What to do About Individual Performance Problems

I am often asked to look at people in key positions who are not performing at the level expected.  Often, management already has in mind the solution:  “He needs training,” or, “She needs coaching.”

Before jumping to an alternative solution, it’s important to understand the cause of the performance issue.  The key question to ask is this:  Could the person do the job if he/she absolutely had to?

  • If the answer is no, then you have either a training/development issue, or an inability to learn the job.
  • If the answer is yes, then it is an issue of volition — the person could do it, but doesn’t want to.

Those are two very different situations, each requiring very different solutions.

Be careful about how you diagnose performance issues.

Here’s What is Keeping You From Better Growth and Profits

I see three significant reasons why companies don’t grow and fail to improve profitability:

  1. Lack of Focus — This takes many forms including no strategy, weak strategy implementation, and everyone doing their own thing. You have to have clear direction, a distinctive strategy, and an organization that sharply-focused on delivering it.
  2. Weak Accountability — It’s not enough to know what to do. If people don’t follow-through, don’t get the needed work done, then the strategy will fail.
  3. Staying with people beyond their level of competence — Over and over I’ve seen presidents struggle with this.  They know good old Joe or Mary is under-performing, but they simply cannot take the necessary action to replace weak performers with upgraded talent.  This is most notable at the level of managers and above.  I cannot stress enough the dramatic improvement in performance that comes from finally owning-up and making a change.

What’s holding back your organization’s growth and profits?  Why aren’t you taking action?

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

 

Observations From Southeast Asia

I’ve been immersed in different cultures for the past couple weeks in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Yangon, Myanmar.  Some observations germane to leaders:

  • These cultures are distinctly different, and based on values and beliefs that inform both large group and individual behaviors.  If you want to change the culture in your organization, you have to work on the values and beliefs and ingrain them.  There are proven approaches and tools to do it successfully.
  • As little as seven years ago, Myanmar (Burma) had one of the lowest Internet penetrations of any country.  They skipped cable and went right to cell phones and now have one of the highest percent of the population using the Internet of any country. Want to connect with your employees in real time? Rethink your communication strategy.
  • Side note:  Despite the above, and the lifting of U.S. sanctions in October, Myanmar has enormous challenges with multiple sites of armed conflict – they have 136 ethnic groups speaking over 300 languages.
  • In every culture, the safest way to travel is to go with the flow.  Drive like the locals, etc.  Good advice for anyone wanting to fit in with a corporate culture.
  • There are very few signs in English, especially in Bangkok and Yangon.  The exception:  Large signs at a construction site and treacherous mountain road that read, “Safety First,” in areas where the population cannot read English.  Communication anyone?

Finally, a study of elephants in the 2014 book, Elephant Company, notes that which elephant is the natural leader of the herd has nothing to do with dominance, and everything to do with cooperation.  Elephants are exceptionally intelligent animals.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

 

On Reactions to Change (and the Election)

I often work with organizations on leading and managing change — sometimes major change in very large companies affecting hundreds or thousands of employees.  In response to change, people tend to follow fairly predictable stages, depending on whether it is change they want or change they don’t want, and whether the change is gradual or sudden.

The protests, demonstrations, and occasional violence of those who do not like the election result are an order of magnitude greater than I would expect, except that the election results signal a change from a deeply ingrained mindset, reinforced by the media, and by the tendency of us humans to seek information that confirms our thoughts and biases.  [Here, I make no judgment on that mindset; only the observation that the election result was not what was expected by nearly anyone, and that it was an especially unpleasant shock to those who supported the status quo.]

This is true in organizations as well.  Downsizings and mergers, for example, can be a devastating shock for individuals and groups.  How they deal with it matters both to the organization and to themselves.  Those who are in denial and angry may well act out, or seethe internally.  Those who are resilient will resolve to make things better.

William Bridges has written about the need to avoid obsessing about the things that are changing, but rather to focus on the path forward through the change.  He suggests coming to grips with the inner connections one has to the way things were before the change, and asking the question, “What is it time for me to let go of?”  He points out that the loss one may feel can be in many ways a timely one.  The answer will often provide guidance about the path forward.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Building Competitive Advantage

An important focus for any business strategy is to establish a competitive advantage for the firm.   The two primary ways to do this are to be the low-cost producer and to be significantly different from your competitors in a way that customers value.  The problem with being the low-cost producer is that eventually your competitors will match your prices.  It’s a very difficult advantage to retain.  When you compete on price, you’ve become a commodity — clearly not a competitive advantage.

Differentiating yourself from competitors isn’t always easy, but it can provide much better profits and be much longer-lasting.  There are many ways to differentiate, from technological and marketing innovation to product configuration, customer experience, and even organization culture.   Additionally, differentiation can be extremely difficult for a competitor to replicate.

What is your competitive advantage?

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Turning Culture Into Competitive Advantage

Oops!  In last Monday’s email, I wrote that a 1000-foot runway (implementation plan) would be insufficient for a beautiful jet (corporate strategy) that requires a runway of 10,000 feet.  At least that is what I meant to write.  The typo was reported to me numerous times: First by a perceptive reader in Estonia, then another in Hong Kong, and then an onslaught of readers from the U.S. and Canada.  Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

Turning Culture into Competitive Advantage

Sooner or later theories need to become practical actions that drive results — one of the hallmarks of my consulting work.

Last week I read an excellent article about how one law firm is using culture as a competitive advantage, and most importantly, the specific actions that make it work.

If corporate culture has always seemed to be a fuzzy notion to you, and you want to understand how culture can be used to drive measurable results, read Ed Hourihan’s excellent article from the New York Law Journal about how Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC,  is doing just that.  It should trigger some good ideas for you.

Here’s the link:  http://bit.ly/2e2wSDd

Do You Have Enough Runway for Your Strategy?

My client called me to help improve company performance.  The strategy they had developed was beautiful, like a new 747, capable of taking them where they wanted to go.  The problem was with how they were implementing and executing the strategy — they had built an equally-beautiful 5000-foot runway, but their 747 required 1000 feet to take-off.

Strategies never fail in the boardroom or strategy retreat.  It’s in how it is implemented.  Ask yourself:

  • Do we have the right message and ability to communicate this strategy to our people?
  • Do we have the organization structure we need to carry-out this strategy?
  • Do we have the right people in all the key positions?
  • Do we have the quality of management processes to translate this strategy down through the organization?
  • And do we have the right reward systems to drive performance?

In the end, we launched that strategy and achieved the levels of profitable growth they had targeted.  Make sure you build the right runway for your strategy to succeed.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com