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How can I improve employee performance?

Management can be frustrating, especially when you consider your employees as your friends. If you're wondering how you can improve employee performance, take a look at what Cecil has to say about goals and management:

I was having lunch with a good friend of mine yesterday. He brought up the fact that he is frustrated with one of his top-level employees and someone that is a friend. It seems that he isn’t doing very well in his position and my friend is wondering how to help him to improve performance and manage him to success. He doesn't want to have to fire him, lose his investment in him, and have to start over to find another person to do the job.

Of course, I started with a few questions. What were the employee’s goals, specifically? What were his specific concerns and frustrations with the employee? And how often were they meeting to go over the goals, strategize together, and review the employee's progress towards his goals? Like many employees in so many companies, this employee had no clear goals. The goal he was given when he was hired was to increase the sales of the company. Nothing specific, nothing concrete, and nothing definable or measurable (well, you could say the business has increased but not due to his efforts).

My suggestion was for him to go back to work and meet with the employee. To use the overall company goals to help define the employee's specific goals and what his success would be judged on in future meetings. Once the goals are defined, they can begin to talk about the actions that he expects from the employee that will likely lead to his success and achieving his goals.

One of the biggest mistakes made in business - no matter the industry - is that the employees have no clear goals. This is only made worse by managers believing that the employee should know what to do to achieve the goals without their input, leaving them with no management process.

Giving your employees clear goals is only one of the 6 key steps to management, though. And if you're asking yourself "How do I improve my own employees' performance?", it's time to work through these management steps one-by-one.

6 Steps to Management

Step 1: Set goals for the position and the employee.

These goals should be based on the clear and definable goals of the company. It is difficult to set goals for employees if your company doesn't have clear and definable goals.

Step 2: Meet with employee to discus and agree upon goals.

Management has a discussion with the employee where they agree that the goals are realistic, achievable and that he/she is willing to adopt them. This step is essential because it changes the relationship between the employee and the manager and makes them accountable. Without goals and acceptance there is no way to hold anyone accountable.

Step 3: Decide how those goals will be easily measured.

You need a way to measure the goal that is simple and acceptable to the employee. Measurement should be simple and seen. If it is complicated and difficult to understand, if the goal is impossible to measure, if the measurement is not acceptable to both parties, then it is difficult at best to manage the employee and hold them accountable.

Step 4: Strategize on how to meet the set goals.

This is my favorite part. The manager needs to meet with the employee and strategize the actions that they believe will lead to the employee’s success and when they want to see them. There are 4 really important things to strategizing.

  1. What is the goal? How is it defined and what is a win?

  2. What does the employee need to do to achieve the goal? What are the actions that the employee is going to do that will achieve the goal? If what you are currently doing is not getting you to your goal then what will you do differently in the future?

  3. Who is responsible and for what exactly? Who is responsible to do the work that the manager and employee have decided will help them hit their goals? Sometimes this isn’t the responsibility of the employee. Sometimes there are process or problems with the company that the employee has little or no control over that will determine their success or failure. These are the responsibility of the manager to solve and solve quickly so that the employee can succeed.

  4. And, when is this going to be done? When is the action going to be taken that will move the employee closer to achieving their goals?

Step 5: Take action!

Whoever is responsible to do the work, needs to act, and do the work. Nothing happens in the company without action. Action must be taken and it is management's job to make sure that what was agreed to is being implemented: without action, the work of setting goals and strategizing are wasted and team members will become discouraged and more difficult to manage.

If you talk about it and agree to it but never do it, your staff will lose trust and become complacent and hard to motivate. If you talk about it and they agree to do it but they don’t act, and you let it go unnoticed (and without consequences), it will become increasing difficult to implement in the future.

Step 6: Review the goals & follow-up.

Reviewing is an essential part of the process. This is where you get to celebrate for achieving goals. Or, maybe you need to determine what isn't working and additional strategy and work will be needed. In order to manage people, there have to be consequences for their actions: rewards and punishments that should be directly related to achieving the goals that they agreed to.

Employees expect to have follow-up and review. If you are missing this step, they will become disenchanted and harder to manage, and may give up all together. Many employees have been ruined because there was no consequence to their action or inaction!

Hopefully these 6 steps have helped you understand how to improve an employee's performance and better manage your team.

If you need more advice on improving your team's performance, schedule a consultation with my team. We can help match you to the program that will help improve your business, your life, and the industry as a whole.

Stay tuned for my next blog, where I'll be taking a closer look at the biggest mistake commonly made when managing employees!

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