By Goke Ilesanmi
Findings show that most managers spend 90 per cent of their time dealing with the most challenging employees. They (managers) work to improve performance, attendance and overall productivity, but the risk taken in focusing too much time on low performers amounts to neglecting high performers or even steady performers. The top performers may resent their neglect and cease to perform up to what has become expected. Experts say it is imperative for manager to help low performers improve, encourage steady performers to become high performers, and inspire high performers to maintain their standards.
One way of juggling all these tasks is to partner for performance. As a team leader, your job responsibilities include evaluating your team’s performance and taking action based on that performance. Employees are classified on three levels of performance, that is, high performers, steady performers and low performers. Experts stress that by partnering for performance, you can sustain the high productivity of top performers and develop your steady performing team members into top performers.
Being a leader or boss
To be able to coordinate the team well for performance, you need to be a leader rather than a boss. The difference between a boss and a leader is that while a boss gives orders; a leader influences his team through collective decisions and motivation. A boss exercises control or supervision and dictates policies; a leader guides or directs operations or performance, and goes at the head. Do your employees see you as part of the team or as looking over it? Are you a boss or a leader?
According to a business management expert, E. M. Kelly, a boss says, “Go!” while a leader says, “Let’s go!”
Though there are times when a manager must exercise authority, on a daily basis, a leadership approach will foster a team feeling and eliminate the “we versus they” perception often associated with the manager-subordinate relationship. According to Jenny Kerwin, a contributing writer for Interactive Quality Solutions, the relationships you develop with your direct reports can make or break the success of your team. Developing solid relationships with your employees creates an environment of teamwork, productivity and success.
This environment encourages feedback for improvement. Performance issues and areas of opportunity and achievement are no longer an uphill battle, but rather an effort between partners. This is referred to as ‘Partnering for Performance’.
On the interpretation of partnering for performance, a partner is someone who participates in a relationship in which each member has equal status. Partnership for performance focuses on the actions of managers and team members for successful achievement of workplace goals. These goals can be related to areas such as improved quality, efficiency or even ongoing career development. As partners, both managers and employees work together to create the solutions.
Kerwin says partnering for performance is centred on building relationships and allows managers to create relationship with subordinates leading to great success. Communication is one of the key elements to building relationships and tools for building relationships through communication may be easier than you might think.
To create effective partnership with your team as a manager, you need to ask questions and get to know your team members; show interest in their personal and professional success; verbally and specifically recognise performance and achievements; listen to the employees; and set expectations for your team members. You should ask your team members what they expect of you as their leader; discuss how you will support them in their performance, and what you expect in return; conduct regular one-on-one meetings to discuss performance, successes and future direction; set goals together; and agree upon what both partners will do to achieve those goals.
According to Kerwin, partnering for performance is not about placing individuals on an action plan or performance improvement plan. Although these plans are components of management and necessary tools, without an established relationship you may meet resistance or be unsuccessful when enforcing them. Managers cannot create relationships with employees if the only conversations between them occur when there are problems or issues. When partnering for performance, it is counter-productive to deliver directives such as telling someone what they will do to solve the problem. Instead, a manager who is a partner would ask what he could do to help, what the employee’s thoughts are for solving the problem, or what they think the next steps should be.
Absence of partnership
Managers who do not create partnership often encounter resistance to coaching. More often than not, there will be an attitude of “we and they” towards management and the environment will look like a disconnected group of individuals working together rather than a team. Managers who fail to build partnership with their team members also may be perceived as unapproachable, and this is dangerous. Team members will not feel comfortable discussing career goals, bringing up work environment issues, or making suggestions and that negatively affects the work experience. Kerwin reveals that such managers will be revered only as a boss rather than a leader.
Quality is defined as a degree or grade of excellence and an inherent or distinguishing characteristic or trait. According to Carole Sue Jones, a contributing writer for Interactive Quality Solutions, “For Call Centres, providing a ‘Quality Experience’ to your customers competes for priority with other metrics such as call handle time, call volume and full time equivalent. However, it can become a distinguishing trait. So how can Call Centre managers improve the quality of their customers’ experiences?”
Creating a quality call experience requires three primary focus points. First, you need to define what quality looks and sounds like in your call centre. This may be defined by your customers’ needs; needs of the call centre, or by scores or other deliverables for which you are responsible. However you define quality in your working environment, it is essential to communicate that effectively to front-line employees who interact with your customers the most.
Kelly Graves, founder and CEO of Internal Solutions Consulting says you may believe that your company is the only one in the free world that’s suffering from poor employee communication and frustrations at every level. You are definitely not alone. But knowing that conflict and communication problems exist in practically every organisation comes with little comfort.
The second focus point, according to Jones, involves monitoring. In order to know what kind of experience your customers are having, you have to listen to how your customer service representatives handle calls. When you monitor a representative’s quality, you must consider tangible behaviour like using the correct greeting, description of product and documentation methods as well as intangible behaviour, including manner of speaking, tone of voice and attitude towards customers. You should be able to document and discuss the behaviour in order to correct what is not working and to expand upon what is working well. Once you identify the behaviour, apply the last focus point, which includes feedback and coaching.
Third focus point for creating a quality call experience is coaching. Representatives not only need to know that they are being monitored, but also that somebody cares about the type of job they are doing. Quality Assurance (QA) scores alone, while helpful, rarely have enough impact on a representative to change or improve his or her behaviour.
Effective communication is the first step towards enhancing performance and as a follow-up to that, Connective Coaching can make all the difference between success and frustration. Connective Coaching Model allows managers to build on employees’ existing skills, to offer relevant suggestions for improvement and to provide employees with a platform to monitor their own successes and coach others.
Connective Coaching Model
Connective Coaching for improved performance and higher quality service can be one of the most rewarding and challenging interactions you have with your employees. As an effective coach, it is your responsibility to guide, discuss, educate and encourage employees to achieve outstanding results.
In the absence of good feedback, employees will provide their own. If a manager never gives effective feedback, inexperienced employees may think that they are doing a great job and more surprisingly, capable employees may have a negative impression of their performance, says Jones.
Your employees are the only resource you have which separates you from your closest competitors. In short, they are the source of your competitive advantage. Irrespective of your technical, financial or other challenges, there will always be human beings involved. Therefore, all challenges must be solved by you and your staff. You will definitely benefit from taking steps towards implementing an employee development programme. Establishing or re-establishing trust and improving communication has a profound and positive impact on each employee’s development – as well as on your company’s bottom line.
Partnering for performance is a tool like any other in the manager’s tool box. It is critical to success. Effective relationships, commitments and productivity are the tangible rewards of the partner relationship. Partnering for performance is a worthwhile challenge that enables you to become a team leader.
Go out there, partner for performance. Creating high quality requires an investment in the processes through constantly reviewing and refining goals and skills. By defining the standard, monitoring and coaching, you can improve your employees’ performances and enhance your customers’ experiences.
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Till we meet on Wednesday.
GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Certified Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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