Archive for the 'employee performance' Category

A Tale of Two Interns, or: How Clear Expectations Create Employee Success

Recently I had the pleasure of interacting with two students, one in high school and one in college.  I did not supervise them but simply became part of their life conversation.  At the time, both of them had internships, and I made it a point to ask how that was working for them.  I got two completely different stories that illustrate an important point about employee performance:  clear expectations get great results, and lack of expectations creates chaos.

Intern One worked for an artist.  She was hired to organize the artist’s admittedly chaotic contact list and calendar.  You would think this would be the “chaos” story – but no, the artist knew what she needed and described it very clearly.  When everything was organized, the artist would be able to find contact information for anyone she had spoken with, and her calendar would reflect accurately where and when she was performing.  The tool would be easy to use for someone not all that comfortable with technology. The intern trained the artist on using her new contact list and calendar, and she now feels in control of her professional life.

Intern Two was not so lucky.  She worked on a political campaign and initially was quite enthusiastic about the candidate.  But, as the weeks progressed, she was bounced from assignment to assignment with no direction, and then blamed when things did not go as planned.  She was asked to work extra hours and then told she was not needed after she rearranged her schedule.  She even tried to create a FAQ so that everyone would be on the same page around internal processes.  The result?  Her manager berated her for trying to run the show.

Bottom line:  you can’t expect results if you cannot describe clearly what you need and provide the tools to get the job done.  Intern Two was even willing to help create a tool, but that was perceived as threatening to the people in charge.  If you want your employees to go “above and beyond” set clear expectations, then get out of the way.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

Conversations for Performance – a Critical Business Management Skill

In the last blog article I described a situation where an employee was no longer performing as expected – coming in late to work, being rude, and a decline in the quality of work done.  You now have a decision to make:  no matter what the underlying cause(s), will you continue to tolerate the behaviors, or will you address them?  If you choose to address them, what strategies are most likely to create clarity around your expectations while giving the employee a chance to meet them?

First and foremost, threats will not work.  Or they may work in the short term, but over time you will probably lose the employee, either by firing or by his/her choice.  So what does work?  The book Crucial Conversations (Kerry Patterson et al) is a resource I highly recommend.  Here is an extremely brief synopsis of their process.

  • You must be clear in your own mind what needs to change and be able to describe that clearly to the employee. (Chapter 3)
  • You must create a “safe space” for this conversation to occur. (Chapter 5)
  • You must be open to alternative solutions suggested by the employee. (Chapter 8)
  • Together, you and the employee must create and follow a mutually acceptable action plan. (Chapter 10)

Sound difficult?  Of course!  Your choice is whether to step up to the challenge or give up on this employee.  There are costs and risks in either choice, but the most benefit will be gained for you and your business if you are willing to create the foundation for a productive conversation for performance.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Performance Symptoms vs. Performance Problems

Consider the following scenario:

A long-time employee arrives 30 minutes late for work three days in a row.  And, when questioned about this, he snaps “none of your business!”  You also notice that over the past month or so his work has really not been up to standards.  So do you have a performance problem?

Your immediate answer is probably “of course I have a performance problem!”  But what you really have is a series of performance symptoms:

  • Lateness
  • Rudeness
  • Poor quality work.

The underlying performance problem, the cause of these behaviors, could be any number of things, some of which you can control and some of which you cannot.  Consider that the employee might:

  • Have recently learned of the terminal illness of a loved one.
  • Be struggling with financial issues that are distracting from focus on work.
  • Feel (rightly or wrongly) that his work load has stretched him far beyond capacity.

You may be hesitant to engage him in a conversation about your observations.  But consider the cost and consequences of not doing so.  Just like a doctor who examines the patient with a fever (symptom) and decides on a diagnosis (problem) in order to prescribe the correct treatment, your task is to get to the underlying issue in order to develop a fair and appropriate solution.  Ideally this solution will maintain the dignity of the employee while meeting your needs for improved performance.  How to have that conversation will be the topic of a future blog post.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440