Have you ever seen a group of kids playing football on a playground?

 

It’s an interesting phenomenon in that they instinctively know how to choose teams, talk about the rules of the game and automatically define boundaries. In other words they realize that, in order to play the game, you have to know where the goal lines are, out of bounds markers, how to achieve milestones (first downs) and what it takes to win the game. All of these definitions come easily.

Yet, ironically, many times employees in companies or organizations of any kind do not understand what the playing field looks like for their own job. Remarkably, most employees don’t even have a definition of what high performance looks like. All of these things need to be “explicitly” defined so people understand how to play the game and win. Yet, many organizations assume they communicate these important parameters “implicitly” which is confusing for everyone, at every level. So what are the answers?

 

Let’s discuss more “explicit” detail to how those basic principles apply to organizational success. Sometimes with the fast pace of our modern business climate, it’s not always easy for managers to find time to do the things they really should be doing – getting results with and through the organizational team.

Instead of always worrying about “fires” or seemingly endless “crisis” that occur, a focus on these things will create both more time and more productivity for company leaders. Here are five tips to take your organization to a new level of success…

1) Define the playing field within your organization. What are people expected to do on a daily basis? Make sure you explicitly define –

Conditions of Employment (Things that people are expected to abide by like no stealing company property, having the ability to get to and from work, possibility of working overtime etc.) Conditions of Employment are those “no-brainer” kinds of things that many times get ignored because the assumption is that “intelligent people are just supposed to know that already.”

Minimum Standards of Performance (The exact expectation of productivity and results that must be consistently achieved in order to maintain employment)

Operational Boundaries (Not being late, getting reports done on time, being responsive to communication such as calls, e-mails and texts etc.)

2) Define what high performance looks like for every specific job within the company. In order to create more buy-in from your team, do this as an exercise where you have everyone write their definition of high performance and then collaboratively put them together in order come up with a succinct statement. This creates lots of energy within the group and people are excited to be a part of defining their role and what the expectations are for them to succeed. This really defines what needs to be done and how it needs to be done every day. These definitions of high performance for every job need to be posted on the wall. Again, they should be clear statements that everyone understands – not amorphous “academic speak” that nobody gets or even cares about.

3) Once the definition of high performance has been laid out, then accountability needs to be created AND communicated. Everyone needs to understand what the consequences will be for “exceeding the boundaries” or for poor performance. They also need to understand what the possible rewards and recognition will be for achieving high performance and/or going above and beyond the call of duty. Explicitly communicate both the consequences and the rewards so everyone knows exactly what to expect.

4) Define the goals for the company as a whole and for each department and then communicate these goals with passion. Don’t imply what the goals are because that creates ambiguity. Be explicitly clear what the goals are and talk about them daily in short, five to ten minute “huddles” within each department. These “huddles” should talk about the company vision, mission, values and goals. Pick a value each day to discuss and talk about wins, misses and solutions on the road to achieving the goals.

5) Make sure that, as a manager, you are consistent with your message. This consistency will make or break your “personal power” within the organization. Personal power is the level of respect and credibility that you earn from employees. Remember that when someone exceeds the boundaries or is performing poorly, they have to be accountable. The number one de-motivator for people in every industry is having to pick up the slack for a poor performer. Be consistent and passionate about communicating the goals, working on the playing field for success and making sure you are “explicit” and not just “implicit”.

 

So the next time you see some kids playing football in a park, think about the organizational lessons they already know at such a young age. Many times we learn things when we’re young and just forget the basic principles for success. The good news is, we can always re-learn what we’ve lost and, in many cases, the principles are still there. We just have to decide to slow down, think about what works and then actually do it.

 

-Michael Stahl

 

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