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One Size Does Not Fit All When It Comes To Performance Management

Everybody knows that profitable companies are successful because of their people.  I have spent a lot of time with managers of multiple organizations lately attending my Leading Millennials workshops, and performance management always comes up. I spent much of my career designing, deploying and owning performance management systems, and one thing is pretty common:  NO ONE HAS FUN DOING PERFORMANCE REVIEWS!  And hopefully we intuitively know that we need to invest in our people and we owe them feedback.

I am passionate about managing the talent within an organization.  And the stories that I hear over and over are about top talent moving on to another organization for  "a better opportunity."   That may be what they say in the exit interview, but we know it was because they did not like their manager, or they were not developed and challenge.  It is sad when our top talent leave and they didn't even know they were viewed as top talent.  I hear managers tell me, "I treat people the same because I don't want their egos getting in the way."  Well that is a tiny piece of the puzzle.  I am a firm believer in differentiating performance.  We are not all the same.  We have different learning styles, motivations, and views of our worlds.  Another insight: not all high performers are high potentials.  It's critical to understand the aspirations of our team members as well as measuring their skills and competencies.

Kyle Lagunas, HR Analyst at Software Advice, captured the essence of differentiation of high performance and high potentials in a great article. He interviewed one of my favorite performance management gurus, Malcolm Munro, and I wanted to share some key points from his post:

1. Managers' ability to distinguish between high-performing and high-potential employees is critical.

High-performers stand out in any organization: They consistently exceed expectations, and are management’s go-to for difficult projects. High potentials, however, can be more difficult to identify, because most valuable attributes (e.g. stress management, adaptability, business sense) aren't catalytic in entry-to-mid-level roles.

By working with leadership to codify distinct competencies, managers can profile the skills that ensure success in key roles—and be on the lookout for examples of both high performers and high potentials from day one.

2. In an increasingly transient workforce, performance can't be the only measure of talent.

In many organizations, performance is the primary measure of an employee's value in the organization. Star performers are promoted and rewarded, while diamonds in the rough become disengaged and move on.

High performance is important, of course.  And we can run a successful department full of them!  But if your end goal is to build a more robust talent pipeline (and it should be), performance can’t be the only point of entry.

3. Successful development (and retention) of both performers and potentials requires a tailored approach.

Recognition is key for High Performance/Low Potential employees. They need constant encouragement and challenging assignments. Give them the independence and engage them with projects that they can take full ownership of.

Alternately, while High Potential/Low Performance employees are hungry for more high-impact work, they need seasoning. On the job training is a great way to accomplish this, especially when pairing them with high performers. As they develop a stronger understanding of the organization and their role in it, give them projects to manage, new hires to train, and offer cross-training opportunities.

I really like the graphs he put together to determine development strategies for hi-po's and hi-performers.  I use a 9 box template for determining performance and potential during talent reviews. I am going to recommend my clients use these as well.

It does not have to be performance management time of year to manage performance and potential.  It is a full time job for leaders, and these tools are very useful and designed to make their lives easier!



Back to School

My 5 year old starts kindergarten in a few days and my 19 year old heads back to college for her junior year.  There is always a unique energy to this time of year for many of us.  The end of summer signifies it's time to kick back into gear for me.  Enough of dreaming about the summer cottage I want to own someday.  Or the smell of the sea air, and the extravagance of that lobster dinner.  It's time to get our brains in motion, and close out 2012 with a bang!

In the beginning of the summer I vowed to have Kate practice writing her upper and lower case letters, numbers and start a little reading.  We were off to a great start until we got to the beach, and then vacation brain settled in! But now that we are less than a week away, I dusted off the pre-K activity books and she spends at least 30 minutes a day on them.  And practice really does make perfect.  She plowed through those books in no time, and we headed to Costco to get the Kindergarten version.  My friend Kevin Eikenberry wrote a great post about practice recently that caused a pause and got my attention.  And how does it apply to me?

My PCC (Professional Certified Coach) credentials are renewable this year through the International Coach Federation.  Like other professional associations, we are required to earn 40 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to maintain the designation.  It's a 'back to school' of sorts, and it keeps the credibility of the credentialing alive.  And for coaches, there is no better way to continue to learn than to be coached as well.  I work with a couple of coaches each year, for different reasons, and every time I have a session I am reminded about the power of coaching.  I participated in two fantastic continuing ed programs this year.

I learned a lot more about Adult Development and I am now certified on a new assessment called The Hogan.

I was able to spend several days in the presence of my fellow coaches, many of whom have achieved Master Certified Coach status, and it was a great reminder how practicing your craft, your livelihood, or a hobby, is tantamount to continuous growth.

Sadly I know people that tell me they have no hobbies or outside interests.  And they watch a lot of TV, and they also report feelings of lethargy and even depression.  Keeping our minds active is CRITICAL!  We cannot allow our minds, and then our spirit and bodies to atrophy.

Practicing is hard.  Whether it is music, medicine, needlework, cooking, tennis, swimming, writing, or upper and lower case letters- establishing in a routine of consistent practice makes the brain happy and generative.

What do you need to practice more of?

Recent Comments
Guest — Jama Muschara
I need to practice more in taking steps to go after career goals that I feel passionate about instead of succumbing to self doubt ... Read More
Thursday, 30 August 2012 20:05
Guest — ermigrp
You are fabulous and will make a difference in all you do! Great meeting you today!
Thursday, 30 August 2012 23:58
Guest — Corporate Fundraising
Very true. Practice keeps the brain active and sharp. When you keep on practicing even if you think you know it already, you are c... Read More
Sunday, 19 October 2014 00:25

What Does Going For The Gold Mean For You?

2012 Olympic Gold

I LOVE Olympians!  Their sheer focus, determination and passion for perfection and winning is astounding.  Saying I am in awe of them is an understatement.  Just think about the astonishing goals they set out for themselves.  I took pause while I marveled over the gymnastics, track and field, swimming and diving competitions.  The physical fitness, the mental acuity, the agilty. Not enough words in the dictionary to give these athletes the praise they deserve in my book.   So of course I could not help but think about it being time for a in check on my New Year’s commitments.  It’s early August and we are almost 2/3 into 2012, or for the half empty crowd, 2/3 finished.  I found myself on an airplane to the west coast and was feeling a bit of the stress and tension of the nearly 5 hour flight when I thought to myself, how true to my commitments have I really been?  Distractions happen to all of us.  We make these resolutions each year, and then the year seems to slip by and we are having the same conversations with ourselves.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure, my 3 New Year’s commitments for 2012 are:

  1. A monthly massage.
  2. Start Yoga.
  3. And as I sit here on the plane, I struggle to recall the third one which tells me I probably have not done too well fulfilling this one if I can’t even remember it. Oh yes, a monthly day of rest (quite contrary to what these olympians do!)

So, I will be honest and say I have not had a massage since March.  I was on a good roll there for the first quarter…

Nope, no yoga either, although I am having a daily conversation with myself about health, and my desire to enter the half century mark like a lion.  I did get suckered into purchasing the NutriBullet while laying awake in Tracy, CA and could not stop watching the infomercial.  It is the Super Food Nutrition Distractor! just came in the mail.  My daughter Lexie an I are going to Wegman's this weekend, and maybe a Farmer's Market to buy fabulous fresh ingredients to try it out! And I even bought some Flax Seed at GNC as we awaited our Amtrak train back from NYC to BWI. I will write a review of the product in a future post!

And what about that day of rest each month? Ha!  I mock thee!

So what do we do with the self-talk that has not manifested into action?  What keeps us from making that behavior change?  Why is my health not a priority?

Many organizations conduct mid-year check in’s as a component of the performance management process.  This is an opportunity to ensure a dialogue between the leader and the associate occurs about goals and results.  Are the goals aligned to the mission?  Have environmental factors been modified that may require a tweak or revamp of the goals?  I believe it is a smart practice.

I am declaring a tweaking of my goals.  While I’d love to have a massage each month, I have determined it is far more important to spend quality time with family.  My dad turned 83 this summer and I want to spend more time with him.  I think my time and resources are better spent traveling to Connecticut and Buffalo so Kate can spend time with Grandma and Grandpa. How blessed is she to have two sets that love her?  And I want to be a more ‘present’ mom to Kate and step-mom to Lexie.  And Todd has worked very hard this year to hold down the fort while my travel schedule increased significantly, so he deserves some appreciation and attention.  So my retooled commitments are:

  1. Quality time with family.
  2. Quality time with family.
  3. Quality time with family.

My gold...and this way I won’t forget what they are.



Good News About Millennials


It has been about one year since I felt inspired to learn all I can about the 78 million Millennials (or Gen Y) and try to help businesses and Millennials engage and connect.  I have about a dozen books on the subject, researched 30-40 articles, interviewed about 50 people and have led workshops and keynotes all over the country.  I think the hype around “The Millennials are Coming” has been overplayed, and the reality is there are just a lot of misperceptions.  Probably the biggest a-ha is that they need a little hand holding at first.  They are used to a lot of structure and they just need to be shown, and also a lot structure in the beginning.  What was I like at the same age?  I needed some direction for sure, and I think the younger Boomers/ Gen Xers were a lot more autonomous is all, and that is the rub in the workforce now.  I just conducted a workshop for a 20 managers and the eyes were rolling when I reviewed what their Millennial new hires said they needed more of.  Here is a sampling from about 50 Millennials on what they said would help them thrive.

    • Structure – clear guidelines and expectations. Need to know exactly what to expect.  (Fear of failing, and needing acceptance and pats on the back is what keep them going.)
    • A Career Path – goal-oriented parents set these expectations.  Also these same parents likely gave their lives to their career, so they want to see the progression, raises and promotions.  When their parents got raises, their allowance went up.
    • Positive Feedback – need to know they are on the right track. Heating nothing discourages and distracts them.
    • A Fun Environment – stuffy workplace or drab office is a turn off.
    • Updated technology, apps, programs – outdated technology is a step back in time and a turn off.
    • Unique and Challenging Opportunities – many traveled extensively and exotically as a child, constant upgrades of gaming units, so get bored easily.
    • Reward the Whole Team – Many do not want to be called out amongst their peers.  Used to traveling in packs.  A safety in numbers mentality as a carry over from 9/11 reactions.

The Millennials I have observed are not the spoiled, arrogant brats the media or old school managers have made them out to be.  They are confident because of the positive messages they heard about themselves growing up (why is that horrible?). They are involved in many extra-curricular activities with non-profits and causes (explains why they don’t live to work), and they need some guidance, a little spoon feeding which very much frustrates their thirty something bosses that were left to figure it all out for themselves.

Pew Research/ Wikipedia

Remember what we have learned about neuroscience and hard wiring.  We are expecting them to come into the workforce thinking like a Gen X, but they were not raised the same way.  I had several Gen X managers a bit frustrated by this notion.

One of my favorite sayings in the workplace has been “Pay me now or pay me later but either way you are going to pay.”  Meaning, if I don’t invest in my people up front, if I don’t go out of my way to teach them, guide and mentor them, tell them what I think is obvious, then I will be spending a lot more time after the fact, and then I will be really frustrated.  So let me take the time now.  Invest in them now.  Hand hold them now.  Then how pleasantly surprised I will be when they take it on themselves, take a few risks, try new things.  Innovate, create, own it.

Ahhh, yes, then I can lean back and watch what engagement, loyalty and empowerment look like.  No, I know it is not that easy.  But it does not have to be that hard.  We make it more complex because we don’t want to do it.  I saw it in the faces.  I hear it with my coaching clients.      “If everyone just did their jobs….”, “If they just did what I said…”

How about “If they only heard it the way I meant it.” Or “If they were only engaged and passionate about their work.”  Or, “What could I be doing better/differently as a leader?”


Summer Vacations Are For Discovering What Matters


Well, I am back from a two-week respite with my family. It was the 30th anniversary of discovering the sleepy beach town in Maine where I have spent many of my last 30 birthdays. I was introduced to Ogunquit, Maine by an old friend and fell in love with it immediately. It was 1982, 3 years after my mother’s sudden death from a heart attack. I was 18, going on 19 and the quaint village was peaceful, beautiful and kind to my injured soul. There is quite a lot of history in Ogunquit. This year marked the infamous Ogunquit Playhouse’s 80th season.  The equally traditional Ogunquit Lobster Pound is in its 81st season.

The beach is a 3.5 mile stretch of vast sand and waves. During low tide, you can walk forever and not run out of beach. High tide by the ‘river side” is cozy and bustling with families and locals. There is a landmark called the Marginal Way that is a windy path that lines the rocky shoreline between the Main beach and Perkins Cove. Trailed with memorials, flowers, and stunning seascapes, it makes my heart happy. It is on the Marginal Way that I found solace in 1982 regarding the loss of my mom. 

I am a Cancer astrologically, and the water is an important element in my existence, yet I have only lived there seasonally while in college.

I worked at Valerie’s Restaurant back in the day. It is no longer there, but anyone that had traveled or lived there knows it was a high end eatery run by Mrs. G and the Captain, opened in 1947 and was famous for serving seafood and Greek specialties, and a fabulous Piano Bar led by the talented Lou. Everyone knew Mrs. G and she would welcome you with the darling “Hello Doll” and you knew you were in the family. Stars from the summer theater would come dine there late night to enjoy a lobster roll, or some of the delicious spanakopita while several other patrons sang the usual Broadway tunes. As a ‘former’ singer and karaoke fanatic, my tunes of choice were “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and “The Rose.” It was a popular place, and I met the best people there. In fact, I recently reconnected with the owner’s family, a lovely couple who remained in Ogunquit, and everyone knows their name. A lot has changed since I first found Ogunquit, and also it is very much the same, which is the force that brings me back. There is something comforting about the familiar.

I have rented the same charming home from an amazing couple for 5 years. Fourth of July will never be the same! ☺ At first it was for one week, then 10 days, and this year it was 2 weeks. It was the first time I ever took a 2-week vacation. Kate just loved it. She remembered it from last year, and I love that she has this tradition to look forward to. She went to the Ogunquit Playhouse’s Children’s Theater Camp, playing the role of Tweedle Dee in Alice in Wonderland, and delighting her mom with her first musical solo.

I have been blessed with a lot of work this year and have kept quite busy with travel. I was never so ready for a break in my life. Maine was my reward. It took us almost 13 hours to drive what normally takes 8, but I did not care. We arrived, unpacked, and I began the decompression process. By day 3 I was enjoying the occasional afternoon nap, and described my physical state as ‘jello.’ I typically never sleep and am a documented insomniac. I know I slept at least 6 hours a night if not more there. It was a recovery ritual of sorts.

Last year, I was inspired to start researching Millennials, design workshops and keynotes while I was there. I had anticipated the same revelations this year, but was surprised when there were not. What I did discover is the precious gift of family and friends. The importance of simplifying life. Of breathing in the sea air with nothing more than that enjoyment to accomplish for the day. I turned 49 in Ogunquit this year. As the half-century mark approaches, I realize this year will be a year of clarity. Prioritizing what matters, and doing the best I can to make an impact where I can. I love to work, and now I realize I love to just ‘be.’ The moment I arrived home on Saturday, I felt the stress of the DC metro, small women owned business pressure hit me like a ton of bricks. But it’s what keeps us going right? I sit at BWI headed on a biz trip. Grateful for the work and my clients. And counting the days to be walking along the Marginal Way and laughing with friends next year. Maybe for 3 weeks in 2013?!

Recent comment in this post
Guest — Liz M.
Love this Lori!
Thursday, 19 July 2012 18:33
  1 Comment


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