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If you are like me, this is a great time to catch up on the latest research conducted during the year. I had flagged this landmark government funded report by the Study of Australian Leadership Group from the University of Melbourne and Centre for Workplace Leadership, ‘Leadership at Work: Do Australian leaders have what it takes?” mainly because of the spirited commentary it generated when it was released late in the year!

The report questions whether Australian leaders are up for the challenge of ‘slow economic growth globally…rate of technological change’ which are disrupting traditional business models along with a ‘seismic shift in the competitive and regulatory environment.’ The report used surveys of over 8000 people on which to base their findings. One source of the controversy arose from the section on ‘Significant gaps and weaknesses in Australia’s leadership and management.’ (Exec summary p. 8)

Peter Wilson, AM, AHRI Chairman takes exception to some of the findings, particularly in relation to the way public sector and private sector targets are  set and measured, the failure to ‘disentangle leadership from other core drivers of performance’ and how often senior leaders access external information and advice. To read both viewpoints, please go to:
http://sal.workplaceleadership.com.au/homepage 
for the full report
https://www.acimsolutions.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Article-by-Peter-Wilson-AHRI.pdf

If you are looking for short courses to develop your leadership skills or for formal leadership roles in investigation management or emergency management please get in touch
https://www.acimsolutions.com.au/

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In recent times, a number of large, high-profile organisations - such as Microsoft, Accenture, Adobe, Juniper and GE - have scaled back or dropped end-of-year reviews because they are not simply delivering the expected results, ie adding value to the business, encouraging  positive performance and providing an effective framework to deal with performance gaps.

So what’s the situation right now? How well would the stakeholders in your workplace rate your performance management program? 

Is it successful in retaining your best and brightest employees, boosting employee performance and building a positive work culture?

Does the program have credibility or is it seen as something to be endured to keep senior management happy?

Following on from the previous blog the next step in building a successful performance management program is -

Step 3: Develop strategies that engage people throughout

  • Ensure the policy clearly articulates the process for employee performance, ie how often performance will be reviewed, the methodology that will be used and the basis of any scoring system?
  • Ensure your process includes the opportunity for meaningful input from the team member – can they contribute to the discussion or is it one way only?
  • Create transparent business rules around remuneration policies that clearly outline any bonus or incentive schemes in place.
  • Invest in the KPI/goal setting part of the process. Really take some time to get this part right. Goal setting is a high risk area in terms of demotivating people if the goals are arbitrarily determined without sufficient opportunity for input. Most people have a very good antenna for judging whether their manager/leader is authentically interested in their views or not. Employees are far more likely to take ownership of goals if they provided input into their development.
  • Create a ‘clear line of sight’ with linkages to strategic and business planning goals to build engagement. This linkage is very important, in helping the whole team to understand the direction of the business, major priorities for the year ahead, and how each every individual is contributing to those goals through their work.
  • Use the SMART goals formula in creating goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed.

Step 4: Upskill those responsible for implementing the program

Let’s be honest. Often the problem with performance management is not the program itself but the way in which it has been implemented.

  • Build communication skills for managers. We all know that not every manager is a great communicator or ‘people person’. They may have been promoted to their current role through another area of expertise altogether, climbed the ladder through many years of service, or been appointed to ‘act in the role’ years ago, during the great restructure of ’99!
  • Educate your managers on the process and how to have difficult conversations. Many people struggle with this type of difficult conversation and unfortunately, I see that lack of confidence manifest itself in ways such as delaying or avoiding performance conversations for extended periods of time. This usually creates further problems for the workplace as both good and poor performance is not appropriately addressed.
  • I have also heard horror stories of some managers engaging in the process with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and others who try to deliver ‘criticisms’ so gently that the key message is lost altogether on the intended recipient.

This isn’t fair on anybody and certainly won’t add value to your organisation.

Step 5: Evaluate your program regularly

Consider

  • Feedback from the stakeholders on how well the program is meeting the objectives.
  • Useful information for the team member to reflect on their performance, but also to provide the organisation information to undertake more strategic HR analysis (for example, L&D, succession planning).
  • How many opportunities have arisen to acknowledge high performance and achievement.
  • How well poor performance is addressed and lifted to expectations.

The good news is, many PPM skills can be taught!  If you would like to know more about how to maximise performance management in your organisation, please contact us

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Performance management is a topic that tends to polarise many in the workplace.

In this blog, I am using the term to describe the whole performance management framework, not just strategies designed to address poor or remedial performance. Similar terms include appraisals, performance reviews, annual reviews etc.

Perceptions about the ‘why’ behind it and the ‘how’ we do it can often become a trigger to disengage teams and make managers feel inadequate and frustrated*.

Are you continuing to make a significant investment in time and energy yet the outcome has failed to contribute to building a positive performance culture? Sound familiar? You are not alone. 

Everyone recognises that the ability to develop and maintain a high performance culture is a critical characteristic of successful organisations. The process around that positive culture provides an important opportunity to: 

  • recognise, retain and reward your best performers.
  • encourage positive and sustained changes in behaviour.
  • promote a culture of accountability and transparency.
  • facilitate the achievement of individual and organisational goals.

So, while we know it makes sense to have a strong and meaningful performance management framework, the big question is how do we create it?  How can you make this expensive investment actually work for us and not against us!

It’s not something that can be achieved overnight but here’s a few ideas that might help:

Step 1: Do your homework

  • Reflect on what is a realistic program for your organisation.  Creating performance management processes that inevitably fail on implementation sends the wrong message to your teams about your leadership and undermines positive organisational culture. 
  • Consider a flexible and layered program that includes regular opportunities for informal feedback as well as more formal and documented systems.
  • Research the most successful schemes that are out there for your industry.  What works well? What parts could be integrated into your business?
  • Even in large organisations with generic schemes, some units manage the performance management process better than others. How they manage to engage staff is worth investigating, particularly if as a manager performance management reporting is a mandatory part of your role.
  • Consult on the framework with your teams and get their input on the best way to design, implement and monitor a positive performance management scheme.

Step 2: Get the building blocks right.

  • Review the components of the process to ensure that all your HR policies and procedures that touch on performance are current and consistent.
  • Differentiate in your documentation between poor conduct and poor performance.  The management response required in both circumstances can be quite different but both requires transparent guidelines and process.
  • Align position descriptions.  Use the performance management process as a regular opportunity to discuss the current roles to identify any significant changes to the duties involved.  This will also help you to identify any skill gaps or other professional development needs.

In my next blog, I discuss strategies to build engagement throughout the process and also the importance of managers developing their skills to leverage all potential opportunities offered by a robust framework.

In the meantime, if you would like to know more about creating and implementing an effective organisational performance management process, please contact us.

* Research conducted by PwC in the UK in June 2015, with 97 large companies (turning over £100 m per year) and 1038 employees found: “... growing frustration from employees and managers with the year-end performance process leading many organisations to focus on creating a continuous feedback culture to take the emphasis off the year-end appraisal.)”

Source: <http://pwc.blogs.com/press_room/2015/07/more-companies-planning-to-ditch-end-of-annual-performance-reviews-and-ratings-but-will-employees-be.html> Viewed 30 January 2016.

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This blog continues the discussion on how to create a resilient team culture that is able to respond positively to the inevitable changes in the internal and external environments that characterise modern workplaces.

In the previous blog we discussed the key elements for leaders to:

1. Demonstrate their leadership by building self awareness and role modelling positive behaviours

2. The importance of communication as a tool to create resilient teams.

Following on from this, the below details the importance of delivering on your promises, ensuring continual development and nurturing of relationships.

DELIVER

10. Navigate the path forward for your team. Work together to identify the key challenges, risks and milestonesahead. 

Break major goals down into manageable steps and manage the risks through analysis, scenario-planning, tracking and other sensible responses. Having a plan, particularly in periods of uncertainty, reduces anxiety that undermines team resilience.  Even where you are part of a larger organisation, as a team leader develop a plan with your team that they can focus on.

11. Help people get back to work, doing what they do best. 

Business continuity is important not just for the organisation and its customers. Routine and familiar tasks can be comforting in times of stress or adversity and help to restore a sense of ‘normality’ and self-confidence within your team.

12. Celebrate the wins when you do deliver.

Even small wins can be beneficial – remind yourself and everyone else in the team to reflect on what has been achieved.  Celebrating successes can increase motivation and remind everyone of their contributions and abilities to perform – even under pressure!

DEVELOP YOURSELF AND YOUR TEAM

13. Be creative in identifying opportunities to develop your own skills and that of your team. 

Encourage mentoring within the team and/or offer ‘stretch’ assignments to team members.  The most resilient teams often have overlapping skills sets which creates capacity and flexibility.  Flexibility in role leads to flexibility in thoughts and approaches which will strengthen your team.

14. Provide opportunities for team members to undertake additional learning and encourage them share it with everyone else. 

It doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming. Look for a return on the investment for the whole group, particularly where they bring new ideas to the team. You might ask some members to do some internet research on a pertinent topic. Other development options can include project work, relieving and formal training.

15. Encourage diversity of thought – it is the key to innovation. 

Cultivate a team culture of sharing new ideas and providing respectful feedback. Encourage members to challenge assumptions that aren’t evidence-based to foster different and creative ways of thinking and doing things.

INVEST IN RELATIONSHIPS

16. Actively nurture internal and external networks, including support networks for the team.

People need time out to feel socially connected in tough times. Celebrate team and individual achievements and other happy occasions through informal get-togethers.

17. Identify opportunity to collaborate with other teams and stakeholders and deliberately construct ‘buy in’opportunities

Cultivate as many positive relationships as you can to build support for your team.  Being able to connect with others is critical and strong and constructive relationships need to be a priority investment.   Building relationships and maintaining the ability to connect with others, particularly during difficult periods will role model positive workplace behaviours that will sustain your teams through both good times and challenging periods!

For more great ideas about how to team build team resilience, please contact us.

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As I’ve travelled around Australia this year, one of the most common questions I’ve been asked by   middle and senior managers (with varying degrees of desperation) is: ‘How can we build more resilient teams?’

It’s a good question and in response here is the first of a 2-part blog specifically focusing on how to build and maintain resilient teams. 

This year I have worked with organisations that have undergone significant organisational change processes, economic downturns, leadership changes, major IT implementations and even rapid expansion. 

Each factor has had a significant impact on the workplace and has put teams under pressure.

Undoubtedly, teams with low resilience can cost organisations many thousands of dollars in lost revenue through missed opportunities, more frequent and serious errors, increased sick leave and greater staff turnover.  

Sometimes poor team resilience causes internal divisions and personal resentments that go on for weeks, months or even years. Not surprisingly, the quality, creativity and timeliness of the team’s output suffers and the negative cycle continues in a downward spiral.

So what can you do to create or strengthen team resilience?

Here’s some practical ideas that can help:

LEAD

1. Start with your own resilience.  

Be self-aware of your own level of resilience. Understand your triggers and proactively monitor how well your own strategies are working. Identify and develop positive habits that will support you during challenging periods.

2. Role-model the positive behaviours you want to see in others.  

You set the standard of behaviour for your team, so demonstrate your ability to keep your own emotional responses to challenges under control at work. Use positive communication and demonstrate problem solving techniques that are optimistic and constructive. Role model flexibility and agility in decision making and show pride and accountability in your work. Don’t just talk about it. Do it. Show you team that you don’t just bounce back – you bounce forward!

3. Encourage flexibility and autonomy wherever possibleso your team members feel moreempowered.  

Times of change can make people feel like they have lost control over their future,so devolve decision-making wherever you can*. Show your team that you trust them, have faith in their abilities and want them to be resourceful so they can grow and succeed. Encourage team and individual problem-solving to enhance their self-confidence, accountability and job satisfaction.

4. Recognise and reward people who experiment and show initiative.  

If a team member tries something new and fails, be supportive. Ask them what they learned from the experience and what they’d do differently next time. Don’t underestimate the power of these opportunities to build trust.

COMMUNICATE

5. Help your team members adapt to change, by actively listening.

Engage in honest and open discussion with team members, individually and as a group. Invest time really listening to your team during tough times. Focus on your verbal and non verbal communication.

6. Use positive language and humour (where appropriate) to build team cohesion. Discourage negative language, snap judgements and black-and-whitethinking patterns.  

Challenge undermining behaviours such as defensiveness, gossip, eye-rolling or finger-pointing.  Develop the confidence to have those difficult conversations with team members who undermine individual or team resilience.  Ignoring or turning a blind eye to destructive communication habits is very dangerous!  

7. Meet with your team often.  

Be visible and present! Team members need and want to hear from their leader when they are facing uncertainty or adversity. Clarify roles, priorities and goals of the team. In times of significant organisational change or upheaval, calmly share whatever new and relevant information you can, as soon as you can. Ditch the management-speak. There’s no need to  ‘drill down’, ‘climb the strategic staircase’ or ‘cascade relevant information’ – just talk in plain English.  

8. Deal with issues as they arise.

Resilient teams work collaboratively and are characterised by mutual trust and support. They are not afraid to admit weaknesses and mistakes and ask for help when they need it. Encourage team members to talk through any current or emerging issues before they start to catastrophise and snowball matters to impossible levels.

9. Acknowledge even the small achievements of team members and look for opportunities to acknowledge progress. 

Remember to say ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’. Everyone needs to feel valued and that their work has meaning and purpose, no matter how junior their role or seemingly mundane their task. Remind all team members, individually and together, how their work helps the organisation, community and/or customers.

* Research undertaken by Blessing and White and published in A Study of Voluntary Effort in the Work Force (1996) found that old-fashioned ‘command and control’ work environments don’t encourage people to think for themselves and create ‘learned helplessness’ in staff.  Ten years later, another study of 320 small businesses conducted by researchers at Cornell University found that businesses that gave their staff autonomy grew four times faster than those that didn’t. Source: http://www.workingatmcmaster.ca/med/document/facilitating-resilience-in-the-workplace-1-37.pdf

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