I have two small children sleeping quietly (for once) as I write this a little before 6 am. While the COVID-19 crisis has been hard for everyone—especially those who have been sick or lost loved ones or livelihoods—I know firsthand just how challenging it has been for working parents with small children. In the early days, when preschool and daycare were closed, I was trying to distract them with a movie long enough to get through a Zoom call or two and that would inevitably lead to a game of “push mama’s buttons,” both figuratively and literally, in which I’d have to hold the computer above my head so they didn’t hang up the Zoom.
2020 has been a disastrous year in general, and the business world has certainly suffered major losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic: lockdown protocols (though entirely warranted) saw many businesses close their offices and mothball their operations due to their inability to cope. But things haven’t been so bleak for everyone. Some companies have continued to grow, being able and willing to roll with the unusual circumstances, and are currently thriving.
Perhaps you’re in that fortunate position. While others struggled to adapt to remote working and shifts in supply and demand, you weathered the storm and remained on an upward trajectory — and due to that success, your team is still growing. Most likely it’s expanding even faster now that there are so many more talented professionals looking for work.
In a recent client conversation, a CEO said to me, “He’s really (really) smart, but it’s just hard to hold him accountable. On top of that, he isn’t approachable because he gets really defensive and reminds us all that he knows what he’s doing.” But in reality, the rest of the executive team doesn’t really know what this executive-level leader is doing. His goals are vague, his metrics aren’t really solid measures of success, and he statuses everything “Green” in preparation for their weekly executive team meeting. And, no one wants to challenge him.
If you read our blog often, you know that we are fans of Topgrading, and we frequently talk about hiring and developing A Players. In a previous post, I gave an example of one of our clients who did an audit of all of their employees and created a KPI for “% of A Players.” If you aren’t familiar with Topgrading, you might be wondering about this term - “A Players.” What does it mean?
My last blog, 6 Excuses for Avoiding an Executive Coach (and Why You Should Think Again) talked about all the negative internal chatter (aka, excuses) we give ourselves for not wanting to have an Executive Coach. That blog also pointed out some of the key business benefits of Executive Coaching. What do some of those benefits actually look like and how do I know if I need executive leadership coaching? More specifically what is coaching ROI?
The famous mountain climber, Phil Powers, said it best during an interview on NPR’s "This I Believe” segment: “Concentrating on how I move through the world is important. It’s why I reach mountain summits and life goals with energy to spare.”
As a best practice, Powers uses a concept taught to him by his mentor, Paul Petzoldt. Penzoldt recommended a ‘rest’ (i.e., a slight pause) with each climbing step taken. It allows a climber to move swiftly, yet still find a brief pause in every step. The cadence of this sequence creates, in the end, a higher degree of forward-movement with what seems like less effort.
Most leaders dive into leadership without a second thought. I love the optimism that comes when people find themselves suddenly leading people (vs. tasks and initiatives they’ve been responsible for completing). The problem, though, is that most leaders simply don’t see the impact their leadership approach has on those around them (positive or negative). They don’t pause while climbing the mountain of business objectives for a rest step. They don’t give themselves quick moments of pause that allow for slowing just enough to gain the energy to keep moving forward.
Couple this lack of ‘pause’ with how fast everything moves in today’s world. Every motion, every thought, every piece of information we gain in a 24/7 world makes the concept of ‘pause’ seem ridiculous. It can even make us feel unworthy, lost, and unproductive and some senior leaders aren't wired to slow down to speed up. Senior leaders learning to skill to stop to think and focus on long term strategy is a huge part of their leadership development. Executive coaching, and the coaching relationship, is a good way to hold yourself accountable to developing these new habits.
From a leadership perspective, there’s a real thirst for increasing leadership accountability. Executives have recently asked me various questions that linger over the concept of building team accountability to help them achieve their strategic plans while creating high performing teams:
“How do I build accountability in teams?”
“What else can I do to get people to do what we need them to do?”
“How can I hold a team member to be held accountable and still be seen as a good leader?”
"How do I balance leadership accountability and personal accountability when building a team?"
"Creating a culture of accountability is hard, how do I provide constructive feedback without being the bad guy?"
Building team accountability requires that we understand a few dynamics because it’s more complicated than we might recognize. It goes above and beyond the responsibility for the outcomes, which is obviously important, but effective leaders know that they need a culture of accountability in their teams that provide the inputs needed to achieve the expected team performance.
Job Scorecards (or employee scorecards) have been a hot topic recently. Many companies are looking for a way to provide more constant and balanced feedback and coaching to employees, instead of just an annual review. The scorecard approach allows company managers to achieve their strategic objectives.
The truth is, traditional annual performance reviews can be riddled with anxiety. Many times employees perceive a connection to salary or a raise, which is stressful for everyone. The true value of a performance review - an opportunity for development and coaching - is often missed. The role and goal clarity that the employee scorecard provides enables managers to be more involved in employee performance.
After recently reviewing thousand of Annual Plans and Quarterly Plans, I can say without a doubt that improving employee engagement seems to be top of mind for everyone this year. How on earth do you keep today's dynamic and diverse employees happy, engaged and productive? It's the million dollar question that we ask ourselves year after year.
According to Gallup, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147%. Gallup also concluded that 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. So, how do you know if your company is on the right side of those statistics? You need to start measuring employee engagement KPIs this quarter so that you can keep your A Players and reduce employee turnover. This is not just a function for the human resources department, the best team managers measure employee satisfaction KPIs on their teams.
It is no secret that your people are instrumental to the success of your business. In order to have a great company, you not only have to hire the right people and get them in the right seats as Jim Collins says, you also have to work to retain and engage those people once you have them. The best companies use key performance indicators for employees to make sure that they are getting the most out of their most important investment - their employees. Having the right set of quality metrics can greatly improve your performance management in creating a high-performing team.