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August 24, 2014
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Vail Daily column: Helping people perform at their best

As the economy improves, hiring and retaining the best people becomes even more important for a business owner or leader. Turnover is not only expensive and time consuming as you replace and train new employees; it also affects trust, morale and employee engagement for those that stay. Recent results from an employee engagement survey done by Minneapolis based company Modern Survey shows that only 13 percent of an employee workforce is actually engaged. That means only about one in eight employees are giving best efforts. When you think about it, that’s a staggering statistic! Conversely, according to Modern Survey’s results, about 24 percent, or approximately one in four, employees are completely disengaged. Another term we have for that disengaged group is “quitting and staying.”

Engage and Develop

In today’s improving business climate, it is even more crucial for leaders and business owners to engage and develop their employees. In our work at Think2Perform, we find that 70 percent of business success depends on the people. A climate with engaged people who work well together and have trust and respect for each other matters more to the performance of the business than the product or service they provide. With that in mind, following are some important points to keep in mind relative to people development and business performance as we start gearing up for the upcoming season:

• Clear vision, values and goals matter: The most effective leaders talk about, share and communicate the vision for the future and values of the organization every day to the people in their firms. They bring awareness to employee and organizational behavior and compare it to the values of the organization. Where behavior aligns, they recognize it. Where it doesn’t, they fix it. This is literally and figuratively about getting everyone on the same page. Vision, values and goals matter to decision making and execution. As I’ve shared in previous columns, decision making has twice the impact on performance than talent and skill combined. Unlike our IQ (which we can’t improve), we can, with practice, focus and effort, improve our decision making. Knowing the vision, values and goals for the organization increases the likelihood that we make decisions consistent with them.

• Trust is critical: According to Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel’s research showcased in their book “Moral Intelligence,” trust is a function of demonstrating four specific behaviors — keeping promises, telling the truth, standing up for what’s right and living consistently with principles, values and beliefs. When we demonstrate those four specific behaviors, we create trust. As Stephen Covey shares in his book “The Speed of Trust,” where low trust exists, things move slower and are more expensive. On top performing teams, trust in each other is paramount. In order to build trust with another person or within a team, focus on demonstrating the behaviors Lennick and Keil identified in their nine years of research.

• Catch people doing things right: Want to change people’s behavior? Want to instill new habits in the organization or team? Simply, catch people doing things right. Often, our tendency as leaders, parents and executives is to point out areas of improvements or things that aren’t going well. Most often we see this tendency with high achievers that take on leadership roles. These high achievers are accustomed to looking critically at themselves and crave feedback about where they can improve. Then, once these achievers get into a position of leading others, their personal habit of critical evaluation begins to work against them. As pointed out in Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and David Rock’s article, “The Neuroscience of Leadership,” while well-intended, pointing out to people what they’re doing wrong actually reinforces and draws attention to that pattern of behavior and makes it harder to for them to change it. Instead, effective leaders are always drawing attention to and catching people doing things right. That positive leadership behavior actually helps accelerate change in an organization as people respond favorably to the acknowledgement and reinforcement.

Theory In Practice

A few years ago, my wife and I noticed we were always drawing attention to how messy our daughter’s room was. Some days, it was impossible to not notice it! After some discussion, we decided to pay more attention to when it was clean. Now many times that involved us walking in right after she had cleaned it and making a big deal about how nice it looked. As a result of the shift in our behavior, over time, we noticed her room being clean more often. Our daughter was taking pride and enjoying the attention for a clean room.

• Demonstrate, observe, confirm: So often in organizations we see people get hired for their talent and experience only to be left alone to flounder in their new firm. Generally, people don’t take a job to fail. Most don’t take the role even to be “average.” Want a new employee to perform at their best? Take the time to identify the “key activities,” or the tasks that are most important to the individual and organization’s success. Assess the employee’s readiness to do the key task successfully. If their ability or motivation is low, follow a process of demonstrating the task for or with them, observe them doing it successfully and periodically check back to confirm they’re still performing at expectations. We call that “DOC.”

• Know their WDYWFY: This stands for “What do you want for yourself?” or, at Think2Perform, we say “widdy wiffy.” Want to develop self-motivated employees? Ask them about their personal goals and career aspirations. Find out what they think they have to do to achieve their goals and ask how you can best support in their efforts. In our experience at Think2Perform, most people want to perform at a level higher than their company needs them to be. The problem is most leaders don’t take the time to ask employees about their own goals. Leaders who understand what their employees want to achieve for themselves become resources to their people instead of just holding them accountable. As a result, employees hold themselves to higher standards of excellence and performance because they’ve internalized what those standards mean to them. LeBron James or Peyton Manning don’t perform at higher levels because they sign a bigger contract or get paid more. They hold themselves to higher standards because it’s part of their personal goals and values. Great leaders help their people get clear on goals and what matters most in their lives, then they help them achieve that.

The nice thing about what I’ve listed above is that you don’t have to do them all to see impact in your organization, business, team or family. Pick the one you think would have the most impact and be the easiest for you to try. Then, be patient and consistent as you watch for results.

Chuck Wachendorfer is a partner and the chief operating officer at Thin2Perform, a business and sports performance firm that improves bottom-line results for executives, athletes and organizations such as American Express, Ameriprise Financial, Comerica Bank, Boston Scientific, United Health Group, the FBI, 3M, the Minnesota Twins and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He resides in Edwards with his wife Lori and their three children. Think2Perform is a partner of the Vail Chamber & Business Association. They offer a series of “Breakthrough for Business” workshops throughout the year, helping local businesses achieve their best practices. To learn more visit www.vailchamber.org or www.think2perform.com.

The problem is most leaders don’t take the time to ask employees about their own goals. Leaders who understand what their employees want to achieve for themselves become resources to their people instead of just holding them accountable.


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The VailDaily Updated Aug 24, 2014 08:25PM Published Aug 24, 2014 03:08PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.