• Dawn Russell

Skill #2: The Skill of Measuring Performance

Updated: Jul 29, 2019

It could be argued that self-mastery is also about setting boundaries, but I prefer to put boundaries in a different category.

For me, they fit under the skill of measuring performance. If you want to manage poor performance, you need to be able to measure it in the first place. At its most basic level, that measurement starts with your personal boundaries: what you will and won’t tolerate.

And just like every other boundary and expectation, it can’t be some kind of internal measurement. It has to be clearly defined and clearly communicated so that everyone has the opportunity to be on the same page. #performancemanagement

The starting point is deciding what to measure or create expectations around. Consider what’s acceptable from both a behavioural and a performance perspective. And be specific. Deciding that you don’t want any “disrespectful gestures” or “bad behaviour” makes nothing clear.

Ask yourself exactly which gestures you consider to be disrespectful. Ask yourself specifically what bad behaviour looks like, to you. Everyone’s idea of what is disrespectful or bad will vary, based on upbringing, values and beliefs, so don’t expect someone else to place the same interpretation on your words.

Making it very clear to people what behaviour you will and won’t tolerate, draws the line in the sand. Once the line is drawn, and all parties are aware of where it’s drawn, it’s far easier for you to point out and challenge behaviour that crosses it.

The same applies to performance or results. This is where the majority of business owners make it difficult for themselves. It’s the result of a few minor failures that make for a major roadblock when it comes to proper performance management.

The first failure is the absence of measures and expectations. The second failure is the lack of clear communication of such measures and expectations, if they exist. And the third failure is not holding people accountable against those measures.

If there are no measures in place to start with, it’s is nigh on impossible to ‘prove’ that someone is under-performing. Under-performing against what?

If there ARE measures in place, but they’ve not been clearly communicated (and mutually understood), it’s very hard to hold someone accountable for them. “No one told me I was supposed to do that.”

A good performance management system is based on measurements.

Measurements tell people what is expected of them in a role, on site or in the office. Measurements tell people what ‘successful’ looks like on the job. And measurements help everyone identify the gaps in performance on the job. #measuresofsuccess #KPIs

Without measurements of success for each role, you’re in a quagmire of feeble, futile feedback…and you’re ripe for an unfair dismissal claim.

To master the skill of measurement, start by drafting a list of business-wide behaviours you want to see. Create a similar list of behaviours you simply won’t tolerate.

Spend some time reflecting on what behaviours you’re currently getting and ask yourself how you're contributing to that behaviour. You see, every behaviour is a reflection of us. Either you’ll be tolerating it, you’ll be blind to it, you’ll be doing that behaviour yourself, or you’ll be avoiding doing something about it.

Any which way you look at it, you’ll be making that behaviour acceptable.

And once it’s acceptable for one person, it’s acceptable for all.

What you tolerate, you put the seal of approval on.

Next take each job in turn and ask yourself what output/behaviours you would see if a person (any person, not specifically the incumbent) was successful in the role. You want to aim for descriptions that, when read by someone fresh applying for the job, are so clear that there is no doubt about what that person must do to be “successful.”

Questions to ask yourself are, “How would a person doing this job know that they’re successful?” “What will I be observing if they are successful?”

By now, some of you may have realised that I’m speaking about what the corporate world calls KPIs – Key Performance Indicators. KPIs can be a bit mysterious for many trade businesses, (though it's no different to specifying what adhesive to use so that tiles, carpet, vinyl etc. lasts the distance over time) so my way of demystifying them is to call them simply ‘measures of success.’

That’s all they are – ways of defining and measuring success or performance.

When these measurements are in place, performance conversations become so much easier. For a start, both parties clearly understand what is expected of them. Secondly, there will be a clear, measurable gap between what’s expected and what’s being achieved.

Performance measurement then becomes factual. “We agreed you’d achieve X, and right now we're seeing Y.”

Now, there’s an entire art to writing measures of success that achieve desired results, and that’s not the topic of this article. Let’s just say that MoSs need to be written with the quality of behaviour at the forefront.

For example, setting an MoS for someone to lay 500 square metres of paving a week will not necessarily drive the result you want: paving laid to a high standard with no damage or rework needed.

In this instance, it would be better to focus on quality of work and percentage of damaged/discarded pavers. Anyone can prove they laid 500 m2 in a week – they just slap them down. Does that make them successful in the role, if their role is laying quality paving? No. But if both parties understand that the tolerated damage/discarded paver rate is 1%, and their current rate is 5%, we can see the gap.

Learn more about how to have a performance conversation with your staff in Skill #3 The Skill of Performance Conversation.

#performancemanagement #KPIs #measuresofsuccess #managingdifficultstaff

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