The single most important thing we can do for our organizations is establish an objective evaluation system, which holds all leaders accountable.
I am a recovering federal senior executive. Fortunately, I have been out of the federal system since 1989.
I don’t miss any of it.
One of the reasons I left federal service was because I wanted to do an exceptional job for my employer. There was no objective evaluation system in place that held me, or other leaders, accountable and that was frustrating.
In addition, there was no reward system to incentivize anyone. The system was so bad that the poorest executives got the same ratings and pay raise as those who excelled.
With such a system, do you wonder why you have such poor service from your government agencies when the lowest performers can get the same praise as the highest performers?
By implementing an objective evaluation system — one that includes weighted components, frequent progress reports and 90-day plans — we can ensure desirable results that last. Using such an evaluation system becomes a way of life inside an organization. Objective evaluations set the foundation that moves leaders to the tipping point, and creates the performance gap that leads to addressing low performers, according to Quint Studer, author of “Results That Last.”
Organizations can’t create a culture of excellence without setting goals and implementing an objective evaluation process to determine if those goals are reached. Such a process addresses behavioral issues at all performance levels.
It provides a road map with clear-cut directions to get us to the desired destination. Using this type of leadership evaluation will allow us to hardwire behavior into our organizations.
A sense of whatever
I can remember facing annual evaluations with resignation and, frankly, dread. It wasn’t that I didn’t want feedback on how I was doing. I did. But, I wanted feedback that made sense and that helped me improve my performance in a way that benefitted the organization.
Federal employee performance reviews 20 years ago didn’t accomplish this task. Even if the system has been changed, I quite suspect you still have many performance-reviewing managers just going through the motions so as not to upset the proverbial apple cart.
Performance reviews for our leaders should not deal with generalities or categories of behavior that have very little correlation to the results that organizations strive to achieve. I had no idea what the categories of communication, organization, or professionalism really meant on my performance reviews. Nor did I understand the criteria on which poor, average or below-average performances were ranked.
I felt that I was being labeled, not evaluated, and certainly not motivated. I really did not understand what I needed to do to improve or enhance my performance.
W. Edwards Demming, the father of quality management, was disdainful of performance evaluations if they were used as a substitute for effective leadership. Demmings believed that evaluations should be conducted with clear messages to employees about what is important to them and to the company. Further, he believed they needed to be objective, not subjective, assessments of communications and professionalism.
Results that last
We want to create within our organizations results that last. To create lasting results, we have to look at the bigger picture and long-term goals. Even if we measure all the quantifiable measurements such as sales made, widgets produced or time saved, we still must focus on the long-term growth of the organization. That is why we must develop and use an evaluation that addresses such issues.
If we are to expect our leaders to promote and support Quint Studer’s “Five Pillars of Success” (service, quality, people, finance, growth), we have to measure at every level how well our leaders, managers and employees perform on the goals associated with each of the pillars. Revamping organizations’ performance evaluation systems so that the evaluations complement the Five Pillars is essential to achieve lasting results.
Once the organization has revamped its evaluation, system senior leaders must be prepared to:
• Reward its leaders based on evaluation results.
• Demonstrate a sustained commitment to training and coaching leaders to achieve them.
• Remove those employees who are not achieving their goals. This may be the most painful and difficult task any organization faces.
To achieve an organization’s mission, we first must be loyal and committed to achieving the organization’s goals. That is how we create an organization focused on a culture of excellence.
Developing evaluation tools
The Studer Group has developed an evaluation tool that can be reviewed at studergroup.com. Developed after years of work and research, the tool is simple to use, highly objective and focused in a way that quickly separates the levels of performance. The tool forces senior management to ask such questions as:
• What are the top priorities of the organization?
• How do we weight them?
• Which things should we stop doing or do less of?
• What do we do with leaders who are not meeting their goals?
The use of this tool, or a similar one, and its introduction to your team is critical to the success of any organization.
We want to build a lasting culture of excellence in our organizations. To do this we must hold our leaders accountable at every level for their behaviors and their goals.
Using a leadership evaluation process is the first and most critical step to developing a culture of excellence. These evaluations must be based on objective and measurable results.
Goals for leaders should be established under Studer’s Five Pillars. Each goal must be agreed upon, particularly when measuring above-average performance. The Five Pillars should be weighted for each leader depending on their role within the organization.
For example, if a leader has little responsibility for financial issues, but a major role in service delivery, the weight for the service component will be higher than that for the financial component. These weights obviously vary from department to department. However, the total weights add up to 100 percent and give leaders a clear picture in which to set their priorities.
Senior managers must develop a clear plan to implement the evaluation tool and to determine how it will be used within the organization. Studer recommends that goals be rolled out first by senior leaders to each department. Then the leader of the department can take historical data, compare it against the goals that are set, and assign metrics and ratings for his or her department to ensure organizational alignment.
Studer also recommends monthly progress reports that show employees the steps they are making toward their goals. This approach helps identify problems areas early on, and combined with a 90-day plan of action, can help a lower performance employee achieve better results.
Such an approach also helps to quickly identify potentially high-performance leaders. In either situation, the 90-day plan is a tool that opens a dialogue between the leader and employees on how to put specific actions into place to achieve the results desired. It is a beneficial coaching tool.
Developing and implementing objective metrics for leadership evaluations can lead your company to a culture of excellence.
Leaders have specific tools to lead and guide their employees who, in turn, know what is expected of them. Everyone benefits.
Consider this conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where —” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Clarification of goals, communication from the top down, and consistency in performance expectations can take your organization where you want it to go.
Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 1-888-340-2006 or www.armstrongassociates.org.