Manage Performance without Authority

In a recent blog, I defined collaboration as mutual responsibility. A key element of this definition is the idea of being responsible for results without the “illusion of control.” I cannot compel others to commit or perform, but I can ask directly for their commitments, reinforce effective performance, and engage and manage any performance that is off-track. This idea may seem self-evident, but you couldn’t tell by observing the everyday conversations in most organizations. From direct observations, data collection I’ve done, and anecdotes I’ve heard, such conversations are avoided more frequently than engaged. And, if people ever do engage, it’s typically when they can no longer avoid it, so the […]

Creating a Results-Oriented Culture

Even though my friends will laugh (or faint), I’ve decided that it’s time to talk about culture. Lately, I see so much content about this topic, and the role it can play in attracting and retaining talented people. Many of these stories focus on work experience and relationships, which I see as necessary but not sufficient. So, instead of another blog on how to create a great place to work, I want to focus on the issue that I believe matters the most to talented people and that’s how to create a “results-oriented” culture. FIRST, LET ME DEFINE THIS TERM. If you visit Dictionary.com and look for culture you can […]

From Leading a Team to Leading Leaders

Has the scope of your role increased?  Are you now leading leaders with teams of their own, rather than leading a team of individual contributors? Then you have a challenge. You can’t be the expert in every area you lead. You can’t be the problem-solver every time there is a crisis. Somehow, you need to find a way to have your finger on the pulse of your organization without monitoring everything directly. You need to “scale” yourself or you will be overwhelmed. And hardest of all, you may need to step further back from activities that you have found personally satisfying.   SO WHAT CAN YOU DO? To scale yourself […]

Get Beyond the Illusion of Control

If you live long enough, you realize that so much of what happens in life is out of your control, but how you respond to it is in your control. – Hillary Clinton   To make sure we’re discussing the same term, let me offer definition one from Merriman-Webster.  “Control – to direct the behavior of a person, to cause a person to do what you want.”  I define it with a bit more color as the ability to get people to do what you want, when and how you want – and to act like they want it too.  As the above title suggests, I believe that control is […]

Why Tech Projects Fail, and How to Prevent It

The most effective IT leaders I know always seem to have the same three priorities for their work – create measureable business value, make and keep commitments to their clients, and deliver high quality solutions built for sustainable success.  These leaders are true “partners” – seeking to understand the client’s purpose and goals, proactively proposing ideas, and resolving conflicts that might prevent project success.  Despite these leaders’ values and actions, despite their efforts to lead successful projects, the dirty secret of technology implementation is that too many projects blow budgets, miss deadlines, or deliver products that don’t work as promised – or at least not until the next release.   […]

Making Performance Appraisal Effective

If someone at work says, “You did a great job,” you’ll probably accept that comment without question (and think “I’m glad someone noticed!”).  However, if another person comes to you and says, “You messed that one up,” you may reject that comment (and think “how would you know?”).  The problem is that neither judgment – praise or censure – was supported with any valid information. An ineffective performance appraisal can feel the same way.  Most organizations use some process to collect information to support an appraisal (employee self-assessment, feedback from clients and colleagues, managerial observations, etc).  Even when this information is valid, it is often not sufficient to deliver an […]

“Why Can’t I Get My Employees To … ?”

If you manage people, chances are that you have been frustrated, at one time or another, about some performance or behavior you want from your reports, but can’t get them to consistently display. You may want them to …   …suggest new ideas …make decisions and take responsibility …manage their own performance on an entire task without needing you to monitor and prod …think about how their actions and choices will affect others downstream …give you authentic feedback about how your behavior affects them   If you’ve tried to manage your frustration by exhorting your reports – “Why can’t you just do x?” or “I need you to do x!” […]

Banish the cult of the A-B-C player!

Many managers are enamored of the ABC player model first made popular by Jack Welch at GE and since then adopted by many organizations wishing to raise the bar on employee performance and to confront festering performance problems. Some versions of this approach involve forced ranking, in which the top 20% of employees must be classified as A players, the middle 70% as B’s, and the bottom 10% as C’s – and then the C’s exited from the organization like so much deadwood.   The forced ranking component of this approach is controversial and has been abandoned by many organizations because of the toxic consequences, which were engraved into the […]

Have You Created An In-Group On Your Team?

If you are managing people, it’s likely that you are observing your reports in action, noticing what they do well and what they don’t, and forming judgments about their capabilities.  These are important activities, when done in the service of assigning activities that fit individuals’ strengths, providing relevant feedback and coaching in areas of weakness, and creating development plans.   However, it’s not uncommon that a manager will use this information to conclude which of her reports are competent and which are not, and, on that basis, to value and reward those different reports’ contributions accordingly.  Have you, perhaps, done this with your own reports?   Why Your Judgments About […]

Stop Talking About Accountability

I just finished two weeks of leadership training workshops, and I’m thoroughly sick of the word accountability.  So far as I can tell, it’s the most popular “empty” word buzzing about organizations today.  It’s shows up everywhere I go, it means nothing (or everything), it’s almost never defined in terms of actions, and it’s at the root of countless conflicts about individual and team performance. Whenever I hear people use this word, I ask them to define it – but all I ever get are other equally empty words like responsibility or stewardship or whatever.  I almost never get a specific description of what a person is expected to do […]