Recognizing Performance Problems

Recognizing Performance Problems is not rocket science, although fixing them however is a bit more challenging.  Yet as I have been focusing my discussions lately with managers on addressing performance problems I have been asked a single question a lot lately. 

“How do I know if there are performance problems that my managers need help with?”

The first time I came across this question I thought, really?  I instantly assumed I had screwed up the way I was positioning the concept, and backed up the discussion so far that I looked like an idiot.  It wasn’t that these folks didn’t understand what a performance problem was, but rather how to recognize if their managers were struggling with one if they didn’t ask for help.

I responded that they usually are asking, but in a more round about way.  No, most managers are not able to list all of their challenges off the top of their head (wouldn’t that be nice), but they do know the goals they are not meeting.  They know that even their best employee would be even better if they could only (fill in the blank).  And they nearly all talk out loud about issues that are challenging productivity.  One manager told me, “oh, what they whine about.”

The famous question of most consultants “what is keeping you awake at night?” is of course a great question.  I like to ask them to identify what they spend the most time on in a week trying to make work better.  What is okay now, but you wish could be rated outstanding?

If you are really comfortable, ask “what needs to change this year so you won’t lose your job?”

As a Performance Consultant I look for all the causes preventing optimal performance before creating a list of solutions.  However, before I can look at causes, I too have to recognize what the performance problem is and what our preferred level of performance needs to be.

As Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the End in Mind.”

Unleashing Empowerment

I’ve mentioned in previous postings on this blog about a manager I once had that I used to get such a kick out of his impression of empowering employees.  In his mind it was up to him to decide when someone was empowered and for how long they might have this “power.”

I used to respond that empowerment is not like a light switch that you flip on and off.  Once you commit to turning on, or unleashing empowerment, you really need to step back and marvel at what is happening.

Allowing people to grow and stretch their wings will bring a lot of new energy to your work environment.  And while it will bring a few challenges and errors, they are often outweighed by a more highly engaged workforce.

One empowerment method I would use in training development often came after someone returned from a professional development event.  Maybe they learned a new design software that could be used in developing people.  Not only did I encourage them to use the software themselves, we would often brainstorm how they could encourage others to learn it and incorporate it into their own projects.

Unleashing empowerment is not about directing every step, but rather a process of fanning the flames.  Look for a spark in your employee and find ways to encourage the fire.  Keep an open mind, and closed mouth, and listen to your employees.  You will be amazed at how exciting your world will become!