What’s Lurking Beneath The Surface


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I recently related a story to an audience I was speaking to about improving performance. The short version is that my son has some ongoing medical issues and my wife and I are very vigilant in monitoring his progress. When he had to have a certain procedure, the doctor remarked that he must have been showing this sign or that sign, to which we responded, “No he wasn’t”.

That day I learned a new word. A-symptomatic. Meaning not showing symptoms. I thought about this and it struck me how certain businesses can also be a-symptomatic. Everything looks great on the surface, but lurking below the surface are potential problems that only will surface when it is too late.

To drive this point home, how many of you reading this article inspect your processes with the same intensity when you have your best month versus when you had a month that missed expectations?

How many of us focus on our top performers to understand what they did to achieve results so that we can take certain behaviors and implement them across the other team members.

Many of us are so pleased we hit our goals that we focus on the next month without ever thinking, “How did we do what we just did?” Maybe we give our team praise, “Great job, let’s do that again!” (see previous articles on specific feedback)

Now understand I am not saying that you should not celebrate success but what I am saying is that each month you should be focusing on the execution of processes, not only on results. Focusing on “How” things are executed can help you better train your staff so they can replicate success.

First let’s review what to do if you achieve the results you desire.

This can be very tricky because most times no one looks into what you did to achieve results, everyone is just happy you did. What you need to ask the employee is, “What did you DO to achieve the results?” Notice I asked what they DID. This allows you to understand their process but more importantly THEY understand what they did so they can repeat the behavior.

One of the most important things you are doing is complimenting them on what they did. We as people repeat behavior that makes us feel good so if they are getting compliments when they achieve success, they are more than likely to repeat the behavior, thus achieving continued success.

This also allows you to have a benchmark in case they ever fall into underachieving expectations. You have their process that you can review and see if they are skipping a step or have taken a step for granted. This allows you to easily get them back on track.

What if someone has not achieved the results you are expecting?

This first place to look is if they have been given the proper employee performance training to do this task. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked that question when I am helping someone, only to find no one ever trained him or her correctly. They may have been TOLD what to do but no one showed them WHAT needed to be done. Remember telling allows interpretation by the listener. Showing leaves no room for interpretation. If they have not been trained, then train them correctly.

If they have been trained, I recommend training them again. This time YOU have trained them so later you can look them in they eye and know training is not the issue for not achieving results.

If you have trained them and they still are not getting results, you have to make a decision if you want to retrain. Much will depend on the person’s effort. If you see they trying and they are almost there, then I would retrain them. By asking them what they are doing, you can easily see what part of the process they are missing and can tailor your training to that specific part of the process. Make sure to document the training so that you have something to refer to later.

If you have trained and retrained but the person is still not getting results then it is up to you to document the failure and have a heart to heart with them. Most of these conversations fall into two categories.

  • The person is really trying but just is not suited for the position. There are many people who come in and give it their all and you want them to succeed but results are not there. You have to be honest with them and give them one last chance or maybe there is a different position in your company.
  • The person is not even trying. This person needs to be documented and the conversation is a wake up call. Most times they can do the job but they are choosing not do. These are very dangerous employees to keep on board. Too many chances will impact your other employees who see poor performance being rewarded. My advice is cut ties as soon as you can with proper documentation.

By doing this type of inspection each month, you will be anchoring in behaviors that achieve results and address any that will not help you be successful. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Looks can be deceiving and success can be a very strong hallucinogen.

Celebrate success by rewarding execution of process, not just results.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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