Victories aren’t accidents. Leaders create them by injecting deliberate practice day in and day out.
Most often the leaders have the right intent and complete knowledge of the right practices. However, they fail to put them into practice. It is easy to imagine and still easier to preach that the leaders must drive their teams to follow the right practices. However, in practice, it is very tough because leaders face a huge number of distractions and unplanned situations right from sudden developments in the market, evolving expectations of the shareholders and changes in the regulatory environment to the health and safety of employees. They rely on their high performers to deal with the changing scenarios and lead the way. They understand the importance of high potentials to sustain the performance levels of the organisation over a long time and want to eliminate the low performers from their teams.
Why isn’t everyone in the team a great player?
While recruiting, companies with strong HR practices do apply their best judgement in picking talent who match their requirements. Yet there is no full-proof assessment method yet to predict high levels of certainty that the talent who clears the assessment process will deliver great results.
Secondly, we are dealing with human resources who have a mind and a heart of their own; they are subject to various forces within the organisation as well as in the environment. Hence, their motivations keep evolving. Moreover, the context of the organisation keeps changing over time and the priorities change. As a result, the assessment criteria used for selection keep changing. Someone who cleared the assessments some time ago need not be fitting well in the new context.
Thirdly, organisations move people into new roles to offer them growth opportunities as a part of their talent retention strategy. In the new roles, people have to deliver outcomes that are different from what they have been used to doing. In all cases, they might not be able to fulfil the expectations and struggle to meet the goals. Someone who was a high performer in one role might be a low performer in the new role.
Spotting and nurturing them
In any of the above scenarios, we have to spot the talent who is passionate about the organisation’s purpose, understands the vision and appreciates the path he or she has to take to be among the team who can realise the vision.
Over the years of work in the organisation, the reporting manager, skip-level manager and other managers who interact with the employee are in a good position to observe his or her behaviours. Hence, they can identify a group of employees whose skills and competencies are not only crucial to the organisation’s vision but also have high levels of commitment to the vision. There are several templates available; some of them can be adapted to fit into the organisation’s context and be used to assess the potential of the employees.
Post identification of the high-potentials, we have to nurture them. This is an art and science at the same time like cooking, gardening and teaching. Over time, the practitioner gains experience in using a combination of tools to make sure that the output is top-notch. Similarly, the process of nurturing talent is a combination of art and the practice of science. The training and development initiatives need not be just like a calendar that just keeps happening like a programmed machine. We need processes that can be performed repetitively and have enough scope to craft the tools needed to help people grow into professionals who deliver great outcomes.
How do we transform the low-performers?
Nobody needs low performers. Neither does an employee want to perform poorly. Often it is because of myriad factors in the organisation ranging from wrong hiring and selection, unclear priorities to chase and unfavourable team dynamics to unrealistic expectations. Sometimes, it is due to an individual’s context too; motivations and priorities can change for the employee.
All managers know that each role must have a purpose and the key results expected out of the role must be clearly outlined. To achieve those results over time, for each role, key performance indicators (KPIs) have to be defined and against each of them, we have to define targets. Managers must review performance against the targets and offer feedback to their team members. This is easier said than done. Medium to large-sized organisations never succeeds without the deliberate practice of managing result areas by KPIs, targets and feedback day in and day out.
Delivering expected levels of performance and the lack of it gets identified easily. Managers have to converse with the members based on these results, coach, guide and mentor constantly. Despite the best efforts of nurturing, if the plant does not flourish, we transfer it out to a new environment. In the same way, we have to isolate the low performers, send them to new environments where they have better chances of success.