Achieving Peak Performance

March 4, 2009 -- Sal Silvester

Several years ago I was asked to do some consulting for a Fortune 500 company. At issue was finding out why the organization was so fragmented in its approach to business, even though the organizational goals had been well articulated and included in its vision, mission, and strategy. After some key employee interviews and focus groups in each of the main divisions, it didn’t take me long to see the problem. It was glaring. They could all talk about the goals, but there was no well-defined process that kept everyone on the same page to implement them. With employees wondering what their role was in moving the business forward, they missed deadlines, and they had an organization which was out of focus.

There is a quote by Dick Grote: “Performance appraisal systems are like seat belts—most people believe they are necessary, but don’t like to use them.” Performance management done right enables work team members to truly understand the organizational performance requirements and their role in driving toward the organizational business goals.

Some Perspective

In The Role of Goal Setting and Performance Feedback in Achieving Peak Performance by Roger Wenschlag, he says “Effective performance management is a high-payoff activity. It directly contributes to peak performance by team members, and produces the desired organizational results. This is because, as we know from Frederick Hertzberg’s landmark research, individuals are strongly motivated at work by five key factors inherent to the job itself: challenge, growth, a sense of contribution, recognition, and responsibility. Leaders, who consistently practice good performance management through effective goal setting and performance feedback, have immense power to establish and sustain a work environment where these motivators are present. And, as we all know, it’s pretty hard to beat a team of highly motivated people.”

Wenschlag states a pretty powerful case. Many organizations are in a place that finds them at risk because they aren’t using “seat belts.” Here’s a test. If you find yourself identifying with even one of these performance feedback shortfalls, then it is likely you will experience something short of your goals:

1. The organization has no workable performance management policy and/or process.
2. There is no leader accountability for effective performance management.
3. Leaders don’t make adequate time to address critical performance management issues one-on-one with their people.
4. Leaders are reluctant to delegate responsibility for work that they think they can do better and faster themselves.
5. Leaders fear confronting others about performance issues because of potential defensiveness.
6. Leaders don’t have the skills to conduct effective goal setting and/or performance feedback conversations.

So let’s get SMART.