If there is anything that 2020 taught us, it’s that taking care of ourselves and each other is the single most important priority we have. In the workplace, it is a leader’s first job to make sure that happens.
In 2020, we also (re)learned that what got us here won’t get us there. Leadership and success, today and into the future, looks different. Organizations and the workforce are in a time a significant transition, and continue to evolve in a turbulent, uncertain and shifting environment. Global, national and environmental change is forcing bold re-imagination and transformation. To inspire performance excellence in this new landscape, leaders need to show up and behave differently. Embracing a new style of performance management is a critical part of successfully navigating this new world.
The seismic changes taking place in leadership, people and and performance across industry have been developing for some time. In 2019 (before the world changed), the HRCI cited that “a 2017 McKinsey Global Survey found that 54% of respondents said their performance reviews had no positive impact on performance. Some respondents found their organization’s performance management process to actually do more harm than good.” Why the dismal perception? The primary reason is that most managers aren’t effective at offering feedback, evaluating performance or designing development plans. They’ve been trained poorly or simply don’t know how to develop others. As McKinsey’s survey demonstrates, poor performance management can be uncomfortable, disempowering and demotivating. Worse than doing nothing at all!
Our work with clients supports this research; there is an increasing interest in exploring new ways to develop people and manage performance. Assessing the new word of work, leaders can see that traditional performance management isn’t working, that a strong pathway for meaningful and motivating feedback and growing stronger is missing. What’s more, beyond addressing performance gaps, leaders know that their employees really want to be more inspired, innovative, and impactful in their roles.
Shifting from “problem fix” to “growth opportunity” – moving from the symptom to the system
One of the core complaints we hear about performance management is that it focuses on fixing problems and “what’s wrong,” rather than giving employees opportunities to learn and grow. Leaders focus too often on the most glaring issues, trying to fix symptoms rather than develop a healthy system.
What this looks like in action is investment in training around feedback and goal setting, turn-around coaching for underperforming individuals, or expanding employee incentives and rewards. When leaders only emphasize fixing the problems, they miss the opportunity to take a step back and see how the system as a whole can be designed to support employees to be at their best.
Employees don’t want to be thought of as problems that need to be fixed; they want to be inspired people who are encouraged to grow and be successful. We agree.
It’s time to turn the traditional performance management approach upside down and ignite next level performance.
A different kind of leadership in 2021
Leaders have a unique opportunity to create the conditions, environment and culture in organizations that enable employees to have their best days more often, to inspire individual, collective and organizational success. Simultaneously focusing on development, wellbeing, and performance is more complex and nuanced than focusing on performance alone. How do leaders balance expectations that it’s OK to “fail” and learn from it while holding a high bar for performance excellence? How do leaders continue to expect the high-quality results necessary for the system to thrive while also encouraging employees to focus on their personal wellbeing? We used to see these as tensions between dueling priorities; now, largely as a result of the stressors and transformations in 2020, we see these priorities as a “both, and” instead of an “either, or.”
The four characteristics of successful organizations in 2021
As we look ahead to 2021 and beyond, organizations that create integrated systems for deliberately developing inspired leaders will stand apart and succeed. At InspireCorps, we call this inspiration strategy, a strategic approach to growing a system that simultaneously prioritizes people’s wellbeing, development and performance.
While each organization’s inspiration strategy will look different on the surface, they all include a strategic focus on the following four core focus areas:
1. Inspired Leadership at the Top – it’s a leader’s first job to inspire self. Building a system that will produce the kind of agility, creativity, ambition, resilience, collaboration and drive that organizations will need for future success can only happen when it begins at the top. The truth is that unless senior leaders are deeply committed to modeling what they want to see, the organization will be limited by what they can achieve.
2. Deliberate Development of People and Performance Management – performance management that grows leaders while dually focusing on wellbeing and performance excellence. Our proprietary PULSE system is a new performance management model designed to increase engagement, strengthen communication and build trust around goal setting and performance to goals. It’s a fully integrated and aligned process anchored in inspiration as a driver of performance excellence. The PULSE program provides a framework, agendas, and tools for more frequent and meaningful feedback sessions between employees and managers to:
- Create an inspired leader development action plan
- Increase clarity + accountability around roles and responsibilities
- Strengthen communication + build trust
- Support personal + professional growth, learning, and success
3. Developing a Coaching Mindset and Culture – coaching is the fastest way to shift how one views oneself and others in a way that has positive effects on behavior, emotions and performance. Developing a coaching mindset, and the opportunity for positive change across an organization, will change communication and collaboration in a transformational way that leads to more effective decision-making, better problem-solving, greater well-being, and increased creativity and innovation. The five core characteristics of a coaching mindset are:
- Active Listening
- Radical Curiosity
- Practical Empathy
- Possibility Focus
- Relationship First
4. Powerful On-boarding for New and Newly Promoted Leaders of People – training often falls short of what it intends to do because it lacks a plan for integration and application that will make the behaviors “sticky”. To build a culture of inspired leadership and performance management will require the powerful on-boarding and development of any leader of people, who are coached on how to develop and inspire those they lead/manage. Rather than waiting until there are “problems to fix,” organizations can be proactive, investing in new leader launch coaching to support success out of the gate.
Together, these core focus areas define an organization’s commitment to inspiring leadership and performance management, and will allow it to achieve and sustain success into the future.
- As you look at the next year, what are you ready to build?
- How will you answer the new and evolving demands of the future?
- What could an inspired approach to people and performance look like in 2021?
We would love to support you, 2025 is calling.