Thursday, May 8, 2008

Performance Expectations - Clear in Sports, Blurred in Business

Performance expectations are clear and mutually understood in the sporting world, but blurred for employees in most businesses.

In the sporting world, each and every player knows his position, his roles, and responsibilities. And, maybe more importantly, each knows how his contributions impact the outcomes of the team.

Every wide receiver knows that he is a wide receiver. The very position is aligned with his athletic strengths. He knows where to line up for a particular play, and where he is to run his route. He knows blocking assignments and decoys. He knows whether he is primary on a given play in a given situation. When a pass comes his way, he knows what he is to do. Once he catches it, he applies different skills to evade would be tacklers on his way toward a goal known by all the other players on the field. A good player is able to improvise in accordance where necessary, in accordance with the common goal.

In the business world, only a few employees actually know their position, their roles, or their responsibilities. More importantly, only a very few actually each know how their contributions impact the outcomes of the company.

In the business world, employees often know little more about their job than their job title, and some generally related activities. That may be it. And, sadly, that job may not utilize the best strengths and attributes of the employee at all. Unbelievable as it sounds, this data is supported by employee surveys again and again.

Employee surveys indicate that only 40% know the primary goals and missions of the company. Only 20% know how their job contributes to those goals. Only 20% even care. Only 20% know how their regular activities impact profitability. They come to work to do their job. When it comes to improvising, or innovating, since they don't really know what matters most, they choose not to. And, in a crunch, employees don't know how to choose the most productive activity in unique situations.

Businesses Lack Strong Employee Alignment - Expectation Need Clarity

Imagine not knowing the real end game. Imagine not knowing which end zone, or which basket is yours. Imagine not knowing what is a win, or what is a loss. It would spell failure in sports. In business, however, it only spells mediocrity, lack of engagement and contribution, resulting in less-than-optimal performance. Management must continually step in, micro-manage, sometimes applying pressure, most of which is misunderstood by the employees involved.

Poor alignment is like having a team where many of the players, somehow, without knowing it, undermine your ability to achieve. They are effectively working to benefit the opposition.

Businesses Struggle to Get the Best From Their Players

Ever wonder why some employees seem to lose interest over time? It's the same reason that they aren't continually increasing their contributions over time. People love to work for great outcomes. Gen X and Gen Y employees aren' t terribly interested in trading their time for a paycheck. They want to be working with other engaged people to accomplish great things. They want to win. If an enterprise has no greater goal than "maximizing shareholder value" or "making money," you can be sure your best people will just bide their time until something better comes along.

Do You Have a Vision, a Purpose and a Mission?

This is the most undervalued, and misunderstood essential when it comes to recruiting the best, and aligning them achieve great goals for your enterprise. It provides the answer to an often unasked question: Why should the very best people want to be a part of our company?

I am amazed how few executives I work with have clearly determined why their company exists in the first place. I mean, why, really. Why this industry? Why now? Why here? What about our customers? What impact does our company have on them? Are we here to make any difference? If so, what difference is that?

If your company should go out of business, will it be missed? If you don't know how you'll be missed, or who will really miss you, I recommend getting alone with some of your key stakeholders, or your employees and getting the answer. If you don't know, I guarantee your people don't know. Even if you do, it's probably a good bet that most of your people don't. If they don't, they don't know why they work for you, making them easy prey for your competitor. (You do realize that over 60% of employees are just biding their time working with you, waiting for a better opportunity to come along before they jump ship.)

What Should you do? Get clear about some things:

- Know what it means to win.

- Know your purpose. Develop a clear vision and mission for your enterprise.

- Communicate. Inspire your people. Engage them in the common call.

You'll begin to attract more winners, people who will know why they want to work with you. They'll know what it means to win, and how their involvement affects the outcome. Then, they'll make greater and greater contributions, ones that move you closer to the goal. Hindrances will decrease. Your customer and competition will take notice of you. You'll make a mark.

You'll start to stack up more wins. And that means, in the end, you'll make a lot more money.

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