Why Employee Engagement Fads Don’t Work–And What Does Work

Here’s what we know from decades of research:  You cannot motivate anyone; they must motivate themselves.  Extrinsic motivation (commands and incentives) is weak and fickle; only intrinsic motivation (coming from the individual’s needs and wants) is strong and sustainable.  Programs claiming to improve employee engagement by giving pizza parties,  t-shirts, coffee mugs, ice cream socials, prizes for behaviors, ropes courses, workout facilities, nap rooms, and even BMWs (remember that?) may make for a “great” place to work, and are very nice things to do, but they  will not increase employee engagement or motivation or performance.  If you want to make a difference in actual employee engagement, focus on the work itself—how to involve people in decisions, tap into their ideas, challenge them to find new solutions, stimulate their best performance, connect the work to a higher purpose, and so on.

Why Leaders Can’t Be Honest and Candid

Candid, honest feedback about performance is all too rare in most organizations.  The reluctance to talk to a subordinate about poor performance, the ‘grade inflation’ inherent in performance reviews, and the withholding of honest praise for excellent performance are examples.  These can happen because of fear to be candid with people.  It’s why you can have nearly everyone’s performance rated “above average” in a year when organization performance is weak.

The flip side is the leader on a power trip who loves having control over people, so he keeps secrets, won’t discuss issues, shares little, and often lashes out with a heavy hand to punish people he doesn’t trust.  That’s not a leader, that’s a boss.

Both cases have a negative effect on people and performance.  They drive out trust and cause people to ‘check out’ while on the job.  I once had a person complain to me about receiving an excellent performance review.  There was little doubt that her performance was excellent, but she was demoralized because her manager gave the same rating to every one of his direct reports.

Leaders lead; they know that providing candid and honest feedback with their people is important to improving performance.  While some managers and supervisors are clearly on a power trip, others avoid candid discussions because they do not know how to effectively discuss performance and coach performance improvements.  If you have this going on in your organization, you need to address it.

How to Ensure the Success of Your Strategy

Whether you are politically for or against Obamacare, there can be no dispute about the implementation failure surrounding the $400 million website portal that was to be one-click access to the new health insurance system. Even the New York Times has documented the massive problems. I can’t think of a bigger and more public implementation failure than this one.

That’s not to say that the private sector has a great track record—estimates are that upwards of 90% of corporate strategies fail to realize their intended goals. Strong implementation means strong accountability, employees who act like owners, a collaborative leadership team, sufficient funding, crisp processes, the right talent, and especially leadership.  They all make a positive difference.

Implementation is the non-sexy part of strategy, yet most organizations spend far too little time ensuring that strategies will be successful. It doesn’t have to be that way. For a free copy of my Implementation Assessment Diagnostic, send me an email at boblegge@boblegge.com.

Here’s How to Change Your Performance Reviews So They Improve Performance

As the fourth quarter begins, many companies are preparing for another round of performance reviews. You know, the administrative exercise that nobody likes. The problem isn’t with the concept, but rather with how reviews are conducted. Few managers or supervisors ever learn how to effectively write and conduct reviews, so they end up being an administrative chore that doesn’t help improve performance, increase accountability, or build skills. Here are three best practices to make performance management reviews powerfully effective:
1. Base reviews on performance results and behaviors that reflect the organization’s values. Jobs exist to get results, so identify the key results expected for each position. And you want those results accomplished in a way that reflects your values, evaluate each person on those. Use measures for results and evidence for behaviors–not opinions. Keep it simple and effective.
2. Focus on improving performance, not casting blame or judging. Think of performance reviews as the feedback loop necessary to make improvements, just as with any improvement process. Blame and judgment immediately eliminate any positive impact because they stop communication.
3. Train everyone in a supervisory role in the skills to conduct reviews. When people don’t know how to conduct performance reviews, they tend to do all the wrong things and it creates dread and upset instead of better performance and results.
For more on building an effective performance management process, send me an email or call me.