The way you set goals can make or break success

Ever since organisations were created for the purposes of producing a profit, organisational leaders have been interested in finding ways to improve performance. Over the years there have been many theories and methods which have risen and fallen in popularity, the focus most recently being on technology-led platforms that not only support improved performance but claim to be able to predict future behaviour. Of course, there are also the usual suspects like performance reviews, employee surveys, 360 reviews and goal-setting.

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So what works? Not too long ago we used our EmployeeLife survey platform to post a single question poll across LinkedIn. What we discovered is that only 30% of respondents agreed that their company’s performance system helped to actually improve performance. This would seem to indicate that performance is less about systems and more to do with what’s involved.

It’s the intention that really counts!
In today’s ‘VUCA’ (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, it’s difficult to plan anything with any confidence. Yet, just like any journey you might set out on, there is usually an intention (goal) that will be important. Whilst most ‘performance’ systems seem to focus a lot of attention on the past to analyse what happened, its the original intention that provides the biggest influence on behaviours and actions. Everything shuffles into place according to what the future requires. If this future isn’t clear, then it’s hard to know what to do next. Our performance drumbeat approach focuses on setting a small number of highly important future goals, and then identifying the key actions and behaviours that are most likely to lead to these being achieved. This is the best way we know to guide the many day to day decisions that team members need to make, at scale!

However whilst setting clear intentions and goals is super important, there is a dark side to goal-setting. Goals are created using imagination and best-guess, and it is almost impossible to know with any certainty how things will play out in reality. That is not to say goals are not useful, they are extremely useful. It’s the blind attachment to them that can severely impact success. Going after a goal even though it is discovered the original assumptions are incorrect is a sure-fire way to waste a lot of time and effort, and then there’s the impact on employees and customers. Not good.

It is for this reason that we suggest a cycle of having everyone regularly self-reflect on how things are going and what needs changing. By adopting a realistic approach to goal setting, the chances of success can dramatically increase.

Why is having a Performance Drumbeat important?
There is a reason Bands have drummers and Orchestras have conductors. Regardless of how good each individual musician is, the magic happens when they play well together. Even freestyle jazz musicians play together with ‘rules’ governing how they will play moment to moment.

And so it is with workplaces. Whilst really gifted teams might be able to make things up as they go, this is rarely a successful strategy. A performance drumbeat is simply a cycle of important success habits that keeps everyone and everything dancing to the same beat. With a simple and clear framework to guide performance, it puts everyone in the best position to succeed (and adjust) together.

The characteristics of an effective performance drumbeat are shown in this diagram.

Notice the important elements:

  • Clear goals/intentions – a small number.
  • Identify key actions and behaviour, and focus attention on these.
  • Agreement about what is important – the ‘rules’ of the game.
  • Clear expectations about performance and standards.
  • Removal of unnecessary ‘clutter’.

The Performance Drumbeat sets in place a foundation of simplicity, clarity and real-time progress towards what needs to be achieved. Our My Employee Life platform was specifically designed to support this cycle of success habits in a really simple way.

Creating Space For Success In 2020 & Beyond

The problem is too much to do.

Every organisation on the planet will at some point want to find new ways to improve workplace success.  Your workplace may even be asking itself ‘what more can we do to improve performance’?

Artificial Intelligence and HR Analytics are promising, but of course this requires time, effort and resources to get right.  In today’s world of tight budgets, resource constraints and too much to do, the problem is that everyone is already overwhelmed and has too much to do.  There is no time to implement new processes, systems and solutions!

Without room to move, everything becomes stuck and nothing meaningful can happen which is a significant problem for things like employee engagement and customer experience.

It is a problem for many organisations, small and large.

The solution is to create more space.

We have created a technique called Less Is More, a type of 30-day sprint that achieves two simple but important things.  First, it highlights anything that is currently unnecessary and getting in the way of your workplace’s success.  You know, unnecessary processes, wasteful spending, things that don’t make sense to anyone. Second, it ensures there is an action plan to remove or eliminate these things, delivering immediate benefits.  This then creates the space needed to implement other things that need to happen without everyone feeling there is even more to do.  It’s a streamlined approach that generates immediate measurable outcomes.

How?

  1. We ask everyone just three simple questions to tap into their expertise.
  2. With results available instantly, we support teams to co-create action plans within specific guidelines.
  3. We help to keep everyone accountable to their plan.
  4. We help you communicate the outcomes of everyone’s efforts.  Yes, ensuring every single idea is addressed!

Within 30 days, your workplace will have taken actions that improve productivity, efficiency and employee engagement without doing anything more!    Repeat the process a few months later and keep the cycle going.

Already doing too many surveys?  If you aren’t already getting the outcomes you need from your existing employee surveys, stop doing them and replace with our technique.

Will everyone participate?  In our experience, people love suggesting ways that will make their working life easier.  They also love seeing immediate action and tangible results.

Why is this approach effective?

We help you move away from relying on business leaders to figure everything out themselves and implement suggestions ‘top-down’ that nobody ends up feeling any ownership over.  It’s the people who are closest to the action that know exactly what isn’t working, they just need to be asked in the right way.  When each team/department discusses what should be eliminated, it gives them input and ownership over the outcomes – this is incredibly engaging. 

The great news is that it creates minimal disruption to existing day-to-day activities. We are here to help all the way.

How to create a winning Workplace Culture

A great workplace culture is one where everyone has an opportunity to succeed, and is actually succeeding! In this article, we share a few simple principles that we use ourselves to make sure we are succeeding and winning together in a way that is still enjoyable to be part of.

There is no doubt that ‘workplace culture’ is a complicated topic at the best of times. Everyone seems to have a slightly different view on what this really means. To us, it is really simple. Your workplace culture is the sum total of all behaviours of everyone associated with the company and its products/services, including leaders, employees, customers, suppliers and the community. It is not something that can be owned by just by Leaders, or HR, or any particular ‘culture champions’. It is owned by everyone whether they like it or not. At Optimum Consulting Group, when we first thought about creating a platform that could support workplace success, we knew the first thing we needed to consider was the impact on culture (something we are also advising our clients about this everyday). We knew that to create and maintain an awesome workplace culture where everyone is in a position to succeed, we had to get the basic foundations right first. Here are three principles that we believe help to create a great workplace culture. We call them non-negotiables!

#1 – Creating a fair and valuable exchange

If you think about it, almost everything to do with work is based on the principle of exchange. A job is an exchange of x and y between company and employee, a conversation is an exchange of information between two or more people, a goal is an exchange of future intentions. What we know is that when you strip out all of the fluff that you read about in social media, what everyone really seems to want at work is to be part of a fair and valuable exchange. We know that if everyone is committed to this simple principle, a lot of workplace problems seem to disappear. So we made this something that we should not only commit to, but keep ourselves and everyone else accountable to it.

It’s actually a really simple idea. In every interaction with everyone you come in contact with, just make sure it is fair and valuable for everyone involved. It’s everyone’s responsibility! Sure there are going to be times where you think the balance of fairness and value is not weighed in your favour, but that brings us to the second principle.

#2 – If you have a problem or need help, speak up respectfully

We are all human beings with different perspectives of the world and have different ways of dealing with circumstances. Imagine how boring it would be if we were all the same! However, what this means is that to understand others, we need to be able to speak with them about it. The only way to truly understand something is to ask questions and exchange information as part of a conversation. Think about how many instant messages it takes to understand something that a one minute conversation could clear up instantly!

Consider this. If someone is upset about something but doesn’t say anything, who’s actually creating the problem? By making it everyone’s responsibility to speak up about what’s on their mind, it means that everyone doesn’t have to second guess if someone is needing help or upset about something.

However, this principle comes with an important prerequisite – speaking up needs to be respectful of others and conform to the principle of fair and valuable exchange. Constantly pointing out things that are wrong, or complaining about things that aren’t fair, isn’t really all that fair on others. Stomping towards the boss’s door every time something isn’t going your way is hardly fair on them, in the same way that ignoring appeals for help is not fair nor valuable. Reacting poorly to bad news or spreading gossip about someone who is going through a rough time is hardly a fair and valuable exchange. I am sure you get where we are going with this.

With these two principles in place, it makes this next principle much easier.

#3 – We all have our jobs to do, so lets do them

When I ask someone ‘what does your job involve’, I have never ever had anyone tell me that their job is to gossip, bully, discriminate or make life difficult for people around them. Even if a job description isn’t totally clear, rarely will anyone’s job involve any of these things. This simple principle is about focusing on doing what we are paid to do, and achieving what we set out to achieve. Sure there are plenty of speed bumps and problems that will surface on the journey, but let’s just get our jobs done to the best of our ability.

And this is where My Employee Life fits in. The only way a person can be successful in their job is if they know what they are supposed to be doing. If everyone is fully aware of their job responsibilities, and the things that really matter to success (actions and behaviours), everyone has a much better chance of succeeding.

This means that it is everyone’s job to know what their job is. If someone isn’t sure about what they should be doing principles 1 and 2 apply. In other words, all three simple principles work together. What we are left with is a workplace that doesn’t let unnecessary excuses creep in, which is better for everyone.


Should you implement the same principles?

Every workplace is different, however what we know is that the principles of success are largely the same. Set clear expectations and priorities, consistent non-negotiables that apply to everyone, and then encourage better conversations and interactions whilst creating momentum. Our suggestion is to discuss it with your teams and see what they think. The only people who can create your culture are the people involved, so it’s not a bad place to start.

And if you need some help to implement or want to discuss how to go about it, get in touch with us. We have something simple and effective to share with you.

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Create a product first please!