Based upon feedback from thousands of project post mortem participants, the number one project management skill most requested by project teams is knowing when to STOP!  Especially when any project parameters shift – STOP!

Managing a project can feel like walking a tightrope without being able to slow down.

You need to keep on track while trying to juggle time, budget, and resources…not to mention various and often competing stakeholders’ needs. When you conduct your project post mortem, be sure you don’t have to list “we never strategically adjusted” as your big mistake. This could spell a big “zero” for your project and threaten your very job.

Here is how to adjust when project budget, scope, resources or timing parameters shift: STOP!

That’s right. Stop! The best project teams recognize key inflection points and invest the time and resources necessary to identify the implications with all key stakeholders before marching forward. The best project teams adjust project definitions, plans and execution strategies before doing more work or throwing more resources at the problem. The best project teams reflect and continuously improve as they go.

This may mean figuring out an acceptable trade-offs or making major concessions with powerful stakeholders. That is OK. The key is getting and keeping everyone on the same page with the new plan instead of just working harder or faster without properly regrouping with the team or project sponsors.  Hope and avoidance are not strong project leadership strategies.

If you liked learning about the number one project management skill, to learn more about being a successful project leader, download 5 Steps to Align Project Teams to Pull in the Same Direction

Because performance management is at the heart of a high performance culture, performance management mistakes can be costly.

What is a High Performance Culture?
We define organizational culture as how things truly get done in an organization. It can be measured by understanding the way people think, behave and work. A high performance culture is an environment that is getting the most from its people in both the short- and long term. We believe that people change when their environment changes. We also believe it is a leader’s job to create the circumstances to consistently get the most out of their people in a way that is consistent with the organization’s core values, behaviors and strategies.

The Definition of Performance Management
We define performance management as the processes and practices by which you provide your employees with information regarding their performance status.  Strong performance management practices help to set clear performance expectations, let people know where they stand in terms of performance, provide positive feedback for desired behaviors and provide negative feedback for undesired behaviors.

As a leader, your ability to effectively manage individual and team performance is critical to driving organizational success. To succeed, avoid these four common performance management mistakes:

  1. Treating Performance as a One-time Event. The number one performance management mistake is treating the performance management process as a one-time instead of ongoing process to let employees know where they stand and develop their careers.  The performance review should be only a small component of an overall performance management program. Performance management should be a continuous process, not an event.
  2. Being Afraid of Behavior Change. It is very difficult to change organizational performance without changing individual performance and individual behavior. People change as their environmental circumstances change. Only when managers understand and apply the core principles of high performance environments and behavioral science will they unlock the full potential of their direct reports.  Do not be afraid to set clear behavior expectations that align with your goals and workplace culture.
  3. Having Unclear Performance Standards. It is difficult, frustrating, and counterproductive to appraise performance against ambiguous, unfair, inconsistent, misunderstood, changing, impossible, or immeasurable performance standards.  Strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams.  Ensure your team understands and believes in where they are headed,
  4. Placing Blame Instead of Improving Performance. Performance management is about clarity, accountability, rewards, recognition, and improvement – not about fault-finding. People make mistakes. Your job as a leader is to help your direct reports learn from mistakes while having an accurate picture of their performance against a clear standard as you support them to continuously learn, improve and excel.

To learn more about performance management mistakes and high performance culture best practices, download, The Top 5 Warning Signs Your Performance Environment is in Trouble

Most leaders want to use bonuses that really engage employees to strive to do their best work and be loyal over the long-term.

Talent management strategies and total rewards programs typically hand out bonuses to spur motivation and reward high performance. Most often these bonuses come in the form of financial gifts and the recipients are expected to spend the money on themselves in a way that makes sense for them.

But do these monetary rewards achieve leadership’s objective of encouraging improved behavior and higher levels of performance?

Some employee engagement training specialists say that the opposite is true.  Why?  Because the other employees (the ones who do not receive the rewards) are apt to be jealous and competitive and thus damage the very team dynamic required for higher performance.  Additionally, research by Tim Judge found less than 2% overlap between pay and employee engagement levels and the Journal of Business Research found rewarding team performance improves overall results.

What type of bonus does work to lift performance?  How should leaders use bonuses that really engage employees?

Surprising to us, studies show that giving bonus vouchers that can be re-directed to the recipient’s favorite charity actually results in happier and more engaged employees overall. Another kind of bonus that works is monetary gifts that are to be spent on other employees. Think about throwing a team party or catering a Friday picnic lunch or happy Hour. Bonus winners are heroes and their entire team gets to enjoy the benefits of their success.

Our Take
A good balance of individual and team rewards that align with the overall strategy and culture is a good place to start.  For some corporate cultures and performance environments, bonuses aimed at charities and team events can certainly play a role in increasing employee engagement levels. Beware however to make sure that your top performers feel like their individual contribution is being fairly valued and rewarded.  To maintain high levels of employee engagement, your top performers must believe that if they contribute to the organization’s success, they will be recognized and that considering the value they bring to the organization, they are rewarded fairly.

As long as your reward and recognition systems are aligned with your strategy, are perceived as fair, and disproportionately reward your top performers in terms of results and behaviors, you will have the opportunity to creatively engage and motivate your top talent to perform at their peak.

To learn more about creating a high performance culture, download 2 Leadership Moves to Create a High Performing Culture

Smart talent leaders and effective talent management strategies engage employees through meaningful recognition programs.

Ever since that first gold star on a homework assignment, we all crave recognition for jobs well done. But the methods of how to engage employees through meaningful recognition have changed…the “gold star” is not enough to motivate your teams to higher levels of performance.

What does work…what does encourage greater on-the-job effort…what can help motivate employees to strive for excellence? It depends. It depends on the individual, on the team, on the company and on the corporate culture.

There are some constants, however. Employee engagement training experts agree that there are three critical elements to  employee recognition that are sought and valued.

    1. Executive support. Company leadership should understand that a meaningful recognition program has a positive effect on employee engagement and satisfaction . When leaders appreciate superior performance, it will be noticed and employees will advocate more, exert more discretionary effort and stay loyal for longer.
    2. Secure the participation of team managers. With standards for recognizing employees for their work results and performance contribution, managers can raise the visibility of their team and their highest performing team members.  If you want your managers to reward and recognize their employees in a way that makes them feel valued, ensure that they make investments to help their employees to succeed, value people as their most important resource, pay people fairly with respect to the value they bring to the organization, and commit to making it a great place to work.
    3. Opt for recognition criteria that focus on the company’s strategic goals. Align individual behavior with business goals so you encourage the kind of performance that drives overall organizational success.  Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing teams.  Make sure there is a direct line of sight between your strategic objectives and how people are rewarded and recognized.

To learn more about improving employee engagement, download the Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

A smart question for new supervisors to ask – how can new managers help their direct reports to succeed?

Being a new manager is not easy.  Going from counting on yourself to having to count on others can be a big change.  Letting go of your ego after you are promoted can also be tricky.  And because more companies are flattening their organizational structure to gain efficiencies, managers have wider responsibility over more employees.  The bottom line – managing others is getting harder and is no longer a one-way street.

Combine this with the fact that a stunning 81% of front-line managers report not being satisfied with their own performance, and it becomes pretty clear that the old-fashioned hierarchical style of management no longer works to get consistently high performance.

So, back to our original question -how can new managers help their direct reports to succeed?

As a new manager, your success depends upon the success of those who report to you.  Because of this, your first step is to ask – “How can I best support your success?”

Then be ready to put your ego aside and truly listen to the answer and to do something about it. The key is not to be patronizing but to be sincere in your intention to help. At worst, you will have opened the door to future, frank communications. At best, there will be tangible steps you can take to help you and your team to succeed.

Some new managers stay out of the way of their employees (especially when things are going well) because they don’t want to interfere or hover. But think about how welcome a gesture of support would feel to an employee

  • who is struggling or
  • who needs a morale boost or
  • who feels under appreciated or
  • who would welcome help in obtaining more resources to get the job done

Your direct reports need to know what to expect from you and what you expect from them. Be clear, be consistent, and make sure you know how you can best help them to succeed personally and professionally.

To learn more about new manager training and being an effective new manager, download 3 Must-Have Ingredients of High Performing Teams for New Managers

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