The Challenge of Performance
As a leader, your ability to manage performance has a direct impact on the success of your team. It is critical that you foster an environment where your staff are in constant pursuit of their own personal best, while aligned to achieve a common goal. As you may know, this is often easier said than done. The workplace is full of distractions that can reduce your team’s performance and add additional challenges to the manager’s role. Phil, a senior-level manager and a client of ours, explains:
“The budget release is only a few more weeks away. This is always a stressful time, but I think this year will be one of the toughest I’ve seen. Already, my staff are beginning to gossip and stress about the changes that will undoubtedly take place over the next few months, and it’s taking its toll on the team. Now more than ever I need to get the most out of my people, but during such trying times, how can I refocus my team on business?”
4 Steps to Help You Manage Performance
Step 1: Recognize the Threat
Breakthroughs in neuroscience have shown us that there are similarities between the brain’s reactions to physical and emotional pain. For example, a threat reaction occurs in the brain when a person feels that they are in immediate danger. The brain reacts by prioritizing safety and survival. This same threat reaction in brain activity also takes place when the outcome of a situation is uncertain. It’s important to understand that Phil’s team members are not acting against him. Their brains are simply wired to respond to the uncertainty of the upcoming budget release the same way as they would respond to a threat.
Step 2: Ask About It
Before a solution is found, Phil must gain a full understanding of his team’s challenges. More importantly, Phil must not assume that he already understands what the challenges are. If you’re in a similar situation, you may want to schedule time with each of your team members to discuss how the current uncertainty is affecting them, and be sure to listen more than you talk. Use an approach that will provoke discussion, such as “I’m aware that there is uncertainty about the next few months. I just wanted to check in and see how it’s affecting you.”
Tip: To reduce apprehension to talk openly, ask “How is it affecting the people around you?” Often the answer will accurately reflect that individual’s feelings.
Step 3: Empathize
Actively imagine yourself in your employee's position. How would you feel if your job was in jeopardy? How will you pay the mortgage? Should you be working on your resume or looking for a new job? Allow yourself to feel the way each person might feel, then approach the situation in a way in which you’d like to be approached. This will help build trust and reduce their threat reaction.
Step 4: Refocus
This is a tough step that will require you to utilize the best of your leadership abilities. Convey the message that, even though we don’t know what’s next, we still have an important job to do. Ask if there’s any way to help them deal with the situation, or if there’s anything they need to ensure they are able to deliver on expectations. Get them to verbalize those expectations and realign as required. And, most importantly—follow up. If they ask for something, do it and check back to make sure it helped. If they don’t ask for anything, let them know you’ll be checking in again in the next couple weeks to make sure they’re okay.
Maintaining safe and open communication and a “we” mentality with your employees is a great way to get the best out of your people. If you’re looking for more support to better manage performance in your workplace, The Leadership Group offers workshops that help you raise consciousness needed for excellence in team coaching. We provide a fresh approach to the challenges that surround the management and review of workplace performance. By teaching leaders to apply new skills to real-world leadership environments, the experience trains participants to create teams who function at peak efficiency, perform insightful analysis, generate creative solutions, productively resolve conflict and work harmoniously—even during times of intense emotional change. We also offer individual and group coaching to support leaders who are managing this change.