Being a role model in the workplace

In Reaching the Peak Performance Zone, Gerald Kushel gives advice on how to motivate people to work at “peak performance,” a state which resembles the “flow” state described before. His description of “peak performance managers” is one of participation and inclusiveness. “Peak performance managers go out of their way to help their workers get a fair share of the action. They see “shared leadership,” “shared vision,” “a shared mission,” “shared authority,” and “shared responsibility” as much more than just company buzzwords. It’s something they believe in and therefore do their best to provide for their people” (Kushel, p. 36).

Kushel’s “peak performance manager” has goals associated with strong leadership. “In a nutshell, the goals of peak performance managers are:

  • To learn all they can about how to motivate peak performance
  • To take total responsibility for their own performance and to teach this modus operandi to others
  • To help their people get a fair share of the action
  • To understand and model self-motivation
  • To give their people sufficient reasons to want to excel
  • To see themselves in a service capacity dedicated to helping others perform at peak
  • To offer special assistance to standard performers but to stay out of the way of peak performers unless they ask for help
  • To enjoy life in the peak performance zone” (Kushel, p. 34).

These leadership skills are not necessarily the sole domain of management. In a team environment, for example, it is important that everyone practice leadership skills. Frequently, teams rotate leadership responsibility based upon the task at hand and the experience of individual team members.

Leaders set an example for others to follow. In Keeping Customers for Life, Joan Koob Cannie describes the importance of being a role model in a customer service environment, “Probably the single most important way to show your involvement and commitment to customers is to “walk your talk”–to model your behaviour values for your subordinates” (Cannie, p. 71).

Motivate and inspire your team to achieve better results

“A great example of emancipation in action occurred when a newly hired manager asked the chairman of his industry-leading, international high-tech company what he, the manager, should do in his job. At most companies, the answer would have been to work hard, follow guidelines, and stay within budget. But this chairman simply replied, “Do something great!” When was the last time your boss asked you to do something great?” (Harris, p. 100).

In Winning the Service Game, Benjamin Schneider describes management’s failure to capitalise on the intrinsic rewards of goal accomplishment, “Businesses tend to overlook the fact that goal accomplishment itself (e.g. seeing customers leave with big smiles on their faces) can be a highly valued reward for employees…(Managers) should also spend a lot of their time designing jobs and service systems that allow employees to accomplish their service goals and even facilitate goal accomplishment” (Schneider, p. 146).

The Home Depot story is an interesting example of motivating customer service employees by setting an unusual goal that both encourages service excellence and customer loyalty. “The Home Depot’s ethics extend to an aggressively pushed policy of “Do not let customer overspend.”…The average customer spends only about $40 per visit, but drops in more than thirty times a year!” (Harris, p. 120). “To employees, working for a management that has the goal of service excellence and working in a situation that facilitates service excellence are satisfying in and of themselves” (Schneider, p. 160).

“The more a job inherently resembles a game–with variety, appropriate and flexible challenges, clear goals, and immediate feedback–the more enjoyable it will be regardless of the worker’s level of development” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 152).

Importance of Employee Development

Feedback and communication between managers and supervisors is very important when it is open, clear, and based on mutual respect. Performance Management systems (the good ones) provide for these functions. They also involve effective, collaborative objective-setting, planning of the work, continuous review of the work, and the mutual identification of ways to improve the performance.

How do you measure performance management?
Appraisal: The Motivational Purpose

A lot has been written about the annual performance review, and most people agree that it is all too often a feared and fearful process which leaves employees angry and depressed as opposed to motivated to perform better.

“The common-sense assumption is that telling an individual where he is falling down will provide effective motivation to get him to change. Clearly it will not do so unless he accepts the negative judgement and agrees with it. ..This is not too likely…The state is set for rationalisation, defensiveness, inability to understand, reactions that the superior is being unfair or arbitrary. These are not conditions conducive to effective motivation” (McGregor, p. 86).

Nor does the old-fashioned bell curve ranking of employees make sense in today’s companies. In a statistical bell curve application, half of a company’s employees would be ranked “below average.” This would more likely occur in a situation where employees were randomly chosen as opposed to being selected for their possession of specific, needed skills.

A number of companies are examining this issue and switching from appraisal to a more developmental approach to performance evaluation. Utilising a developmental approach, employee development plans would emphasise giving employees the skills they need to perform effectively in a dynamic environment. The overriding goal of the development plan would be progress towards achieving stated goals as opposed to a “win/lose” situation where employees would be appraised or graded based on the number of goals accomplished.

“The best companies make PMMA (Performance Measurement, Management, and Appraisal) work by attacking its underlying problems rather than treating its symptoms. When PMMA works, it is used as a driver for strategy execution and culture change, not merely as a mechanism to generate a performance rating and a merit increase” (The Performance Imperative, p. 241).