Best Practices for Creating and Sustaining a High Performance Culture
Holding Staff Accountable for Workplace Behaviors and Conduct
Having been in the field of HR for over thirty years, twenty of those as an Consultant specializing in startups, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and analyze over 100 different workplace cultures across a wide spectrum of industries and those experiences continue to enhance my subject matter expertise and knowledge in a variety of areas but none more so than in human behavior.
While my background is that of a hands-on Generalist with a lengthy track record of success developing HR systems and processes for high growth organizations, the two most common things most of these employers share is a lack of employee engagement and little, if any, leadership development. It’s the lack of leadership development that’s at the core of nearly all workplace environments that have low morale, intermittent quality and output issues, poor retention and chronic inconsistencies in how policies are administered; thus, they also have a fair share of employee relations issues/grievances.
As a result, I routinely spend a considerable amount of time talking with employees, intervening and facilitating issues of conflict, coaching managers, and listening, listening and listening to achieve a deeper appreciation for the culture and work environment. Accordingly, the most valued competencies I’ve fine-tuned over the course of three decades was not gained through any book, periodical or post-graduate training; instead, it’s the innate ability to resolve employee relations issues where human behavior and conduct are at the core of the situation (this foundation for effective coaching and counseling was innate as the eldest of a large Irish family). The fact is, most successful HR professionals have a right brain orientation with the ability to balance the needs of the business with those of the people.
Unfortunately, what many entrepreneurs don’t fully appreciate is that the behaviors and conduct that are found in a fair number of these cultures fit the legal definition of a hostile work environment; hostile work environments and unfair labor practices are the # 1 & # 2 issues employers find themselves defending in court for the past decade. Consequently, from a strategic perspective, my mantra to employers is to commit to a comprehensive on-going leadership development curriculum.
Furthermore, leadership development MUST be mandated from the top down. Too often, when I facilitate a leadership training module I’ll observe participants on their phones, coming into the session late, leaving early and there are always no-shows that claim they have something more urgent that needs their attention. In short, there’s a lack of commitment, an attitude that it’s unnecessary and belief on the part of some leaders that “I know it all already”. However, if any leadership program is to have any real value (ROI) to the organization, the participants cannot view the training as optional.
Instead, it must be reinforced that the initiative receive their full attention and participation. Furthermore, even if they’ve had management training in the past, the training setting, or laboratory if you will, enables managers to bring up real life examples and, as a team, help to identify the best possible resolution based upon the employee, the work environment and culture; thus, the value isn’t just the content the Facilitator brings to the table, it’s the group interactions and team exercises that will helps to foster consistency in how issues are handled from one department to another.
From my experience, those areas in which managers (even seasoned ones) commonly struggle with are:
- How to interview effectively
- How to set the proper expectations
- How to onboard and train appropriately
- How to tailor their leadership style to the trainee
- How to identify what motivates each direct report
- How, when and in what ways to provide feedback
- Continuous feedback is an effective backstop to counseling and/or disciplining
- Why it’s critical they have regular one-on-ones with each direct report
- How to be better mentors
- How to address issues of conduct and behavior
- How to write, quantify and measure performance goals/objectives
- How to hold their people accountable to not just “what” they do but “how” they do it
- How to communicate more effectively
- How to lead by example
- How to recognize when they have a “C” player AND what to do with them
- How to recognize the “A” player
- How to make their “B” player and “A” player
High Performance Culture: It’s not just “what” the employee does but “how” they do it.
Today’s managers MUST have the core-competencies necessary to recruit, hire, develop, mentor and communicate; and, from a strategic perspective, if they want to set themselves apart from the competition, the best managers are those that invest time upfront, with each direct report, in order to develop a rapport, get to know them on an individual level and learn what motivates them. Unfortunately, too many managers take a wait-and-see approach and wait until something happens (i.e. productivity falls off) at which time they must then assume a tactical/reactive mode to get things back on track.
As stated above, it’s not just “what” the employee does but “how” they do it. In other words, employees should not only be accountable for meeting their performance targets, or goals; but, they must also treat all co-workers with respect, adhere to the professional code of conduct and behave in a manner that’s consistent with the values of the organization by modeling the appropriate behaviors and attitude. Personally, I recommend that 50% of one’s job it “what” they do and 50% is “how” they do it.
For example, we’ve all worked with folks that can execute but cannot get along with others and, conversely, we’ve all had co-workers that gets along with everyone but under-perform on a routine basis; therefore, by ensuring that both the “how” and the “what” are continually reinforced, the employer can minimize dysfunctional behaviors, as well as negativity and even gossip and, if it does occur, they’re able to performance manage those situations appropriately. In the end, the manager is able to terminate the employee with the rotten attitude and inappropriate behaviors even if they meet their performance targets.
The matrix is used for administering merit based increases:
For additional information, or if you have a workplace culture that could be enhanced with the “how” and “what” methodology, please don’t hesitate to contact Mike.
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Mike Russell is a seasoned professional with three decades of experience in the fields of HR and OD. In addition to having a career trajectory of HR Generalist to a VP within ten years, Mike also has a long and successful background as a Consultant/Business Partner to CEO’s, Presidents and Executive Directors in both the private and non-profit communities across a wide spectrum of industries.
As the sole-proprietor and owner of Organizational Development Solutions (ODS), Mike partners with business leaders committed to insulating their organization(s) from potential liability, increasing organizational effectiveness and adding shareholder value.
Call me and let’s discuss: 773-807-8437