In three separate venues where I’ve facilitated recently – a workshop for emerging leaders, a webinar for HR professionals, and a working session with a CEO and his senior team – one of the most challenging people practices that managers have openly acknowledged across the board is the need to hold themselves accountable for regular and frequent performance check-ins with their direct reports.
Why is this so important? It’s because the success of any firm depends on it. Performance Mastery, moving team members to perform to expectations while aligning their efforts with business needs, is the engine that delivers on business results. In fact, HBR research (Harvard Business Review) tells us that a high performer can deliver four times more productivity than the average performer.
The question that’s often asked is which benchmark company would define excellence in setting up their people for high performance. In my book Basic to Brilliant, one of the companies profiled is an exemplar by any measure. Clio is a Saas company whose mission is to transform the practice of law for good through their practice management software that helps lawyers better organize and manage their legal practices. They’ve achieved global dominance in their sector across solo, small and mid-size firms with over 150,000 users in 90 countries. Their known for their award-winning culture and have recently won the Globe and Mail’s Best Managed Small to Medium Employers award for the third year in a row.
With now 300 employees across five locations, here are some of the elements of Clio’s winning formula:
- Managers are responsible and held accountable for enabling performance at every stage of the employee lifecycle, from first impression to farewell. As a result, new hires are “normed” for feedback from their very first day on the job.
- Semi-monthly touchpoints between managers and their direct reports allow managers to be highly communicative in how they define expectations. These touchpoints are short performance coaching conversations – 10 to 20 minutes – providing team members with close to real-time feedback that leads to a shared understanding of high performance.
- Managers are trained to be performance coaches and champions; they subscribe to the mantra of “radical candor” that leads to a close alignment between an individual’s self-assessment and that of their manager; team members always have a clear idea of where they stand.
- It’s not all about performance; quarterly career chats between managers and their team members allow for development plans, aspirations and goals to surface and be acted upon in both the short and long term.
Their high-performance culture and collection of awards are evidence of how their sustained efforts pay extraordinary dividends. Their commitment to ensuring team members know what’s expected, have the skills to perform, know what success looks like and have their key motivators met, has been a force multiplier for their business. To learn more about how your firm can make that magic happen, you can read more about Clio and the path to Performance Mastery in my book, Basic to Brilliant: The Definitive Guide to Tranforming Your People Practices: A Playbook for the Small to Mid-Size Enterprise.