I love motor vehicles, especially those that are designed to perform at optimal levels in races on tracks or on the dirt in rallies. The back-up crew of mechanics and engineers are critical to any driver’s potential success, as the crew spend hours tweaking the performance and ability of the vehicle from engine to suspension, from handling and braking ability to acceleration and overall top speed. They attempt to get the best out of every part of the vehicle to give the driver a fair chance of success. Non-performance of any part is not acceptable and is appropriately addressed.

One of the most common problems that I have noticed in many companies is that performance conversations are few and far between. They are often reserved for performance appraisal time, which by definition is retrospective in nature – what your performance looked like in the past quarter or past half-year. Sustaining a culture of performance within a company that aligns to organisational strategy and fully utilises the total complement of available human resources is tough to say the least and poses on-going challenges for all leaders at senior levels. Some of the challenges include the following:

  • Barriers to performance are not adequately dealt with – lack of resources, dysfunctional relationships, inferior leadership, poor communication and non-aligned systems slow down organisational performance.
  • Performance management systems are not in place – if they are, they may be cumbersome or inadequate.
  • There is little or no alignment of employee contracts with the strategic objectives of the company or department.
  • There is no direct link between salary and performance – staff get paid their salaries whether they perform well or not.
  • There seems to be resistance in some organisations to deal with under-performance.
  • Inadequate or no training is given to managers to assist them in enhancing performance with their own subordinates.
  • Autocratic and bureaucratic leadership/managerial styles are often counter-productive to growing a performance culture within the organisation.

Developing a culture of organisational performance requires on-going performance-related conversations at all levels in the company – team-based and individual-based dialogue around the levers that enhance performance, productivity, and quality. It requires a participatory leadership style across the board, where respect is shown for the individual’s ideas and giftedness. Some of what is required includes the following:

  • Complete and thorough communication of the company strategy to all levels within the organisation – with subsequent team discussions on what it looks like when the team is feeding into the strategy.
  • A well-aligned and integrated performance management system must be implemented and totally bought into by senior executives – they need to live it daily.
  • The salary system needs to be reviewed and people need to be rewarded in line with key performance areas that are aligned to strategy.
  • Training in relation to the strategy, performance areas and performance system needs to be delivered at all levels within the organisation.
  • Managers need to be taught how to coach staff to meet performance requirements and undergo leadership development.
  • Understanding, receiving, and giving feedback needs to be understood and implemented by management at all levels.

Organisational performance is not just a system of appraising and monitoring quality, customer satisfaction and productivity issues, but is fundamentally a process of enhancing and achieving higher levels of staff satisfaction and motivation and subsequent performance of individuals and teams. Treating employees as creative individuals that can add real value to the business through their respective gifts and skills can provide advantages both for the business, through increased organisational performance, and for the employees, with respect to motivation, role satisfaction and enhanced self-esteem.

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