Research proves, more than anything else, success is about having the ability to consistently set goals and reach them via the right methods and strategies.
So says motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, whose book Nine Things Successful People Do Differently has sparked a dramatic shift in the way managers develop average players into top performers. In a recent interview, Halvorson broke down three areas every manager can focus on to boost each staffer’s performance and maximize productivity.
1. Being good v. getting better. More than three-quarters of employees nationwide believe the over-arching goal of their job is to “be good” at what they do. Yet, one of the fundamental keys to constant improvement, based on decades worth of research, is to develop staffers who consistently “get better” at what they’re doing.
From a management perspective, here are three key differences between the two:
- Average managers encourage employees to complete their weekly tasks or goals, while great leaders meet regularly to raise the bar on goals and adjust expectations.
- In an average organization, basic job description is the status quo. At top companies, failure to continue building on your successes and sharpening your skills is the equivalent of failing to evolve with the company. There are clear consequences for failing to live up to expectations, and managers make it a point to follow through.
- In average organizations, employees are discouraged from taking risks, and instructed to always work within the confines of a system. In great organizations, employees are encouraged to take calculated risks, so long as they learn from mistakes, and use those lessons to improve their overall performance. The irony, according to Halvorson, is that employees who are encouraged to make mistakes make fewer of them, while those who are scolded for doing so never evolve beyond a certain point.
2. Sustainability vs. growth. Employees at successful companies are trained to develop a sense of “grit,” or fierce determination to never become complacent about results. This trickles down from a philosophy that every staffer should be pursuing something greater than what he/she currently has. At Google, staffers are actually told to devote 20% of their time each week to developing a unique idea of their own. That free time has resulted in some of the most valuable innovations Google has come up with to date.
While some managers may not be in a position to offer the same type of freedom, here are three ways they can achieve a similar end:
- Develop each recruit on a different track for success. For instance, develop some employees for management, some for senior mentoring, some for administrative side duties and others for straight departmental work. The key is to give each employee a sense of accomplishment while increasing their value to the company.
- Create personalized incentives for each staffer (based on his/her stated preference) and motivate people to attain the incentive by achieving something above and beyond what they’ve ever done before.
- If at all possible, allow employees the option to work from home every now and again, provided they hit certain agreed-upon benchmarks.
3. Goals v. action steps. There are two specific reasons why most front-line employees fail to achieve their long-term goals:
- lack of an overall plan, and
- lack of proper follow up from management.
The best way to overcome this is by sitting down with each employee and entering into a performance contract. Map out three challenging goals, but – more importantly – work with each employee to determine which action steps will be necessary to achieve the next level of success. Going forward, it should be the manager’s responsibility to follow up at scheduled intervals, charting progress and adjusting as need be.