Setting Performance Standards

Business people career race

I have travelled many miles delivering workshops to different clients on the general heading of Performance Management. The exact content of each of those workshops has varied quite a bit, but there is one concept that underpins everything else. That is the concept of “setting standards”.

A “standard” is a definition of a level of performance that is “acceptable”, so if someone is performing at a level above the standard they should be receiving feedback that encourages them to keep doing what they are doing, or further coaching and help to allow them to do even better in the future. But if someone is performing at a level below that standard then their performance should be deemed as “unacceptable” and feedback needs to be given such that they are clear about that together with actions to bring their performance up.

Standards can be defined at whole company, departmental, team or individual levels. They need define both the “what” and the “how” – so in the terminology I use on my programmes they need to be about “tasks” AND “behaviours”.

It is absolutely a manager’s job to define them and communicate them to their teams and the individuals within them.

My view, based on periodic sampling of businesses performance plans (or whatever term is given in your business to the recording of people’s objectives), is that they are often poorly defined and in more than a few instances, missing altogether.

There are many consequences of them not being well defined and unfortunately most of the consequences are negative, potentially highly damaging. Here are just some:

  • If an individual or team don’t know the standard, they cannot make a judgement of their own performance?
  • If a manager hasn’t defined standards how can they even begin to assess the performance of their team?
  • If standards aren’t well defined it presents lots of what we would call “wriggle room”. Views as to someone’s performance become highly opinion based i.e. become far more subjective than objective.
  • Poor, or Under, Performance become hard to prove – which is great news if you are an employee at a performance tribunal, but rather less fun if you are the employer attempting to remove a non-performer from your organisation.

So…maybe it’s worth undertaking a review of “standards”: –

Are they in place for everyone in your team/organisation?

  • Have they been well defined and communicated?
  • Are they too easy/too tough?
  • Do you look to tweak them upwards annually, 6 monthly?
  • Do they cover both tasks and behaviours?

Next week’s blog will look at what managers need to do to see if standards are being met. If you have any comments, questions or observations in relation to this topic please do share via the website, LinkedIn or by email to tim@realitybusiness.co.uk.

 

Setting Goals – Determination and Tenacity

I have been watching TV and musing about setting goals, success and what this means at work, in life and for everything!

How many of us set long term goals that we keep our focus on despite all the distractions that we encounter on a daily basis? In the workplace we may create a “to do” list of tasks but so often the ones that are really the MOST important end up staying on the list whilst we instead choose to do things that are either easy to cross off, or allow less significant yet more pressing tasks to take up our time and energy? Many of us even go through a day with our e-mail constantly “on” and every time we see something new come in, stop what we are doing and instead have a look at it.

I have just finished viewing the C4 series “Walking the Nile” – an incredible travel documentary about a young man called Levison Wood (“Lev”) and his attempt to become the first person to walk the entire distance of the Nile from its source in deepest Africa all the way to where it joins the Mediterranean Sea – 4250 miles across various Africa countries and through some of the world’s harshest terrain. The aim of the walk was for personal achievement and through the publicity and media rights generating large sums of money for a variety of charities.

Some of the hurdles Lev faced included:-

  • Crossing the Sahara in the middle of summer
  • Negotiating his way through war torn territories
  • Frequent danger of being kidnapped/robbed/shot by gangs
  • Endless bureaucracy
  • Personal pain levels
  • Lack of water
  • Lack of sleep
  • Personal loss (one of his colleagues actually died from dehydration)

Every episode featured yet more challenges yet Lev kept up superhuman levels of faith and determination to succeed in what he truly wanted to achieve. His amazing levels of self-motivation were incredible and a lifelong lesson in what you can really achieve if you truly want something and focus on it.

I’ve met people in the workplace down the years who have certainly attained things they want, but often it is at the expense of others. With Lev however, I noticed the following were critical to his success:-

  • Never lose sight of your overall goal but accept that you will encounter problems and blockers
  • Be courteous and considerate to those you meet along your journey, both those that help and those that don’t – take time to understand their motives
  • You can quite legitimately change your plan of how to get from A to B – but don’t weaken the vision (it would have been very easy for Lev to have skipped parts of the journey, taking lifts by car/boat etc………..yet WALKING the journey was part of the goal)
  • Never be afraid of understanding and admitting your own limitations – he got help from some of the most unlikely of places and inspiration from people and cultures that he knew little of.
  • Take in the view – one of the keys to his success was allowing himself moments to take joy from the scenery, the people and indeed from mini-achievements along the way

For me it was a programme that made me think a lot about what I’m trying to achieve, both at work and with my family. It has helped re-affirm to me what’s really important for me but what it has also highlighted is just how easily I am diverted from those important things and that I need to change that.

If you haven’t seen the programme catch up with it “on demand” or online (c4 website) – its worth having a ponder about how clear your own vision of success is, and moreover the time that is consumed in your life from allowing distractions to take over.