Two articles I read today made me share my thoughts about performance of individuals and teams.
The first article was published by Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/07/03/the-terrible-management-technique-that-cost-microsoft-its-creativity). The author argued Microsoft killed creativity when it adopted GE’s famous bottom-10-per-cent-out performance scheme.
The second article appeared on Fast Company (http://www.fastcompany.com/1842019/evaluating-employees-based-on-influence). It discusses an emerging performance indicator: influence.
In my world of innovation and new businesses, creativity of individuals is paramount. Every team is only as good as its members’ ability to envision and implement new and effective ways to perform its tasks. Creativity is typically associated with artistic fields (eg. Marketing). In fact, in a well-performing team, every member is creative in their expertise area because they need to do it better than the next company in order to secure market share. The leader’s role is to create and foster such an environment. So, how one does it? Here are a few practices that worked well for me:
- Allow individuals define what they want to do for the team. What they did before may be qualifier but what a person can do is not evident in their past successes or failures. This is an area where leadership is essential. Not everybody is comfortable with expressing their aspirations. There is always a fear of over-promising and under-delivering. With proper coaching and guidance, one may unearth star players.
- Deliver on-the-spot guidance and just-in-time feedback. It is my belief that feedback and guidance has to be immediate, not the next day or on the performance appraisal day, whenever that happens.
- Place value on knowledge and level of contribution, not on seniority, title, or how loudly one argues. Dan Pink states that “mastery” is one of the top motivators for people. Placing explicit value on master knowledge and expertise creates a culture of learning and improving.
Probably most people would agree with what I wrote above. None of this is new or ground-breaking and seems to fit well with the Fast Company article. However, I am always amazed by how everyday practices differ from the above. Under the typical pressures of budget and schedule, it is easy to deviate from these best practices and fall back on a more rigid system. When the purpose is collaboration and innovation, there is no faster way to failure with competitive performance systems.
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