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Monica Wofford, CSP, is CEO of Contagious Companies, a training and consulting firm devoted to developing leaders who perform at higher levels.

Clarity, Disparity and Charity are all going to improve employee work performance. But how?

On the heels of recent posts including Can a Leader Identify a Top Performer with a Personality Profile? and Improving Work Performance with Rewards and Consequences, today’s “Monday Moments with Monica” will focus on how to do both: improve work performance and identify high performers with three simple steps.

Motivate with Clarity

Do you give those you lead clear direction? In other words, have you shared with them what you expect, what their goals are, and when they are expected to meet them? Chances are if you’ve been a leader for more than a minute, the answer here is yes. But then why do so many employees cite a lack of understanding of exactly what their bosses want from them as a key reason for job dissatisfaction and disengagement. A recent Stanford study shows that nearly 100% of CEOs wish they got leadership coaching

as a way of improving their own work performance. There are many factors for this but one clear issue here is that we all crave clear direction. In fact, in the face of ambiguity, most freeze. So whether you get that clarity from the outside or you’re the one giving it from the inside, clarity motivates. Want to improve work performance and find those really ready to go after what they want, give them clear parameters, clear guidelines and a very clear purpose and then watch them go, go, go!

Reduce the Disparity

I joke about it often, but it’s true: behavior is contagious. There’s also an old phrase that says “You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most”. The premise is that if you want better in life, find new friends. We see this “truth” and some take action on it, yet in the workplace, we consistently partner the top performers with those who are average thinking the top performer mentality will rub off. Sometimes it works, but more often the opposite affect occurs. Put high performers with other high performers and let them challenge each other. Put those performers who are average with someone who is just slightly better or stronger in an area and then allow the average performers providing only the minimum in work performance weed themselves out. Let those who see the opportunity to grow, do so. Then keep an eye on them and keep challenging them. When you reduce the disparity, you’ll begin to see incremental increases in improvements in work performance. In other words, they’ll either grow or go.

Remember Employment is Not Charity

Now this may come across sounding a bit harsh, but if what you want is to identify high performers and improve employee performance, then spend your time on just that: improving employee performance and finding more ways to help employees improve performance. That means that you would spend far less time on coaching or counseling those who show no signs or interest of improvement. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying, still coach those who struggle, but remember they have to show you they wish to no longer struggle in order for you to continue to find ways to help them improve their work performance.  You’re not giving them a handout, but simply a hand up. You’re not donating volunteer time to a charitable cause here you’re spending time with an employee, whose services and contributions you exchange for pay. And even if you don’t physically cut the check, you have every right to expect results from your efforts. Consider it an employee ROI. This means that if you’re spending all your time with those doing it wrong,  two things are standing in your way of improving overall employee performance and finding or developing more high performers:

  1. High performers now understand that to get to spend time with you they have to perform at lower levels
  2. Poor performers are allowed to stay, might be getting in the way, and are likely making you, others, and themselves less energized than you need to be to motivate improvements.

Enhancing employee performance, identifying high performers and improving the work performance of both has as much to do with the leader as it does the employee. We train people how to treat us, so yes, that means that if work performance is not where you’d like it to be, as much as we don’t want to admit it, the leader might be… ahem… part of the problem.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

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