Soon someone close to you will propose the ultimate time waster. They will tell you it’s essential you implement it in your company. They will say you can’t scale your company without it. Their intentions will come with the most genuine and positive intent. For them, their recommendation is a no-brainer.
They will tell you that you need a performance management process. As a founder, you despise the term and what it stands for. YOU NEED TO ADDRESS IT HEAD ON or it will surface again and again.
You’ll hear that…
“You need to cascade objectives and get people aligned.”
“People need to be accountable.”
“You need visibility into what people are doing.”
“You can’t manage what you don’t track.”
“To fairly compensate your people, you need to measure their performance.”
This is OLD THINKING.
Companies that are CRUSHING it know how to balance accountability and freedom… Communication and trust… Planning and flexibility. They do it without the baggage of complicated and time wasting processes.
When it comes to setting up your growing team for success, there are only 5 or 6 moments that matter. Get these decisions right and your team will soar. Make the wrong choice and you will mire your organization in time wasting processes. Energy will be zapped. Frustration will build.
This is one of those decisions.
The industrial era was fertile ground for metrics-driven, top-down planning systems. That time has passed. The most progressive organizations have moved on. If you are a founding CEO starting from scratch, rebel against this system.
Want to align your team around your priorities — and keep them aligned?
Try this instead.
Humans are not machines to be measured and controlled. Our strength is in our ability to manage in complex environments. Emotion is infused in our work, decisions and communication.
Every member of your team wants to add value. They want to do good work that matters. They want to grow founder.
Rather than relying on a rigid system, build the following philosophies into your leadership.
Share your vision in full colour rather than creating soul destroying targets. FREQUENTLY communicate the themes and priorities that are most important to the business. The best teams aren’t motivated by numbers and targets. It’s impact that fuels their work. Use storytelling to bring your priorities to life. Did I mention you need to do it FREQUENTLY? Take your current communication and increase it 10x. Check out this article for ideas on how to amplify your message.
Trust and enable personal choice. If you can’t trust your people, there is a problem that requires immediate attention. Exceptional talent expects trust. Ritualize asking “What are you working on and how can I help?” This allows you to enter into a conversation and see if their work aligns with your priorities.
Model deliberate ownership of personal development. We all need role models to support our personal development. Share your personal development areas. Seek insights from others about how you can improve. Encourage the same of your team. If you are a founder of a growing company, you already embrace personal development. Now your founder job is to make your development skills visible to your team.
Ensure 20% of your weekly meetings focus on important rather than urgent conversations. With a frequency and format that works for your team, schedule regular conversations. Use the time for a deeper dive on important topics. Include each others’ personal development priorities. This is a two-way conversation anchored in the work that you are both doing. Taking notes is optional. Food and drink is highly recommended. Keeping up with these meetings can be tough in an urgency driven world. Use nudges to help keep you on track. There are many great tools out there to help. WorkTango is a client of mine and I like the approach their tool offers.
Resist any approach that rates, ranks or categorizes people on your team. Trust the power of conversation to tell you who is doing well and who is struggling. Ratings and rankings are a scapegoat for important and often difficult conversations. Don’t slip into the industrial age practice of treating people like soulless resources.
Stick with language that real people use. When we use terms like human resources, performance management, and feedback, we dehumanize the relationships we have with our team. Consider terms and phases like: “Let’s get together for a check in and share what we’ve learned over the last few weeks”; “Can I share a thought?”; “I see you struggling, how can I help?”; “What have you learned about yourself over the last few months?”
Do you feel the difference? Your team will.
Superstar leaders understand the nuances between what I’ve just described and traditional performance management. Communication and a sense of direction is essential to the success of your organization. Trying to control and manage performance is not. The style and frequency of communication permeating your business reflects what you model.
Give it a try. I’d love to hear your success stories. If you hit some bumps, contact me and I’ll share more tips to get things on track.
I blog to help Founder CEOs on their journey from kitchen table to 200 employees. Be the first to receive new articles by signing up for my newsletter here.