication but nothing formal. Several years ago a senior manager told me, quite proudly, “I have been here twenty years and I have never been reviewed.” This is not a good sign. If he had a forum for getting and listening to feedback, his company would be even more successful. Focus determines a company’s and organization’s success. The right focus! Being able to harness the collective will and energy of an organization and turn it into sustainable and directed activity makes the difference. We use a tool that has been very useful called KeyneLink. Once a company’s strategic and yearly plan is in place, this software addresses how to keep top executives and key employees focused on the “right stuff.” It also addresses what to do about performance reviews and appraisals. Do not call them performance reviews. People do not like to be reviewed and appraised. They feel observed. So what is needed that would make a difference? Feedback, coaching and getting aligned with your manager is appreciated. So let’s create a process that does that. What works is a system that is clear to everyone and drives alignment. The following illuminates these elements: 1. Through the use of this software, the yearly corporate initiatives of the company are clearly outlined and defined. There is a page in which the foundation (mission, vision and yearly corporate initiatives) is outlined . 2. In another section of this software, the values of the company are articulated. Have values be behavioral....

Time for Tent Poles

Here’s a case in point. Last Monday I was working with a beloved client who is focused on improving customer service. They’d done research on their company and found their customer service was below the industry average. This is clearly unacceptable. They are putting lots of focus and attention on improving their relationship with their customers. Three task forces were formed and on Monday we were gathering to hear what actions they were recommending to improve how their customers feel about them. To start the session, we began with the classic tent-pole exercise. They have played this before so the participants were very confident that they would be successful at this. I said that the marketplace had changed so do not be fooled by these tent poles because they were super duper and different than before. I also said I was the customer and what they had to do for me was lower this tent pole to the ground while balancing it on their index finger. They could never lose contact with it. They had three minutes to do this. From my point of view, as the customer, faster was better. Activity starts, The pole goes up instead of down, fingers lose contact, people yell and blame gets attributed to someone. That is how it typically goes. Then the group calms down and gets focused and some organization occurs. Finally, everyone focuses on getting the task done but no one talks to me, the customer. As the customer, I am for the most part, left out of the loop. At this point, I am in the corner crying. I...

Now Onto Values

Business people, me included, are resigned and cynical about company values being inauthentic. Ask BP. I’ll bet they have values. Enron and Arthur Anderson did, too. So, those are the horror stories of companies and organizations run amok. That is the ugly side. I have also seen our clients—based on their articulated values—do the right thing over and over again. I have done the right things because I was standing for a value. This country has done the right thing—countless times—standing for its values of free speech and individual rights. In this process, when we say values we mean behaviors that we expect from ourselves and others. This is conduct that will support the organization in delivering on the Reason for Being and are also, independently, the right behaviors and beliefs to have. You are only looking for 4–6. Too many and you end up with something like you do when you add all colors: sort of a purplish, brownish goop. Start out by asking the group what values they come to work with. Then ask if they did not have to work they would still demonstrate those values and behaviors just because they are the right ones to have. Also add what values, because they are the right ones, would you want your children to adopt for work. Typically I ask for more than a one word answer. If the value is “Integrity,” then I ask the group to give me a sentence that describes what integrity means. Everyone then writes their 3–6 values on flip-charts and posts them on the walls. Participants then present their values and...