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Performance Management pain or power?

By: Bob Norton, performance management specialist & consultant

Is performance management a pain for your organization or is it a power behind your organization?

When I first started working with fire departments, cities, utility districts and municipalities years ago I noticed common problems that each organization faced. These problems were sometimes intense and severe; other times they were just daily irritants. No matter the size or scope of these common problems, they created for each organization a reminder as to the need to get “serious” about performance management.

What is performance management? It is a combination of individual, team and organization goals moving in the same direction. It ensures that the employees and leaders are empowered to perform at their optimum level. It enhances communication and consistency within the whole organization.

Do any of the following common problems reflect your organization?

  • Consistency between shifts, stations, and leaders
  • Communication from Leadership does not get all the way to the first level employees
  • Employees taking things personally
  • No common goals on an ongoing basis
  • No clear expectations for each position
  • No accountability for lazy leaders
  • No consequences for high performers or low performers
  • Lack of follow-up and follow-through
  • Ineffective Performance Reports/Reviews

If you can relate to any of the above common problems then performance management is essential to your organization.

What I found in each organization was a lack of clear understanding as to what leadership and performance management was all about. Many times individuals were placed in leadership because of tenure or expertise in a certain area, but they lacked proper leadership skills and focus. They tended to be more subjective in their leadership and not objective. They based their leadership on how they felt or what they thought about an employee and they missed the target of what they truly get paid for as a leader.

Every leader gets paid for results. They get the results through the only unlimited resource they have – the people that are a part of their teams. The truth about leadership is that every leader must get the most of each of their employees, and help those employees be the best they can be in their specific positions.

Leadership of these organizations also misunderstood the best motivator for employees in the workforce. They thought money was the best motivator but they found out once they paid the employee a certain amount within a short time the employee wanted more. I ask leaders every week, “What is the number one motivator?” I will get all kinds of responses but the number one motivator for employees is achievement. If we achieve something we are motivated, if we spin our wheels and get nothing done we are dragging by the end of the day. The number two motivator is recognition. Therefore, if a leader is recognizing achievement on an ongoing basis then employees will stay motivated.

Another problem that was very common was a lack of an agreement of expectations. Everyone in the organization had an idea as to what a specific position was to do but they did not have a clear agreement as to expectations. Therefore, performance was up and down continually. If an employee was motivated internally then the performance would be more up then down. However, most employees lacked the internal motivation and the performance was only up when a leader was micromanaging an employee, which created additional problems.

The fact is that most employees want to do a great job. Tension and conflict in the workplace occurs when the leader’s expectation differs from the employees’ expectation.

For example, an employee was trying to do a good job (their expectation) and was upset when they found out that leader wasn’t pleased with the outcome (differing expectation). Whose fault is that? Answer: the organizational leadership.

If the organization requires that everyone agrees on the expectation of each position, the tasks required in that position and how those tasks should be accomplished then there is little reason for conflict. Additionally, as the organization scales, or experiences turnover, the organization need not start from scratch again and again because the organization is not held together by individuals, it is held together by its own structure. Finally, most of the organizations conducted performance reviews once a year because they “had to”, and they were a PAIN! Leaders could not remember what happened 11 months ago, or 6 months ago; therefore, they usually responded to “how they felt” about an employee over the 4-5 weeks before the performance review was due. Also, the organizations would use the same performance review for every position within the organization and therefore specific areas important to specific positions would be missed in the review. Leaders would tell me how they dreaded the reviews and detested having to fill them out. The insecure leaders not wanting to offend an employee would give the employee good scores, but then complain the rest of the year about the employee. The major problem with these performance reviews was the subjectivity of them. They were based on the leader’s feelings and thoughts and not the employee’s actual performance.

Performance management systems and the associated annual performance reports have long been deemed a necessary but cumbersome process. The performance reports often have unnecessary complexity, the time they take and the frequently onerous format and content result in low or ineffective utilization. Most annual performance reports end up formally documenting specific issues from the recent past and vague comments mixed with editorials about the preceding fifty weeks. This questionable content is biased heavily by the mood of the leader and their relationship to the employee at the time of review. The annual performance report often ends up being inaccurate, soft or unnecessarily punitive, rather than an effective motivator. This usually leads to conflict, not improved performance.

What’s the Answer?

Tenzinga Performance Management system is the answer! It is an online active performance management system. It is a system that can be accessed from anywhere there is an internet connection. Each problem mentioned above is addressed through the use and implementation of Tenzinga.

TENZINGA Performance Power™ is the solution to the performance management problem. TENZINGA has developed a revolutionary performance management system that is based on decades of research and carefully addresses the failures of all traditional performance management systems. TENZINGA Performance Power™ offers leaders a simple roadmap to successfully manage both exceptional and underperforming employees. TENZINGA enables leaders and executives alike, to evaluate and recognize achievement of employees on a constant basis in a matter of seconds, turning recognition into results. With TENZINGA’s Follow-up & Follow-thru process, leaders will ensure that problem areas are identified, addressed and corrected.

Employees are invigorated on a consistent basis and challenged to perform at an elevated level throughout the year. Employees on TENZINGA Performance Power™ have clearly defined expectations for their position and know exactly what it will take to meet and exceed those expectations. They have the knowledge, ability and desire to work with leadership to create plans for their future, and then target their efforts to attain it.

Clients of Tenzinga have stated that Tenzinga Performance Management has effected morale in a very positive way:

“TENZINGA Performance Management has contributed greatly to our organization’s morale”

“The TENZINGA Performance Management system has improved our staff morale”

“We have found that the TENZINGA Performance management system has assisted with key employee retention”

“Tenzinga creates an environment for success”

“Tenzinga is a Bachelor’s Degree in a box!”

How Does It Work?

Each position within the organization has tasks, standards and measurements developed and implemented within the Tenzinga Performance Management system. Each leader enters a minimum of once a month a performance log for the employee. This performance log is objective and is focused on what the employee has done and not how the leader “feels” or “think” about the employee’s performance.

The employee always knows up to the minute how they are performing in their specific position. They are alerted as to a performance log has been submitted for them.

Clients respond with comments regarding the ongoing performance logs:

“With the TENZINGA Performance Management system our employees are always up to date with their performance ratings”

“Everyone has been very prompt in completing performance logs every month and the regular feedback is helpful”

“I really believe the system forces (in a good way) managers to be more cognizant of how they communicate and the importance of writing dialog.”

“I personally love the fact that we can document actions immediately so that we can guide staff in the best direction as time passes instead of in arrears.

“I like the system and I think it helps supervisors evaluate subordinates in a timely matter instead of semi-annually.”

Since the employee has received objective feedback from their leader throughout the year, the Annual Performance Reports take only minutes to complete at the end of the year. Performance Reports are saved to each employee’s dashboard for easy access by the employee or the leader.

Users of Tenzinga have endorsed the Performance Reports with the following comments:

“The TENZINGA Performance Management system has greatly reduced the time it takes to produce a professional performance report.”

 “The TENZINGA Performance Management system produces a performance report that is fair to all employees, and cuts out the subjective opinions.”

“The TENZINGA Performance Management system has cut our supervisors’ performance report completion times in half”

Tenzinga is known as a “wind-shield” and not a “rear-view mirror” system; meaning, the time that a leader spends with an employee at the end of the year is looking ahead and not behind. The focus is on the Development Plan that is a part of the Tenzinga system. It allows the leader and employee to build an “action plan” for the year on how the employee will improve in the core competencies/values of the organization. It also has a succession planning module in it.

There are also Leadership Forms that assist the Leader in Coaching, Mentoring and Counseling.

Tenzinga Performance Management system builds an Org Chart for your organization that enables employees and leaders to view the organization and employees as a whole team.

The structure of Tenzinga allows the General Manager to see down through the organization. It produces a transparency that exposes lazy leaders and ensures communication is active and effective.

Clients have enjoyed the Org Chart feature by stating:

“I have enjoyed using the org. chart in the TENZINGA system to determine who to call for things.  It was an added unexpected bonus.”

“Tenzinga has allowed me as a manager to see that my leaders are doing their job as a leader, and are engaging with their employees continually.”

Conclusion

Performance management does not have to be a pain, but it can be the power behind great success. Leaders and organizations that want to become more than just a mediocre functioning entity realize the importance and vital significance of having an effective ongoing performance management system. The challenge is being open to a culture and organizational change that causes every position within the organization to strive for excellence on a daily basis.

If your organization desires to move to a higher level of performance and achieve greater results then please give us a call at 615.647.8230 or email us at info@tenzinga.com for more information.

Managing within the context of a fire organization

Human Relations: Managing within the context of a fire organization

• September 2018 • Chief Robert Benoit – 2nd Vice President, IAFC-SW Division – Fire Chief Lafayette Fire Department

The basic principles for managing one’s personal and family life, a private corporation (small or large) and both for-profit and nonprofit businesses are similar to those needed to manage a fire department. These management processes provide an orderly structure to achieving goals and objectives through delegated authority under competent leadership.
Within the context of a fire organization, effective management is a learned behavior that demands continuous training, requires team spirit and provides a strong disciplinary influence.
The NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, Section 10, Chapter 1, states

  Almost all fire departments were administered by clearly defined organizational structures long before system techniques were applied to industry and business. A system of task allocation to engine and ladder crews was developed whereby each person on the apparatus performed certain functions in sequence so the team operated as a coordinated unit, without duplication of effort.

Most fire departments are structured around this traditional model, and with it, leaders have a firm foundation to build on; continuous training, team spirit and influence are some of their construction tools.

Continuous Training

On June 15, my department held its 101st recruit academy graduation, with 17 graduates who started their training in January. The academies are six months long, with the objective of making sure each recruit has the foundation needed to perform in an effective manner during the working test period, which totals 18 months of probationary status. At the end of the working test period, they’re confirmed as permanent firefighters.

This is where the real training begins, and it will continue throughout their careers.

Effective leaders in the fire service are no different than those they manage. Management principles must start at the top and flow downward through the chain of command. Lower-level officers often find it difficult to practice leadership styles different from their superiors if we are not practicing what we preach.

Common sense is not without its merits. However, it’s just one tool mangers use, along with consistent education and training, to help members understand that decisions made at the member level may resolve an issue temporarily but that some decisions need to be made from a wider perspective, such as seen by the department leadership, to have lasting effects.

Team Spirit

If you are going to wear the jersey, become a team player. A spirit of cooperation is a powerful tool, meaning sometimes you will have to change your focus and direction for the betterment of the organization. Staff meetings are critical, can be very efficient and should be inclusive. All aspects of the department, both supervisors and members, should be able to sit at the table and present ideas to management on a regular basis.

The fire and emergency service is a very complex field that is constantly evolving, often very rapidly. Individual skills can make or break an organization and can best be managed when the leaders feel the pulse, which can only happen in a huddle (that is, staff meetings).
When employees are given the opportunity to provide input, self-ownership takes over and the stronger players have a way of getting the weaker players to buy into their goals and objectives. As a manager and part of the team, you have the authority to make things happen. Never let power keep you on the sidelines.

Influence

Black’s Law Dictionary defines influence as

“Power exerted over others. To affect, modify or act upon by physical, mental or moral power, especially in some gentle, subtle and gradual way.”

A lot can be said about influence depending on who is in charge. I like the phrase “gentle, subtle and gradual way” because it takes the sting out of having to use force to achieve goals and objectives in running an efficient fire service organization. The truism “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” goes a long way in making people feel appreciated.
Managers are held to a higher standard and are always being watched, filmed, recorded and scrutinized. Managers can get in trouble for off-duty actions, sometimes forgetting we’re always on the radar. Fire service leaders who excel do so because they’re on top of their games. More often than not, we forget that we’re human; it’s not the big things hurting us, but the illegal, unethical or immoral acts that destroy us because we don’t think things through.

Education = Knowledge = Success = Power

As an administrator, you have the authority to manage the performance within your organization. It takes a long time to build character and excel to the level of leadership in the fire service. It only takes a split second to crash and burn. As a leader, you owe it to yourself, your family and the entire fire service to finish strong, making a colossal impact on the organization you represent.

Chief Benoit is a member of the IAFC Human Relations Committee and currently sits on the executive board of the IAFC-Southwestern Division

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