The Fundamental Shifts of Great Performance Management #7: Incent Collaboration

Fundamental Shift #7: Incent collaboration.
Shift from: Individual metrics
Shift to: Shared commitments

What I love about collaboration is that it’s both good for the organization and good for your employees. It provides them with more opportunities to scale their ideas and to influence corporate actions, and it allows them to find greater meaning in their work because they can better appreciate the role they play in the broader corporate community. We’ve also come to realize that true, sustainable innovation requires collaboration. Today’s most innovative companies don’t have some Leonardo da Vinci sitting in a corner coming up with all the good ideas. True innovation comes from many things, but a key ingredient is a collaborative environment where ideas are shared, people can safely challenge the status quo and each other, and teams work together to explore and adopt new technologies, solutions, and ideas.

And then there’s the fact that collaboration is itself a powerful motivator. Research shows that giving people team goals rather than just individual goals increases productivity.13 We evolved as a species to work together to support the common goal—so much so that our brain chemistry is designed to reward us for behavior that supports teamwork.14 Think about that for a moment. Now think about how often we rate people on individual metrics. Basically, we’ve put systems in place to make people work in ways that are contrary to their own brain chemistry and in support of behaviors that we don’t want to encourage, such as taking a “me” focus versus a “we” focus, or resorting to shortcuts to achieve target metrics, or getting to the goal come hell or high water, leaving a trail of tears behind them.

collaborate!Can you imagine how much more effective we could be if we tapped into the power of teamwork instead? To do so, try shifting the focus from individual performance metrics to a goal (or goals) the team can work toward together. This could be a sales or delivery goal, or the customer service performance metrics of the team as a whole. As they share goals, team members will also share support, ideas, help when it’s needed, and a laugh or two along the way—all ideal ingredients for engagement and productivity.

There’s probably some part of you that’s hesitant about moving away from managing at the individual level. It is a little counterintuitive in a culture that celebrates and rewards personal achievement. After all, you don’t give an entire class a grade. But think about what would happen if you did! The class would work together to make sure that the work got done and would reach a higher level of performance as a whole. Your highest achievers might feel held back a little, or maybe they’ll be energized by the influence they have on the team. But in an environment of collaboration, you will see the true leaders—your future managers—rise to the top as the group recognizes and celebrates those with outstanding contributions.

At this point I often get asked about accountability. Yes, of course you need to have clear accountabilities, but those accountabilities for individuals are in reference to what the team is counting on them to deliver, not how they perform in isolation. It is a subtle shift from “Here’s what I’m going to do this year” to “Here’s how I will contribute to our group achievements,” but it’s an important one.

You’ll need to have certain elements in place to ensure success If you go down this road. Here’s my top five:

  1. Get clear on what group of people you define as “the team.” At PeopleFirm, we think of the entire company as the team, but for larger organizations that may not make as much sense.
  2. Be sure the endgame is clearly defined and known by everyone on the team you’ve identified. Be sure that everyone involved can articulate the outcome, destination, or result that the group as a whole is seeking.
  3. Create a safe environment for the team through mechanisms they can use to share feedback, talk about how things are working, escalate concerns, and periodically assess how they’re doing as a unit.
  4. Be sure that each individual knows the part she’s expected to play, and make sure that she has the capabilities she needs to deliver on that part. It’s cruel for a team to expect something from someone who simply doesn’t have the knowledge or ability to deliver on an expectation.
  5. Everyone in the group must be clear not only about his or her own role, but also about the roles and expectations of each contributor.

It’s like making a beautiful mosaic: the planned design needs to be understood, each person needs to be willing and able to provide his or her piece of the mosaic, the group needs to understand how all the pieces fit, and there needs to be clear intention in how the pieces come together.

Happy rebooting,

This was an abridged excerpt from my book, How Performance Management is Killing Performance – and What To Do About It. I’ve condensed the content quite a lot in order to keep this post shortish here – check out the book (you can order it from Barnes and or Amazon) for the “full meal deal” – MTC

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