Leadership Performance Criteria: How Well Do You Measure Up?

Leadership Performance Criteria: How Well Do You Measure Up?

9.1 min read

JT Carr

Teamwork, Productivity and Creativity. We have long paid these particular leadership concepts a lot of lip service, never more so than now, as insurance companies, banks, communications companies and hospitals struggle to do more with less. Alliances and mergers, for example, so prominent in today’s business setting, are the very essence of teamwork. But there is a big gap between talking about this kind of leadership, learning the skills…and living it.

Well intentioned chief executive officers ask themselves: “I’ve set up incentives for creative problem-solving, used specific measures in assessing performance, initiated training in team approaches, yet I’m still not seeing an impact on my bottom line. What am I overlooking?”

More often than not, the answer is….their own behavior. For several decades, executives have sought to improve performance, especially that of their staff; but what about their own performance? Why is it so difficult to make changes?

First, many decision makers do not have an appropriate understanding of how to recognize and measure leadership performance. Secondly, the right behavior is not rewarded. Executives know they can and should improve their own behavior, but are not held accountable for achieving these improvements. Nor are these changes rewarded. When performance is tied to achieving results and executives are rewarded for these changes, only then will changes occur.

How Can We Measure Leadership Performance?

Leaders treat people with care and respect. They are people willing to take risks to improve a situation, and seek creative solutions along the way. Frequently they are the quiet success stories that are rarely spotlighted.

Leadership can be measured and rewarded using the leadership performance criteria of Teamwork, Productivity and Creativity. Let’s examine this Performance Management process briefly.

Measure and Reward Teamwork

Be a caring friend: Leadership begins with Teamwork, and teamwork begins with caring and respect. Start simply. Have fun together. Get to know each other. Become friends. Do what you can to help each other, whether it be a colleague, staff member, customer or supplier.

Example: An unidentified $2.88 charge continued to be billed on the AT&T/Qwest telephone bill, month after month. During a call to AT&T, the customer questioned this overdue charge, and refused to pay until it was explained. The representative listened carefully, put the customer on hold while she contacted the local carrier, came back on the line, explained the delay and asked for patience. When she returned, she requested that the customer call the local carrier and explained why she could not help further.

The Qwest (local carrier) representative listened to the customer’s story and took the initiative to erase the past due balance, stating that it was more trouble to find the source of the problem. A win-win agreement was achieved.

Therefore key points are:

Process: Negotiating process
Measure: An agreement
Result: Win-win
Reward: Praise

Be respectful and build communication bridges: Learn how to speak respectfully and avoid roadblocks. Some roadblocks include: giving orders (“Don’t write like that”), belittling (“That’s silly”), reassuring (“You’ll get over it”), denying (“You can’t still be angry”), or giving solutions (“This is how you should handle it”). The effect of these roadblocks is that people learn not to come to you with their problems.

Example: Melissa, eight years old, was adopted from the streets of Calcutta, India in 1988. When she arrived in America, she spoke no English, had never been to school, and had lied and stolen to survive. Over the next five years, I loved and parented her as best I knew.

During her first year of school, her confidence and successes developed. In the following years, she commented that she ‘didn’t like school’ and eventually refused to attend. By the time she was 12 in 1993, her behavior worsened. She ran away from home and school.

How could I build trust and influence the then-withdrawn Melissa to share her thoughts and feelings? The key to success was “getting acquainted”, the second step of the negotiating process. I was determined to treat the now-teen Melissa with dignity, respect and tolerance. Instead of: “Put on your coat”, I explained, “The forecast is for snow. You might think about…”

When I forgot to use this approach, she became defiant. I admitted my own mistakes, was patient with her mistakes, suggested alternative behavior and reasons why, and praised our smallest achievements. Most important were the humor, talks and laughs we shared. Gradually she shared her feelings and problems were resolved.

In corporate management, this function is known as counseling, mentoring, and building trust through fun, sharing and humor.

Therefore key points are:

Process: Negotiating process
Measure: Getting acquainted (talking)
Result: Understanding
Reward: Praise, fun

As a suggestion, make teamwork part of your performance criteria, and measure yourself by attempting to achieve an agreement though the process of negotiating– illustrated by a handshake, a kind word, a smile, a hug or something in writing, and rewarded by praise or fun. Talking in terms of explanations, descriptions, experiences, and humor is the basis of developing relationships.

Measure and Reward Productivity

First let’s examine what we mean by productivity, since it can represent different things to many people. Productivity includes structured processes, and knowing and understanding such processes; and specific productivity techniques and tools, including streamlining and simplicity.

The common processes in the managing function include planning, designing (life cycle), negotiating, and creating. The planning process, for example, has a specific set of steps, each of which results in a written document. These documents–which also serve as measures of quality–generally include:

* Organization charts which identify function and sometimes the name of one responsible person
* Work breakdown structures which break down the work to be done into systematic tree-like structures
* Schedules, both master and detailed
* Requirements.

Various types of reviews and tests are quality measures of the design-build life cycle which is integrated within the planning cycle. Nested within the latter is the writing cycle since most, if not all, of management and planning efforts result in a document of some kind. These processes are integrated, occur frequently, and constantly cycle.

Learn the Correct Processes: Some common processes in management include: the planning and controls process, known by various names; the life cycle or design-build process; the writing process; the creativity process; and the negotiating process. These are the same whether one builds airplanes, runs a hospital, or manages a bank. The difference is in tailoring.

Example: During the beginning of a facility relocation project at The Boeing Company, team members had limited understanding of the project and were unclear about details of work to be done and team member responsibilities.

A statement of work, or a project description document, was developed and used as a discussion document during the kick-off meeting to introduce the major details of the project to the team members. This document served to increase common understanding and minimized miscommunication by the project team.

Therefore key points are:

Process: Planning process
Measure: Statement of work
Result: Improved understanding
Reward: Praise

As a suggestion, make productivity (including processes) part of your performance criteria and reward yourself for learning and using the right process measures.

Measure and Reward Simplicity

Examples of some productivity tools and techniques include: mind-mapping, doing all the same function at one time, being selective with perfection, putting it in writing, having more than one use for something, streamlining and simplicity. Not surprisingly, everywhere people speak of their frustration with complexity– complexity in writing, methods, excessively large teams, duplicate resources. Then, why not measure and reward simplicity?

Example: At The Boeing Company, a supervisor simplified the training schedules, eliminated abbreviations to improve clarity and communication, reduced schedules to one format, used an easier graphics software tool, enabling the preparation of schedules in under one hour instead of two days, and surfaced numerous existing meeting rooms that were available for use and were previously unused. This eliminated the problem of double-booking meeting/training rooms.

Therefore key points are:

Process: Writing process
Measure: Something written, clearly and simply
Result: Increased understanding, efficiency
Reward: Praise, personal growth

As a suggestion, make productivity (including simplicity) part of your performance criteria and reward yourself for all types of productivity. Examples of simplicity in productivity might include the size of a document, the clarity of writing, the size of teams, the number of resources used, and the types of rewards offered.

Measure and Reward Creativity

A leader could be defined as a person:

– willing to take risks
– who is productive, efficient and has personal standards
– who is a caring, respectful team player.

Leadership is not the same as management, and has nothing to do with status or title. Anyone can be a leader, if they have the courage to make changes.

Be creative and take risks. Admitting/forgiving mistakes build trust.

In the trial and error process of making improvements, leaders must take risks, be kind, tolerant, and admit (and forgive) their own mistakes. Lewis Lehr, former chairman and chief executive officer of 3M Corporation states: “I am tempted to say that innovation at 3M works in spite of top management”.

Example: When the once- rebellious Melissa was asked what contributed to her willingness to be creative in terms of cooking and tasting new foods, developing school reports, and making creative gifts, she commented: “It was ‘talking’, in terms of explanations, demonstrations, and praise, and that it is all right for us to make mistakes because that is how we learn”.

Therefore key points are:

Process: Creativity process
Measure: An idea
Result: Achievement
Reward: Fun, praise

As a suggestion, make creativity part of your performance criteria and reward yourself for all types of creativity and results. Admitting and sharing mistakes build trust. Creativity, humor, and fun reduce tension, promote trust, and help build friendships in the journey towards teamwork. Reward yourself with something fun when you achieve your own goals.

Assessing and Rewarding Our Own Performance

Many organizations and executives are seeking ISO certification and Baldrige criteria performance assessments to determine how well their corporations are doing in terms of quality. While quality seems to vary, the area that most needs strengthening is leadership.

What’s the answer? Consider using a leadership performance criteria that will discourage bureaucracy, cronyism and empire building, and measure your own performance. Reward yourself for your achievements. Explore using simple, yet fun rewards such as time off, free time, favorite work, fun, praise and recognition. If you find it difficult to reward yourself and have fun, perhaps you might start working on changing your own behavior.

Large staff and budgets erode morale. When there is a performance management system in place that rewards executives for teamwork, productivity and creativity– and top managers exemplify this in their own personal practices–organizations will surely succeed. And learning teamwork by having fun and building trust is the best place to start.

Comments to: jtcarr@leadershipcriteria.com

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  • Quote of the Day

    “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.”

    — Brian Tracy