The Performance Variable.

Some people are reluctant to get to know their employees beyond their basic work assignments. No matter what their reasoning, “too busy, no time, don’t want to play favorites or be put in the uncomfortable position of managing their friends, or …” whatever they offer up – these are just plain misguided rationalizations.

There isn’t a convincing argument that you can get the most out of people by keeping your professional distance. Sorry. Keeping it professional – yes. Keeping your distance – no. Making it personal – absolutely. Everyone has different reasons for coming to work – more than exchanging time for money. And that’s what you’re looking to tap into. What makes them unique?

For the last several months, I’ve been beating the drum to say, unequivocally, getting to know your people is a must. Developing relationships is the most effective and productive way to lead. It’s borne out in the results from the “Focal Points Leadership Study,*” and is proven time-and-again in evaluating organizational performance.

The laissez-faire leader leaves others alone to do their own thing. So what does the leader contribute in this relationship? Not much that I can see. Are they enhancing what the worker can accomplish on their own? Don’t think so.

On the other hand, am I calling for micro-management? No way. But I am insistent that leaders engage people. The development, and upward trajectory of the individual and the group is the leader’s responsibility … and they can’t do it by standing idly by.

We most commonly think of an employee’s performance as “them” being the variable. Either a good, average, or poor worker. But performance is a variable affected by two parts: the capability and effort of the worker, and the type and quality of the interaction offered by the leader.

Performance Management.

Look at performance management as your way to build things up: first, continually gather an understanding of the individual and what’s important to them – their opinions, goals, passions, job skills, interests; secondly, wisely interpret what you’ve heard and seen and help them embrace a vision of what they can become at the intersection of their personhood and their occupation; and third, put forth the continual feedback, coaching, and mentoring which helps them achieve it.

Use Conversations and Observations.

It takes time and regular contact to connect people with a bigger understanding of their true potential. (And it takes some patience in seeing them actually begin expressing it in their work.) Showing interest in them stimulates their interest in the organization and in satisfying the organization’s interests. It works in a circle.

What I’m talking about is a type of stewardship. “Leaving it better than you found it” is more than a model for responsible camping – it’s a call to leaders to take their part of the performance variable seriously, and address it on a person-to-person basis.

(Note: Performance management is just one aspect of our recently released supervisory training program “What Works for Supervisors,” described at .)

– Jerry Strom

Use Twitter to learn more from the Focal Points Leadership Study. Search quotes and findings by using the hashtag #FocalPointsRPT, or by following me: @JerryRStrom. For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published.

This article is based on the *’Focal Points Study: The Most Important Things a Leader Should Know,’ copyright 2014, by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find the Research Abstract, along with descriptions of many of our other research projects at .

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