If you manage others in your organization, you are responsible for identifying business objectives, establishing a clear set of expected outcomes, creating policies and procedures to guide daily activities, aligning appropriate resources, and providing the development and support necessary to maximize the likelihood that expected outcomes are achieved. How would you grade yourself in all of these areas?

On my blog http://executivecoachhms.wordpress.com/ I have been tracking which articles draw the most traffic, and it’s clearly those that discuss motivation. Everyone seems to be looking for tips and tricks on how to motivate everyone else. The problem is that you cannot motivate anyone. All you can do is create an environment that creates motivation. One of the keys to doing so is being a good manager and working hard to earn an “A’ in all the areas of the above responsibilities. My responsibility as Executive Coach is to earn an “A” helping you to do so.

It is essential that every employee from the janitor to the CEO be able to answer the following five questions. They are the foundation for optimal performance in your company. Before I list the questions, I would like to add the caveat that I am presuming you have hired the right people.

5 Key Questions

  • Why am I here?
  • What is expected of me?
  • How am I doing?
  • What is in it for me?
  • Where do I go for help?

Why am I here?

This appears to be a simple and harmless question. The typical answers you will hear are along the lines of “to make money,” or a functional person such as salesperson may respond “to sell as much business as possible.” This is only partially correct and is addressed in question number 2. Step one is to make sure that everyone in your company knows and lives the company’s vision.

Every employee has the responsibility to contribute toward achieving the company’s vision. Vision-driven organizations far outperform the rest! The vision is your purpose. It is that need you are serving in the marketplace. By selecting a unique, exciting, and compelling purpose, you energize your workforce. The vision excites everyone about the possibilities that currently do not exist. They are trying to be different, and this creates energy and inspires action.

What is expected of me?

At first the answer seems obvious; then, we find ourselves needing to consider the following:

  • What is the communication style of the employee?
  • What are the key company and department priorities this year?
  • What outcomes are most wanted from this position?
  • What employee behaviors are desired?
  • Are the other team members’ objectives supportive and aligned?
  • What do our customers, suppliers, vendors, and other stakeholders expect?
  • How will success be measured?

Let’s first address the question of how to communicate our expectations to the employee. For us to be effective, it is essential that we properly identify the employee’s communication style, which can be categorized as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or auditory digital. The visual communicator seeks pictures and often has trouble remembering verbal instructions. Auditory communicators learn best through listening and can repeat things back to you easily. Kinesthetic communicators memorize through doing or walking through something. Auditory digital people memorize by steps, procedures, and sequences. The most important point is that simply providing a job description, no matter how well written and comprehensive, may not be the appropriate means for communicating expectations with a particular employee.

It is important to create a formal job description. Common pitfalls we see with regard to job descriptions revolve around the fact that many are outdated and really should be reviewed at least once a year. In addition, they cannot be viewed on a singular basis as many people work in and on teams. Failure to synchronize job descriptions can set employees up for failure even when they perform according to their job responsibilities.

Most importantly, the employee needs to be able to understand and visualize the outcomes that are expected of them. Focusing on measurable outcomes that are aligned with organizational goals has many benefits. First, measurable goals when aligned with the organization’s goals will evolve and change annually in support of the overall business plan. In addition, when employees understand what needs to be accomplished they are in a better position to know how to act independently. Independent thinking promotes problem-solving within the organization, and employees are better able to prioritize their work and perform more effectively. Lastly, these employees will tend to achieve a higher degree of job satisfaction.

How am I doing?

At the onset of a performance period, each employee should take part in developing a scorecard for their annual performance that is broken down into quarterly milestones. The purpose is to allow for a system that measures and tracks performance in a way that provides a supervisor and employee the opportunity to identify and address issues in time to ensure that annual goals can be achieved. It also provides for focused and objective discussion of issues and helps employees avoid feeling personally attacked.

In order to increase the likelihood for success, goals and objectives must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistically high, and Target dates. Further, it is recommended that goals be specified in a manner which affords the ability to translate results into performance appraisals. For example, if the appraisal rates people on a scale that includes Excellent, Good, or Poor performance the measurement system should establish the bar for each class. This provides several benefits: 1) offers clarity to both supervisor and subordinate as to what constitutes above-average or exceptional performance; 2) holds the supervisor accountable for arbitrarily rating an employee’s performance based on personal biases; and 3) takes the mystery out of the performance evaluation.

What is in it for me?

Employees have different motivators, with pay being the most obvious. While the structuring of compensation programs is outside the scope of this article there are two points I would like to address. First, research has shown that there is little correlation between a good compensation plan and performance, but the absence of fair compensation can have detrimental effects on performance. Secondly, employers should be very careful when making changes to compensation plans and should work hard to make employees aware of the total compensation and benefits they receive from the company.

Where do I go for help?

Establishing multiple venues and resources for communication and support is essential for achieving peak performance. Employee assistance programs, mentoring programs, buddy systems, and open-door policies are all great means for supporting employee success.

In the end, to motivate your employees to peak performance they all must be able to answer the five questions I have outlined in this article. If they cannot, you can expect that they will underachieve.

Review our website at activategroupinc.com to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business, or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7213.

Executive Coaching, Leadership, Management

About Howard M. Shore

Howard M. Shore is a Certified Gazelles Coach, Certified Public Accountant Certified Executive Coach, Certified Behavioral Analyst, Certified Values Analyst, and Certified Attributes Index Analyst. He has earned Bachelor and MBA degrees from Florida International University, and completed advanced executive programs at Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago.