Improving staff morale and performance to achieve overall business objectives is a key task of any leadership team.  Business and Relationship coach, Lisa Hough, shares an idea that gets everyone working together on a strategic point of focus.

It’s expected – and seems entirely logical – that leadership teams share a common understanding of business objectives, current performance, and how staff performance contributes to achieving overall business goals.  But do they?

Aligning leadership viewpoints

Before attempting to improve staff performance to meet business objectives, it’s critical to take a step back and look at the views the leadership team has on both the staff and their performance.  Surprisingly, what you’ll almost certainly find is that different members of the leadership team have contrasting views of how different staff are performing.  An essential first step is to challenge, check and align viewpoints within the leadership team about staff performance.

This begins with questioning the notion that each and every staff member is thought of similarly – not taking these views for granted. When leaders begin to identify strengths and weaknesses in each employee, new views emerge, sometimes coupled with new actions too.

Humanising the feedback process

The next step is to create new opportunities for employees to shine – to show what they are capable of outside of normal performance review processes.  This can be accomplished by employing a humanistic approach to capture staff capabilities easily, efficiently and safely so that honesty and effort doesn’t get unintentionally punished.  It can be as simple as asking three questions about a strategic issue, at set intervals throughout the year – tracking the responses at an individual level, so the leadership team can respond quickly and directly to any changes.

Be sure to use an attributed approach which recognises people at an individual level – that’s an important way of humanising the process.  People are remembered, their feedback is attributed to them directly (instead of bundled as summary conclusions) and they hear back from the leadership team where appropriate (to seek clarification, share their own views – or simply to say thank you!).

Sparking conversations of shared purpose with staff

One such humanistic method is to ‘spark conversations of shared purpose’ where all employees are invited to submit their thoughts on a current topic of strategic importance to the company and to discuss this with their managers as part of the day-to-day.  In this kind of exercise, the capability of individual employees is unveiled for the whole leadership team to see.   In the process, staff feel valued while having the opportunity to contribute their ideas, thoughts and suggestions to an important company issue.  Oftentimes, the deepest and most valuable insights come from the people who their leaders least expect it from.

Taking this ‘pulse’ and engaging people beyond the normal channels can lead to a marked boost in performance for several reasons:

  • All employees now have an individual voice, they will be happier, and will appreciate the opportunity to come along on the business improvement journey with you
  • This process helps to clean up leadership viewpoints and sets a new stage for productive change
  • It’s transformative for team leaders too. Some have said that simply discussing this with their team members as part of day-to-day routines has been a big learning experience for them – not only the ideas and insights, but the surprising capability of people they didn’t think would be interested
  • In a busy workplace where there are multiple objectives, having a single point of focus to think about is refreshing for employees. It’s a strong and overt way for leadership teams to practice top-down: bottom-up
  • And finally performance usually improves in the area of focus simply because it gets on the radar of employees. See the example of a distribution company that reversed its growth simply by focussing the organisation on it

This type of whole-of-organisation program isn’t a staff or climate survey and should be undertaken separately.  It should also be entirely distinct from any performance review program, to avoid the negative associations (and incentive related conversations) that go along with reviews.

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