(Time to read this Blog is about 2½ minutes)

Before we get to the main topic, here are a few things to get you thinking:

  1. My biz quote of the week:
    “Businesses don’t die from a single shot to the head…they die slowly but surely from a thousand uncompleted tasks.”
    …Donald Cooper.
  2. Failure to get things done and failure to deal with non-performance are two of the biggest problems in business today. The solution is simple.  Create a culture of clarity and commitment.  Every time you give someone a task or project, ask this important question, “By when can we agree that this will be completed?”  Then document the commitment, follow up, reward success and deal quickly with non-performance.
  3. ‘Up’ your commitment to training. One of the biggest and most frequent complaints I hear from my biz clients is that they can’t find properly trained staff.  Hunter Douglas, the famous seller of window blinds, had the same problem.  They struggled to find properly trained installers.  So they set up a Training School that offers 3 levels of instruction.

a) The online Professional Installer

b) The in-person ‘hands-on’ Certified Installer programs are offered several times each year in Broomfield, Colorado with 40 to 45 participants in each class.

c) The in-person ‘hands-on’ Master Installer program is also offered several times a year.

With this highly trained team of properly trained installers, most of whom operate as independent contractors, the final customer touch-point of having the Hunter Douglas blinds installed always goes smoothly.  These well-trained installers can also handle most repairs required over the years right on-site without having to remove the blinds, send them to the factory and then re-install them later on.  This saves Hunter Douglas a ton of money and keeps customers happy.

So, how committed are you to training your team?  It’s easier to just whine and complain about the lack of trained staff…but taking the initiative and making a commitment is a much better way to go!

Now, to this week’s important topic:

Performance reviews should be a process, not an event:

In most businesses, performance reviews don’t take place at all and, when they do, they’re dreaded by both parties and generally ineffective. Here’s a simple thought…performance reviews should be a process, not an event.

If the employee’s performance is good, why wait months to tell them…and if their work is unsatisfactory, why let the non-performance carry on for months before mentioning it?

Everyone who has ever tried to train a dog not to poop on the carpet knows that drawing this to the dog’s attention 6 months after the fact is ineffective and confuses the heck out of the dog.

So, performance reviews should be an ongoing, regular and immediate process.  Comment on, praise and reinforce positive actions immediately and explain how this action will move the business forward. And, deal with non-productive or inappropriate actions immediately, explaining why it’s counter-productive and how it can be, and must be, done better…but do that in private.

As I was leaving Costco last evening, there was only one ‘checker’ person at the exit and a long lineup of folks trying to leave the store.   For you non-Costco shoppers, a ‘checker’ is an employee at the exit who checks what’s in each departing customer’s cart against what’s itemized on their bill to make sure that they’re not shoplifting.

A very authoritative supervisor appeared out of nowhere and started yelling at this poor ‘checker’ guy that this is bad customer service and when there’s a long line, he should call for backup.  She tore into this guy right in front of dozens of customers…and that’s just wrong.

Effective and frequent ‘mini performance reviews’ should be part of your ongoing training, coaching and mentoring process for each team member. This is a much more effective approach than the typical once or twice a year dreaded performance reviews that are either boring non-events or hysterical and dysfunctional ‘blame and rebuttal’ sessions.

Failure to acknowledge, reward and promote top performers is also a big problem in many businesses.  When not appropriately appreciated, top performers will either disengage and reduce their performance, or they’ll quit.  When good people leave because they feel under-appreciated, you lose a major contributor, it costs you big money to find and train a replacement …and, if they go to a competitor, it hurts you doubly.

A simple tip for tracking employee performance over time is to create a file for each person reporting to you. Every time they have a significant success, significant failure or behavioral problem, after you speak to them about it, make a quick note, date it and place it in their file.  Then, when you’re evaluating staff for raises or promotions you have an accurate, balanced record of their performance.

When the time comes to terminate someone, it’s also essential to have that written record of non-performance and proof that they’ve been talked to repeatedly about the need to get their act together, when those conversations took place, and what the result was.  If you get sued for ‘wrongful dismissal’, the side with the best documentation generally wins.

By the way, failure to deal with non-performance is one of the biggest

problems in many businesses today.  Who are the ‘non-performers’ on your team that need to improve or move on …and what are you doing to deal with that?

Bonus tip:  When speaking with an employee about the need to improve their performance or attitude in some specific way, the magic question to ask is, “By when can we agree that this will be done?”   Agree on a clear and specific time by which the required improvement will take place and ask them for a plan as to how they will achieve this improvement.  Then follow up to ensure that it has been done.

Everyone on your team is part of your value, or part of your problem.  What are you doing to reward and grow your ‘value’ people, and to rescue or dismiss your ‘problem’ people?  Ongoing mini ‘performance reviews’, combined with ongoing coaching, mentoring encouragement and recognition are much better than the traditional and ineffective annual or semi-annual performance appraisal ‘events’.

That’s it for this week…

Stay safe…live brilliantly!       

Donald Cooper 

Donald Cooper speaks and coaches internationally on management, marketing, and profitability.  He can be reached by email at donald@donaldcooper.com in Toronto, Canada.

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