How to Set Your People Up for High Performance

Setting your people up for high performance – or Performance Mastery as we call it – is the engine that delivers on business results, however it can be a challenging innovation touchpoint for many organizations to implement successfully.

One of the keys to long term leadership and organizational success is moving employees to action – actions that deliver the results you are seeking. The challenge is that high performance depends on your ability to achieve business goals again and again, often with the same people. How do you get more results in less time? Beyond aligning the work with individual strengths, being clear on expectations, and setting achievable but stretch goals – givens in any high performing workplace – how else can you set your people up for high performance? Here are some of the levers you can use to ensure performance mastery is alive and well in your organization:

Revamp or reinvent your performance review process. If you haven’t moved away from the annual ritual of those brutal ratings scales and talking about the past which doesn’t set people up for a brighter future, you’re being left behind in a world that’s moving fast. Employees are expecting more frequent, less formal feedback. It’s time to understand how a shift to performance planning and more agile goal setting can be the key to unlocking the motivated high performance you need from your team members.

Take the time to articulate the measures of success for every position. How else will you or the people doing the work know they are meeting the mark? Even when the work is largely relationship-based and there are many qualitative factors that spell success, knowing what those are is key to helping people stay focused on the right things and demonstrate the behaviors needed to achieve results. Every position needs key performance indicators that should align with the goals of the business unit, and the organization’s strategic plan.

Don’t be afraid to course correct frequently and in real-time. Your employees will thank you and your business will be better off for it. Don’t wait until your next 1:1 or performance meeting to have the conversation you need to ensure your team member is on track and meeting expectations. Whether coaching, mentoring, or motivating, which ever conversation or approach is appropriate, seize the moment when the time is right.

Check your assumptions about what motivates your people. If you don’t know your team members well enough individually you may be making assumptions about what drives them to perform the way they do. For some it’s about being part of a successful team, for others the sheer love of the task at hand gets them up in the morning, for others it will be the money, and for many, it will be the challenge and career growth the work provides. Or, surprise, it may be working for you that’s motivating them to achieve! Motivators are personal and unique to each individual, and in the pace of business, it’s easy to forget what underlies the performance of your best players.

Put compensation and incentives in perspective. When variable pay incentives are in place, some managers assume these will be a key driver of employee performance, and will encourage their staff to strive for every dollar they can. Incentives are appropriate for many positions to acknowledge exceptional performance, and to share the collective success of the organization with those who made that happen. However, believing in or promoting the use of incentives as a primary motivator of performance often leads to unintended consequences like neglecting responsibilities that aren’t incentivized, poor collaboration, and even gaming the incentive system.

Performance Mastery can be multi-faceted and it’s important to know what, if any, barriers may be standing in the way of your team aligning their best efforts with the business, and how best to clear the path for exceptional performance. When team members know what’s expected, have the skills to perform, know what success looks like, and have their key motivators met, the results can be a force multiplier for your business.