Three Questions for Performance Management

Ask any manager about their least favorite tasks, and more than likely they’ll put performance evaluations at or near the top of the list.

Why? Lots of reasons, not the least of which is the ‘Gotcha!’: an assumption that you need to find something deficient in each staff member, and come up with a prescription for fixing it, thereby improving performance. All too often, you’re going to find something that the person thinks they are doing very well (and they may be right), or something they have no interest in doing better. At worst, you’re expected to assign tasks or reassign job responsibilities to develop one person’s undesired something, which may well be a task or a job that someone else on your team really enjoys (or would enjoy) doing!

Here’s an even better approach. Just ask these three questions:

  • Are you doing enough of what you like?
  • Are you doing too much of what you don’t like?
  • What can we do to change these things and make them better?

If someone isn’t doing enough of what they really like, they are probably:

(a) in the wrong job,

(b) looking for another job,

(c) not very productive, or

(d) all of the above!

If someone on your team is doing too much of what they don’t like, the problem may not reside in the individual, but rather, in the team. The causes: a team that is missing people with key needed Roles; the team’s vision, mission, or goals have not been communicated clearly enough; or, there is less-than-optimal coherence on the team.

The good news is that you can change these conditions and make the team work better for everyone.

Start with a little team analysis: Teamability® Self-coaching reports for the whole team, yourself included. Then compare who you have (the Roles) with what you need (the right Roles for the team’s mission). Finally, look at what needs to be done, figure which person is best prepared (by Role) to achieve each need, and confirm with people that they have the right tools – and teammates – to do their job better.

The whole point of performance evaluation is to improve performance. Try this approach and the improvement will be obvious to management, to your staff, and to you!

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You want ‘Team Chemistry’? Start with Biology and Physics!

Forbes’ publisher Rich Karlgaard drew a line in the sand when he launched an article entitled Teams Matter, Talent Is Not Enough. And then along came the brilliant research of Adam Grant, set forth in his NY Times best-seller Give and Take. Dr. Grant proved that, contrary to a particularly nasty old adage, nice people frequently finish first.

I see these two writings (and waves of commentary along the same lines) as the beginning of the end of the ‘hire-only-the-best-and-brightest’ era. For the longest time, hiring has been all about talents, traits, skills, education, and experience. Now, we’re returning to a more complex and enlightened place in which the way a person ‘teams’ is gaining attention and awareness for its critical value.

People speak wistfully about ‘team spirit’, as if it were a kind of magic spell that could be cast by only the most enlightened of leaders or coaches. Now the phrase ‘team chemistry’ is coming back into vogue, and that’s a lot closer to the truth. Teamwork does indeed embody chemistry.

Not ‘I like you” chemistry. Real hard-science chemistry, and biology, and physics.

Biology has given you some inborn drives. One of them drives you to learn and master your world. Another drives you to connect with other people. Put the two together and you get the basic reason humans form teams. Including, by the way, that most basic of teams: the twosome.

Physics, which is essentially the science of how stuff works, explains a lot about the way to build a physical structure (or infrastructure) that won’t collapse when an earthquake or tornado hits. Think of what that takes. Strong parts connect with other strong parts in a very strong way. (Okay, that won’t get you an engineering degree, but it’s at the core of building anything complex. And you can’t have a team with just one person, right? You’ve got the drift, right?)

For the moment, let’s just focus in on that ‘very strong connect’ part. In human beings, that’s called interdependency. It’s what causes us to lean on each other and not topple over when bad things happen – like economic tremors causing our employer’s ‘Richter scale’ to register above 4.5.

So, just to review before we get to the midterms…

We have people with fundamental biological drives, which vary. (We can measure that variance, thanks to a new ‘team science’ that applies to any team in any kind of organization.)  And these drives operate within the framework of a team, and fundamental elements of teamwork, which follow the rules of physics.

Now we’re ready to tackle chemistry.

Even if high school or college chemistry is just a faded memory for you, you might be familiar with the principal of valence, aka covalent bonding. Or (depending on when you went to school) molecular orbital theory, which begat modern valence bond theory. No matter the name, or the level of detail in scientifically explaining how atoms form molecules, valence is about attraction. The most important thing you need to know about attraction between two entities is that it happens because there are physical forces that come into play to balance out an unstable imbalance. This creates ‘completeness.’

When you understand the teaming energy that is inherent in each person on the team, then you can predict how they will handle adversity, change, or just plain old stress. You can also predict the focus and drive they will apply to the fulfillment of a team mission. In the language of Teamability® these attributes are called ‘Role’.

Ready for team chemistry? Here’s the formula:

In humans, ‘completeness’ happens on a team after you get the right biology, e.g., people motivated to do something big with a team, into the right physical configuration.

Since each Role exhibits a complementary (balancing and energizing) influence on one other Role, add only the Roles that are most appropriate to the team’s mission, and introduce them all to each other so that each can find their ‘Role-pair’.

Then step back and watch the sparks fly!