Leadership Lessons

What do leaders really need to know in order to inspire trust, create connections, and motivate others? Usually we look for methodologies and lessons that fall into ‘traditional’ leadership development categories. While these approaches to leadership continue to be valid, we live and work in untraditional times where organizational chaos resulting from constant change is the norm. As organizational leaders, Human Resources professionals need to know how to lead through the currency and consistency of change.

Patty McCord, ‘iconic former chief talent officer at Netflix’, provides us with some blunt lessons in her TedTalk – The Way We Work.

From a Human Resources (HR) perspective, at first, Ms. McCord’s approach seems almost blasphemous! She advocates for the tossing out of the precious acronyms, rules and processes, to which HR clings, to ensure order, system controls and best practice implementation. Upon reflection, however, the values Ms. McCord speaks to are about respect, excitement, passion, modeling, and collaboration.  While she advocates for the tossing out of the formal, once-a-year performance review, Ms. McCord reiterates the need for proactive and ‘in the moment’ feedback based in truth. When we treat our colleagues as adults in the workplace, we can all handle the truth, both positive and negative, because it paves the path to continuous improvement.

Understanding the business, living company values, building excitement for change into the future are ideas that are not new. These are lessons that we, as HR leaders, must continue to learn repeatedly, traditionally and untraditionally, until one day, we may be able to get them right and inspire others to do the same.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When is the last time you were told you are doing a good job at work by your boss?
  2. When is the last time you told a colleague that they were doing something right?
  3. As a leader and an HR professional, how do you inspire others in the workplace?
  4. How can you improve your own capacity for handling change?

Performance Management: Motivation by the Experts

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Through our training and development studies, we have learned that motivation is a critical component for on-going employee learning. If there is nothing that provides motivation for employees to learn, then professional development, productivity, and growth will not happen. Motivation can be both positive (reward driven) or negative (error driven), but in either case it provides the prompt for an employee to alter their job-related performance.

HRM Online provides a Human Resources perspective on effective motivation in the context of performance management processes.

Click here to watch a video of Human Resources panelists discussing effective motivation-based performance management strategies.

As noted by the experts in the video, part of culture of continuous learning is a culture of continuous conversation. Employees want to know how they are progressing in their jobs and they look for more than just monetary rewards in order to feel valued in the workplace. As such, it is critical to teach leaders how to have discussions regarding on-going employee development.

The simple motivation of a one-time monetary reward wears off quickly and is often forgotten by the next payday. To counter this, each of the professionals in the video provides a perspective on the value of an ‘always on’ communication focus, and a relationship-based approach for effective employee motivation and performance management. Furthermore, the panelists note that while there is a trend to have only goal focused (‘feedforward’) interactions with employees, people still want to know from their direct manager what was successful in the past and what was not. In order to shape the future in a different way, employees learn from what they have or have not done successfully, and they want to hear this from the person they report to.

Talking to employees may be easy; having effective conversations with them may be much more challenging. However, the result is value that stems from both the motivation and the reward of positive relationships.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Which one motivates you the most in a working environment — effective working relationships, or annual monetary rewards? Explain your rationale.
  2. Why are structured performance ratings important in a regulated industry or profession?
  3. As an HR practitioner, identify four motivational elements from the video clip that you would include in an effective performance management program.

A Leprechaun’s Pot o’ Gold is waiting for you!

Feedback is gold!

March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day, the day the world goes green and dreams of leprechauns and their elusive Pot o’ Gold. Gold, for centuries, has always been considered a powerful storehouse of value. For the lucky Human Resources professional, effective feedback is a valuable pot of gold to be used in trying to improve employee performance.

Current research is becoming clearer and is starting to show that annual performance ranking systems do not improve employee performance.

Here are some research highlights from Deloitte University Press:

  • Today’s widespread ranking and ratings-based performance management process is damaging to employee engagement, alienating high performers, and costing managers valuable time.
  • Only 8 percent of companies report that their performance management process drives high levels of value, while 58 percent said it is not an effective use of valuable time.

Click Here to Read the Research Paper

What might be an effective alternative if these ineffective methods were no longer used?

We know organizational systems hate a vacuum; if we remove the annual performance rating system what do we replace it with? Feedback and coaching is the answer.

If we are going to implement a new performance management system we should learn how to provide feedback well. Georgia Murch, author of the new book, Fixing Feedback, outlines three mistakes that professionals make when giving employee feedback:

  1. People do not use enough facts
  2. The message is delivered poorly
  3. There is little opportunity for a two way dialogue

Click Here to Read the Article.

HR Professionals need to take a lead role and challenge existing performance management systems and replace them with systems that work.  Remember that any new HR initiative will only be as good as the individuals who are tasked with that initiative.  In the case of providing effective feedback, HR must ensure that we are modelling effective feedback methodology first and then second, we must ensure that supervisors are capable, trained and coached on how to give meaningful feedback to employees, second.

When we share the gold, we share the power and we share the learning, all with the goal to improve and provide effective HR practices.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What research or evidence would you need to produce to convince your VP of HR to scrap the annual performance management system?
  2.  What type of supervisory training would you suggest for supervisors who have to now coach employees?