Managing Business Performance Using Objectives, Key Result Areas, Key Performance Indicators and Targets

One of the critical competencies for managers and supervisors is managing the business performance of their departments/sections/units.  More often than not, this is one area where coaching and mentoring is much needed.

One basic approach that can go a long way is to learn more about and apply the use of SMART Objectives, Key Result Areas, Key Performance Indicators, and Targets.  While attending workshops are helpful, reading available materials and books are effective ways to learn as well.  Even more effective is to try out the few KPIs that are most relevant in terms of aligning a department’s objectives with the overall strategic objectives and strategies of the company.

Simply put, a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measure of how well something, an objective, is achieved and gives valuable feedback on whether performance is on track or not so that the manager and team can take appropriate action to get back on track.

Not having clearly defined KPIs is like driving without a clear destination and directions to guide you.  Don’t leave results and outcomes to chance.  Plan the work and then work the plan.  Always have measures and get top management sign off.

Here are some useful resources to get you started on your journey of learning by doing and experimentation.

Here’s an article if you would like to discover more resources on KPIs:   Finding the Right KPIs – 5 KPI Libraries That Are Key to Your Performance.

If the subject of KPIs excites you, there are many resources to study and learn from, and help you equip yourself and your team with the knowledge and skills to effectively plan, execute, monitor and control, and realign business performance.

What matters in life?

During the Holy Week, many of us may have vacations, staycations, or just a simple and quite time for reading, prayer, and reflection at home. Checking LinkedIn, I stumbled on this short video by Marshall Goldsmith on “What matters in life”?  Food for thought for us to think about what’s most important in our lives.  For Catholics, the Holy Week is a good time for reflection on this question and what is the meaning of life.

On being Able and Ability as a trust booster, referring back to a previous post on the The ABCD Trust ModelTM, continuous learning is not so much for ourselves alone but to continue to develop so that we have more, new and deeper knowledge, experience and expertise, to put to use in the service of others who need these gifts more than we do.

 

Nurturing relationships to build Trust

It’s easy enough to get tied up and busy with one’s day-to-day work responsibilities and forget to build and nurture key relationships. One way to remind ourselves is to reflect on who and what really matters and then to plan trust boosting activities. Put these activities on your calendar. Blocking off time can help you make sure you do them.

Now, whether you plan to have coffee, lunch or other shared activity, here are some trust boosting  things you may want to consider.

Get to know the person on a more personal level.  Learn more about the person’s career aspirations, work-related concerns, family, and hobbies, and share similar information about yourself.

Show sincere interest by listening well and continuing the flow of the conversation based on what the other is saying. Try listening more than talking.

Take note of things done well by the person, or effort made, and give recognition in public.  Give credit where credit is due.  A short praise and pat on the back in front of the team can go a long way to boost the person’s confidence and nurture trust.

Show appreciation when the person may have done more. Often, a simple “Thank you” or acknowledgment like, “I appreciate (and then mention what you appreciate)” communicates that you don’t take the person for granted.

If you notice that the person seems to be feeling stressed or you sense that something may be amiss, take time to inquire and offer help, if that makes sense, or just be the listening ear.

Get ideas and inputs of the person on pertinent matters such as a challenging issue or problem that she can contribute to solving. This communicates that you care about and value her ideas.

Last but not least, follow through on what you say you will do. And, in case you forget, apologizing and making up for it can help you recover a bit of possible loss in trust.

Are you behaving in ways that build or erode trust?

To say that trust is an important foundation of all successful and mutually beneficial relationships is perhaps an understatement. Trust is key whether we are talking about relationships between parent and child, husband and wife, friends, manager and direct report, consultant or service provider and client.

As we may all know, trust is easy to lose and difficult to earn. Trust can easily be lost as a result of one incident. Earning it back can take time and effort, and a strong desire and willingness to restore it.

How we behave either helps to build and strengthen trust, or erode and weaken it.  One useful little book that can help us assess ourselves and others on trust, and also provide a model and specific actions for building trust, is Trust Works: Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships by Ken Blanchard, Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence.

Here’s a snapshot of The ABCD Trust ModelTM from the authors.  In a nutshell, we become more trustworthy when:

  • We are Able, meaning, we demonstrate competence and a high personal standard in getting things done when working with others.
  • We are Believable, meaning, we act with integrity, i.e., we are sincere, respectful and nonjudgmental.
  • We are Connected, meaning we show that we care about others by listening, showing empathy, and giving credit where credit is due.
  • We are Dependable, meaning we show that we are reliable and others can count on us.

Some questions to ask yourself if you want to do a bit of personal reflection are:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how trustworthy might others perceive me to be?”  You can think of a specific person as you may impact different people in different ways depending on your usual behavior towards them.
  • How often do I  behave in the listed ways?”  In applying this question to each behavior under The ABCD Trust ModelTM, you can use the scale given by the authors:  H-Hardly ever, S-Sometimes, O-Often, V-Very often, and A-Always. Be honest with yourself in terms of the frequency you actually do demonstrate these behaviors.

ABCD.Model

How people perceive us depends a lot on our behaviors.  Often, there can be a disconnect between our intentions and our actual impact.  I am reminded of the adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It is not enough to think that we behave in ways that show we are able and dependable. The question is what do other perceive about us?  Trust is a two-way street.

Take stock of your self-rating and ask others to rate you to see if there is an alignment between how you think you show up vs. how you actually do.

The nice thing about the The ABCD Trust ModelTM is that it can be used as a framework to talk about and work out trust issues in constructive ways. Check out the book to learn more about how you can build or rebuild trust through “trust boosters” and avoid eroding trust through “trust busters.”

Trus.Works

How Clearly Are You Communicating? How Do You know?

One of the things we probably take for granted is how we communicate with others so that we don’t bother to check whether the receiver of our communication really understood our message as we intended.

What do you understand by the text exchange below?  Beth and Carol are fictitious names. The context is Beth is an assistant working in a business services company called Star, Inc. She is coordinating the workshop with the Carol who is a free lance consultant and the facilitator. It’s Monday morning the week prior to the workshop conduct dates. The workshop is scheduled to run on Friday-Saturday of the following week.

Beth:  Hi Carol. Our client has a question. They are asking if until when they can confirm if they wish to be part of the Program?

Carol:  Hi Beth. Are they asking about until when individual participants can confirm, or are they asking if they want to push through with the program or not?

Beth:  They are asking if until when they can confirm if they want to push through with the program or not.

Carol:  Oh, so the program is not confirmed by the client as yet. I suggest that the you contact Business School ABC for a Leadership Program instead as they may have more faculty and flexibility to changing schedules. Regret I must decline already. I trust that Star understands.  Thanks!

Beth:  This is noted. Thanks.

Carol accepted another engagement after the text exchange.  Four days later, Beth again texted Carol asking about the workshop materials.  Both were upset. Carol for having needlessly lost the engagement. Beth now panicking on how to tell her boss about the situation and problem of no facilitator with the workshop scheduled for next week

Luckily for Beth and Star, Inc., Carol contacted her colleagues and found someone to refer to take her place as facilitator as she was no longer available due to the miscommunication mix up.

The miscommunication was that Beth later said she was referring to the online leadership assessment, which Carol suggested to include in the workshop, and not the program or workshop itself.  That is,  until when can the client decide whether they will push through with the online assessment or not.

Carol, on the other hand, understood that the client was having second thoughts about pushing through with the Leadership Workshop the following week. The client had previously moved the dates a number of times. Besides, Carol already knew that the client decided not to use the online assessment when the client account manager of Star, Inc. informed her 3 days before Beth texted the question.

Just considering the actual text messages, how would you have understood what Beth was asking, the responses of Carol, and what the end of the conversation meant?

Ok, you get the picture.  So what is the lesson for Beth?  What is the lesson for Carol?

We can take simple things for granted and think that we’ve communicated clearly, only to find out later that we have not.  Picking up the phone and talking instead can help make points clearer.

Giving Feedback to Develop Your Team

How often do you give feedback to your team and individual team members?  What type of feedback do you give them?  If and when you give feedback, are they mostly informal or formal?  Think back to last week and write down who you gave feedback to and whether it was positive or negative feedback. Giving constructive and actionable feedback can make a difference in improving performance.

Perhaps for many, the word feedback conjures up images of unpleasant experiences of one’s immediate superior dishing out negative feedback or criticisms about one’s performance.  It does not have to be this way.  If your superior is not very good at giving you feedback, break the chain or vicious cycle of perpetuating the negatives and demoralizing your own team and team members.

Be the team leader that fosters development. Break the cycle. Be intentional. Be the guiding light that sparks positive energy and action in your team. Everyday is a fresh opportunity to turn yourself and your team around, to refocus on performance and behaviors that can be improved through helpful feedback.

Some tips on providing constructive and actionable feedback involve changes in your approach such as the following:

  • Focus on the behavior and not the person
  • Be specific and not general: STAR is useful here – Situation, Task, Action, Result
  • Encourage change instead of attacking or blaming
  • Put your relationship with your team and team members first instead of yourself
Simple steps that you can use include:

  • Describe the behavior as concretely as possible
  • Get the team’s/team members’ view of how the behavior affects others positively or negatively, who are affected and what are the implications on performance quality and cost, as well as relationships
  • Give your own view of how the behavior affects others and the team’s performance
  • Get the team’s/team member’s inputs on what needs to change and how in order to achieve better results
  • Give your onw inputs including a description of the desired behavior and performance levels and outcomes
  • Agree on the next steps, who will do what by when, what support might be needed, and follow-up, follow-up, follow-up

Knowledge without application is a waste.  It’s time to put these tips and steps into action this coming week. Identify team members who have performance issues or dysfunctional behaviors that hurt their or their team’s ability to deliver their best.  Bullet point your specific observations and key messages, and schedule a feedback meeting with each individual. Better do it sooner than later. Start a new cycle, a virtuous cycle of giving constructive and actionable feedback.

Goals vs. Dreams

Kung Hei Fat Choi!  It’s Chinese New Year and the general forecasts from Feng Shui masters can make an interesting read.  For most of us, this is probably more a fun thing to do and we don’t really believe these forecasts.  Or, maybe we choose to believe if the forecasts are positive and about developments that we like, and we choose not to believe when the forecasts aren’t all that palatable.  In any case, we can have fun reading and talking about these.  Is one’s fortune in the stars, one’s zodiac sign and or one’s horoscope? 

In one TV series episode that I recently saw, the protagonist facing an impossible challenge was told that he was lucky that things worked out his way.  He retorted that he didn’t believe in good luck and said that he made his own luck. This mindset of us helping create our own opportunities is definitely better than a fatalistic one where you may believe that you are just at the receiving end of good or bad fortune.  Focus on our sphere of influence, on the things that matter and where we have impact on.

Another line from the same protagonist caught my attention as well, “I don’t have dreams, I have goals. And I’m ready to move on to the next one.”  There’s nothing wrong with having dreams as dreams tend to be bigger and more distant in the future.  But unless you break down your dreams into milestones that drive you forward one major step at a time, then maybe your dreams will remain dreams. 

The morale of the story?  As you review and write down your goals for your development, your career, your life, make it a point to write SMART goals or break them down into specific milestones. That way, you’ve made your own yardstick to know when you’ve reached them and ready to move on to the next one.

On Setting Goals for Yourself and Your Team

Whether in leading oneself or a team, identifying SMART goals can help you focus your efforts and that of your team.  When you feel lost or adrift, having lost your steam, take pause and think about your goals. What do you really need and want for yourself? What do you really need and want for your team?

SMART has become a popular and well known acronym for setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.  Yet, it is easy enough to forget this and sometimes, when you are not accomplishing anything or when your team is not working together synergistically, the root of the problem may be that you and the team have lost sight of the goals, or the old goals need to be revisited and changed.

If you find yourself getting too busy on busywork, avoid the potential activity trap by taking time out to identify what are truly most important for you.  Who do you want to become?  What do you want to achieve?

What do you want?  This can be a very powerful question that many don’t ask themselves. If you know what you want and why, the rest follows.

So, what do you want this 2016?  How does this fit into your career plans, your overall life plan?  Write down your goals now. Don’t worry about wordsmithing them at this time. It’s more important to capture what’s in your heart. You can always refine them later.

Pedestrian.Stoplight

 

“If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”

Still on Essentialism by Greg Mckeown…  I like the idea of “if it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”  It does help simplify and clarify making decisions.  True enough, many tempting good opportunities do come our way and it can sometimes be difficult to discern and say no.

Having clear criteria to make selection decisions can help us pick and focus on what’s most important instead of making too many choices that result in spreading ourselves too thin and then missing the more desirable and important opportunities that may come later.

The key, according to Mckeown and TED speaker Derek Sivers in his piece “No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.” as Mckeown mentions in his book Essentialism, is to use a simple technique for becoming more selective in the choices we make…that is, put the decision to an extreme test:  if we feel total and utter conviction to do something, then we say yes.  If not, then we say no.  If the answer is not a definite yes, as Mckeown quotes another leader, then it should be a no. This does actually help.  The bottom line is what’s most important to us.

When a tempting good opportunity comes, like an attractive project, if you don’t feel like it’s the right one for you, then it probably really isn’t. Sure, giving it more thought and reflection helps. And soon as you know in your mind and in your heart that it is not what your are looking for and not what you really want, then just let it go. This keeps you open and free for the right one when it comes along.

When the nagging thought that you might be wrong grips you, that you might be missing out on something great, why not sleep over it and revisit it the next morning?  Well, just remember to let go sooner than later so that you don’t end up uselessly obsessing and wasting precious time over it.

Decide what criteria you are going to use to consider and accept the opportunity. Such criteria varies and depends on each person.  Mckeown recommends you identify three minimum and three extreme criteria to evaluate the opportunity.  When it passes these, then it’s a yes go ahead.  He suggested that you write down at least three minimum criteria and three extreme criteria that the opportunity must pass. He also suggested, for instance, three possible questions to consider:  What am I passionate about? What taps my talent? What meets a significant need in the world?

Had I learned to think and decide this way much much earlier in my life, I may have been able to make better decisions faster. It’s not too late to start now because, as the saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of my life.

On Becoming an Essentialist vs. a Nonessentialist

My sister gave me a copy of the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown for Christmas and I had put on the night table beside my bed.  I had a number of books to finish and so postponed starting it until two weeks ago.

It was a good thing that I began to read it sooner than later. It has helped open my eyes. I like several key messages which are so true. These are some of the ones that resonate.

Yes, I want to be an essentialist! Am I investing myself in the right activities? Which problem or opportunity do I want? That depends on what my immediate, short-term and long-term goals are. I suppose that I was, sometimes still am, guilty of wanting to have it all. With limited resources, time being the most important, I must admit that it makes sense to make hard choices about what to focus on. This starts with discerning my most important goals, and activities follow. Less but better. There’s no point in trying to do to many things and not doing well in the most critical ones. Better to focus on a few that make a difference and where I can make a difference.

Cut out the trivial many. This will be quite a challenge. After taking the HarvardX Course on Unlocking the Immunity to Change: A new Approach to Personal Improvement, one of the the things I realized was that I just had too many activities lined up and it wasn’t easy to decide which were real priotities. Now, also realizing that, let’s face it, the reality is such that there are always trade-offs and that we can’t choose to do everything, I’m able to help myself eliminate more of the activities that matter less.

Now, this one is a gem among gems. Apparently, Peter Drucker had told Jim Collins, author of the business classic Good to Great, that he could either build a great company or build great ideas but not both, and that Collins chose ideas. McKeown continues with the observation that Collins still has only three full-time employees in his company, yet his ideas have reached millions of people through his writing. I started to think, well couldn’t he do both? Hold on, that’s precisely how a nonessentialist thinks: I can do both. Again, there are, and will be, trade offs. So, better to make a choice, avoid spreading oneself too thin, and instead to maximize one’s success and contribution. Less is better. Less is more.

Create space to escape and explore life. Space to read. Space to concentrate. Space to think. This I think I am a little better at, but there is always room for improvement. It’s encouraging to know that some very well known and famous entrepreneurs deliberately carve out such space regulary to help them refresh themselves, discover new ideas, and learn new things. A good tip is to plan and schedule creating space in your calendar and stick to it.

I have a long way to go to being a true essentialist, one who thinks that almost everything is nonessential and being able to distinguish between the vital few from the trivial many. I am nevertheless happy that I’ve become more self aware of my nonessentialist beliefs, assumptions, and actions.  Telling myself that my “big” nonessentialist assumptions are not true (e.g., “Everything is important. I can do everything.”),  I can gain distance from them, test and modify them.  I can be less captive of my big assumptions, overcome my immunity to change in this area, and move a few steps closer to an essentialist “self-authoring mind.”