A Better Way to Grow and Develop People
My journey in growing employees took a sudden turn several years ago. I was part of an aggressive business that was pulling together multiple businesses in the same industry, all in the name of “growth.” One of the companies we pursued turned the tables, and we found ourselves being acquired. I was shocked and had no idea what was in store. However, God knew this was to be one of the best things to ever happen in my corporate career.
We experienced a dramatic change in the leadership in our organization. I was now with some of the brightest, healthiest, and most authentic leaders I had ever worked with. While we were not formally organized as – or promoted as – a Christian organization, virtually all the values and interactions we practiced were deeply rooted in Christian principles. How refreshing!
These new leaders questioned everything we did. They wanted us to be sure we knew why we were doing what we were doing.
Eventually, I grew into the leadership of Human Resources, and we became a Fortune 100 corporation. As we were always looking for the healthiest pathways to improvement, I vividly recall us asking two key questions: “Should we even continue investing our energies into the annual performance review?” and “Are there better pathways to grow and develop our people?”
We were seeing little to no fruit being borne out of the once-a-year performance review event. The employees we had brought together in the multiple acquisitions seemed to strongly dislike this perfunctory annual administrative task. Everyone was simply going through the motions. However, before I unilaterally dismissed a review process that had been around longer than I had, I decided to identify what we were doing that seemed so unhealthy.
Here are some of the common mistakes I identified.
Review processes that were often about fault-finding, catching mistakes, and casting blame
Review processes that left employees feeling caught off-guard
Review processes conducted by managers who were not trained in how to coach and conduct ongoing feedback
Review processes that lacked consistency across the organization, so the manager was unclear in what to measure or evaluate
Thinking all employees should be assessed in exactly the same way
Talking without listening
Not developing our people and therefore consistently creating an unhealthy culture
Perpetuating the mindset in which, “The leader is the only one who is allowed to think.”
Since then, I’ve come to realize that these mistakes to managing employee growth are common to many organizations including Christian organizations.
As Christian leaders, these common mistakes should challenge us, grieve us, and spur us on to change. We need an immediate course correction! What if we viewed growing our people as an opportunity to build trust, to create commitment and engagement? Then we could achieve results together. We would absolutely create a culture that fosters high performance and is ultimately transformational for our people and our organizations.
THE BIG QUESTION
So, how do you create a framework that develops your people, grows your organization, and honors God? This is the same question I asked those years ago and it helped us identify a different pathway to a much healthier outcome. Discovering the answer has been a long, but rewarding journey.
Just a couple of years ago, that journey led me to answer the God’s call to leave the corporate world and enter the business operations of a large non-profit: leading human resources for the global headquarters of The Gideons International. Upon arrival, I discovered some of the same issues regarding performance management that seem to riddle so many organizations today.
So, does Scripture have anything to say regarding managing the growth of people? We can certainly find specific and intentional application in Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents) regarding faithfulness to steward our gifts.
Just as the servants in the parable of the talents were entrusted with a portion of their master’s money, we are entrusted with gifts and talents that are to be used to grow the organizations God has entrusted to us. It is the responsibility of each one of us to steward our talents in the same manner as the wise servant stewarded his master’s money – he multiplied what was originally entrusted to him. This isn’t about perfectionism, but about a deep heart condition to honor God with an intentional determination of only giving our best.
Over the years, I have made it a practice to learn from the Global Leadership Summit. Their leadership insights continually remind me that healthy leaders coach their employees and move people from “here to there.” They move people to a preferred future that includes both personal and professional growth. It’s a future that requires an intentional plan versus hoping and wishing for things to get better. It’s an inspiring plan that moves us out of our complacency and builds momentum, confidence and trust.
To accomplish a task of this magnitude we need a mindset shift.
We need to shift from the performance-review only approach (backward looking, reflecting only on past accomplishments/opportunities), to performance management (a holistic approach to managing and growth incorporating past, present, and future).
As our workforce evolves, we can already see an influx of the millennial generation and Gen Y. These younger workers expect daily, meaningful feedback and development strategies. The continual desire for feedback and development is also prevalent in high-performing individuals who tend to seek regular feedback, regardless of their age.
To achieve this “preferred future,” I propose that performance management becomes a vehicle to reinforce the values and the direction of our organizations.
According to the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, many “certified best” Christian workplaces use performance management processes to help direct performance. This then elevates the level of ministry effectiveness and encourages practices that build healthy workplaces. The healthy workplaces are yet another indicator that there is a direct link between flourishing cultures and effective performance management processes. That’s why it is so important to have well-trained managers and employees with a structured process for regular, ongoing, healthy communication.
So, how do you create a framework that develops your people, grows your organization, and honors God?
If you’re looking to achieve the greatest results from performance management, the focus of leaders much be on the processes related to employee coaching and development. According to a study in the December 2007 edition of Talent Management, coaching generated a 150 percent greater return that the “performance-review only” approach.
“Authentic Christian Leadership” was the theme of the Spring 2013 edition of Outcomes. The correlation between the two issues couldn’t be any more direct. Our organizations are best served by our leaders and managers when we change our mindset and view the performance management process as regular, ongoing coaching opportunities, all the while trying to engage in each interaction with a “how can I help you succeed” approach.
When we personally develop the core competencies of authenticity and attentiveness, we will actively listen, making every interaction an opportunity to learn and connect with one another. Through this process we are able to intentionally develop an authentic relationship and gain the privilege of speaking into one another’s lives.
A well-done performance management process yields higher levels of engagement, retention, and organizational performance. The key is to change the focus: Concentrate on establishing effective performance management behaviors first, and then make sure the performance management system reinforces and supports those behaviors, ultimately driving to results/outcomes. Performance management must be more than a formal appraisal system; it should be an everyday part of a high-performance culture.
Effective performance management requires regular and ongoing activity, including:
Communicating expectations on a regular basis
Providing feedback in real time whenever exceptional or poor performance is observed
Finding new opportunities to help employees develop expertise that will maximize his/her potential
The best leaders avoid the common mistakes and exhibit the following positive attitudes and characteristics:
Coach (Communicate and influence others toward a positive outcome.)
Empower your team. Stop micromanaging and be results-oriented.
Express interest in team member’s personal success, well-being, and professional development.
Communicate and listen to your team.
Express a clear vision and strategy for the team with opportunity for buy-in.
Demonstrate that you have technical skills, so you have the credibility to help advise the team.
When you focus on these healthy habits you are able to continually upgrade the leadership capabilities of your organization. And it gives every member of your leadership team some level of control over the outcome.
Ultimately, every team wants to win. However, successful execution relies upon the commitment and plans of capable leadership. Fortunately, as Christians, divine assistance is available. While it’s not automatic, we can “Commit [our] works to the Lord, and [our] plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3 NRSV).
The difference between the unsuccessful and the successful is their commitment to personally grow and develop their potential. I encourage you to make this commitment for yourself and your organization. When properly executed, this daily investment will yield both personal and professional growth in your people and your organization.
Originally Published in Outcomes Magazine