HR Leadership

Feb 5, 2019

Why Performance Reviews Based on Individual Efforts Are a Waste of Time

In the final analysis, no one cares about your effort, results are all that really matter in business. That’s why I think Performance Reviews (Based on Individual Effort) are a waste of time. Of course, every company must operate at the highest level of integrity. I’ve written countless articles the topic in this column. I believe that integrity is the bedrock on which a business is built and flourishes.

My point here is simple: your customers and other important stakeholders are not interested in understanding the level of difficulty required to delight them – they just want to be delighted. Delight them and your business grows, disappoint them and your business fails.

The message is clear. We should stop applying metrics that measure individual effort and place an unyielding focus on the establishment of measurements that lead to desired results. As we do, business outcomes will improve. Here is why:

You see, when you start to track desired outcomes (instead of each person’s individual performance), your team will begin to recognize ways to improve its execution. That’s not to say slackers, now, have a place to hide. Rather, staff will learn how to keep one another honest. When they can’t, you will certainly hear about it and that will be your cue to address an individual’s specific behavior.

Here are some steps that you can take to get started in transforming the ways in which you measure performance:


Being in Business Means Being a Difference Maker

It is inherent in the very nature of what you do as a business owner. Learn how different leads to better.

Measure for Outcomes, Not for Outputs

For example, I’m working with a client who has made “do whatever it takes to delight the customer” the overarching goal for everyone in the organization. Consequently, the firm is recasting its metrics to better align with this goal. For instance, a standard measurement like, “the number of complaints handled per month per customer support person” is being replaced with “average time to complaint resolution.”

While subtle, the difference is hugely important. The desired outcome is to resolve customer problems quickly. It is not to handle more complaints in a day. The metric now reflects this fact. Be sure that your metrics reinforces expected outcomes, and doesn’t simply count how much is being accomplished in a workday.

Provide the “Why”

This was critical to achieving the business results that my client was seeking. We had to help staff understand “why” putting the customer first was essential to business growth and maturity. Once the reasons were well understood by her team, my client could encourage her team to participate in identifying the best path to get to the outcomes that mattered most and to devise the right measurements to track achievement.

Let the Performance Measurement System Fade to the Background

Once measures are properly aligned with desired results, the need to use a system to track performance isn’t half as important to improving an individual’s performance as is providing hands-on coaching and additional training and development. So, let the performance system take a backseat. Instead of worrying about filling in the systems tracking forms, encourage your leaders to regularly coach and teach their teams. The performance system can become a place where meaningful leader/staff interaction is recorded for posterity.

To close, measure for results, not performance and you will see your business outcomes improve. Reshaping your performance measurement criteria in this way will not only simplify your performance tracking systems, but will enable the delivery of better business results. For the measurement of a specific individual’s effort is often far more challenging to quantify than the business results by a team.

Note: Content Originally Published on Jan 18, 2019

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Feb 6, 2018

Will We Finally Have a Year of the Woman?

With all of the recent sexual harassment scandals coming to the fore, might 2018 be “the year of the woman” – so, they may finally establish an equal footing with men in the workplace?

Year of the Woman? Maybe. From big league entertainment personalities like O’Reilly, Lauer and Hoffman to Hollywood moguls and politicians like Weinstein, Franken and Roy Moore, purported sexual misconduct grabbed the headlines through much of last year.

Besides establishing a scandalous cloud that appears to stretch from coast-to-coast, these stories shined the brightest of spotlights on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. It made many wonder if we might well be on the cusp of fundamental change in the way men and women interact with one another at work. If so, 2018 may be the Year of the Woman.

But, much must change before that can happen. Here are some thoughts about what we have to do as leaders to end sexual harassment in the workplace:

Shift the Power Dynamics: Position power sits as a root cause of much of the sexual harassment that we have been reading and hearing about of late. An intern is harassed by her boss, an aspiring actress by a movie producer etc.

A person that is inclined to harass a subordinate because of their position power (i.e., sleep with me, and you’ll get the job) goes away in flatter, team-based workplaces because the power structures are less prominent and hiring and promotion decisions are spread across a team of people, rather than a single, all powerful decision-maker.

Engage Men in the Process of Change: This may be easier said than done, but, I’m hopeful! I think that there are enough men, like myself, who find these stories of the mistreatment of women repulsive and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop it. Of course, the real work is in identifying and instituting the steps needed to design a culture where harassment is no longer stomached.

Create Tougher Policies: Clearly, we can’t expect stiffer workplace policies to provide the entire solution to our sexual harassment problems. However, they can be an important foundation for instating the cultural changes that need to be made. And these policies have to cut both ways. There must be consequences for both perpetrators and those that falsely accuse.

Provide Better Training: There’s a difference between overhearing an off-color joke and the commission of an unwanted sexual advance. Helping people to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and teaching them techniques for managing those situations (and escalating them, as well), if they should emerge in the workplace can help establish a safer, more agreeable workplace.

Stop Tolerating It. Leadership is not about what you say; it’s about what you tolerate. If you tolerate harassment, of any kind, in the workplace then you probably have a company culture that unwittingly promotes sexual harassment. I’ve seen clients that refuse to discipline, and or, terminate repeat offenders because they believed that the perpetrators were so talented in what they did that they couldn’t be replaced. If that’s how you operate as a leader, you’ll eventually get what’s coming to you.

Are We In The Year of the Woman?

To close, I’m not sure that 2018 will be the Year of the Women. I hope so. But, it seems to me that some men harass women because they’re the type of person that seeks to take advantage of others whenever they can. I’m not sure that this will change much regardless of the coverage that the topic in the media. That said, I do think that there are some things that we can do to make our places of employment better places to work. I hope that these ideas will help you make your workplace better. Reach out if you’d like more information about how I can help you to create a company culture that everyone can respect and celebrate.

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NOTE: Originally published by Inc. on January 2, 2018

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Nov 1, 2016

What We’ve Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate: How to Create a Solid Communication Strategy

With all of the communication tools and technologies available today, why do so many businesses still have a communications problem? Here’s a simple 7 step process for building a solid communications program.

Many firms suffer from poor communications. It’s my theory is that too few firms have the necessary communications program in place to do it well. Take the following steps to develop an effective communications program plan:

1. Delineate your objectives – Determine what you expect to gain from your communications program. Objectives could range from enhancing service delivery and improving staff loyalty to gaining a bigger marketplace influence or upgrading relations with the media and regulatory entities.

2. Baseline your current communication practices – Once you know your objectives, perform a communications audit and evaluate how your business communicates. This characterization should involve: brainstorming with staff, interviewing senior leaders and surveying customers, suppliers and distributors with the sole purpose of discovering how, when, why and where your people communicate and message for, and about, your business.

3. Determine your key audiences – List all the audiences that the firm might want to contact, attempt to influence, or serve. At a minimum, these will likely include customers, staff, industry groups, business partners, and the media.

4. Translate these audience sectors into specific projects and programs aimed at delivering information is the best ways possible to each group – You’ll need to consider your baseline results (as determined earlier) and map that against available human and financial resources, of course. But, by crafting initiatives for each group, you’ll be much better positioned to achieve your Communication Program’s objectives.

5. Establish a timeline for execution – With the initiatives (which comprise your Communications Program) identified, it’s time to craft a calendar grid that outlines when each effort will begin and be accomplished. Group the projects and programs into 18 month intervals (what I like to call “Implementation Plateaus”). This enables your organization to better understand what will be done when to improve its communications infrastructure.

6. Estimate costs at an implementation plateau-level – By “chunking” the work effort into 18 month intervals and giving an estimate of that total investment, you can shift dollars as needed among the initiatives that make up a given implementation plateau. This provides some wiggle room for your organization as it evolves its communications strategies over time.

7. Begin to execute and evaluate – Shape a method for measuring results into each project / program plan that you launch. Be sure to track project / program progress on a monthly basis and report it back to your senior management sponsors as you evolve each effort.

To close, a solid Communications Program plan requires about is 60-90 days to complete. Once in place, though, with the proper level of executive commitment and maintenance you will a communications asset that can be kept in sync with your organizational advancement for years to come. To learn more, just reach out to me and we can discuss it directly.

Note: This piece was originally published by Inc on October 31, 2016. If you like this article, please subscribe to my column and you’ll never miss another thought piece!

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Aug 8, 2016

Work Performance and the Perils of Comparison

Let me take you back in time.  You’re in 8th grade.  You’ve signed up for your first guitar lesson and the teacher plays Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”   She offers it up as an example of a great song that you can learn to play.  You’re motivated to learn, right?  Wrong!  She no sooner finishes her sentence about “you can learn how to play,” when you hear Jimmy Page rips into his classic solo and you decide then and there that it’s time to take up sports – “because there ain’t no way you’re going to be able to do what Jimmy’s doing in that song!”  You leave the lesson discouraged.

I share this because there is new evidence uncovered by researchers Avi Feller and Todd Rogers that suggests “that exposure to exemplary peer performances can undermine motivation and success by causing people to perceive that they cannot attain their peers’ high levels of performance.”  This finding has some huge implications for businesses – especially as it pertains to individual and team performance in the workplace.

But, managers, don’t despair!  You and you’re team are not doomed to a work life of less than stellar achievement.  There are some things that you can do to avoid falling into this trap.  Here are 5 suggestions:

1.      Show that you’re into it!  Passion and enthusiasm are contagious.  If you demonstrate that you’re into the work at hand, your team can’t help but follow.

2.      Set goals that can be attained.  Don’t set the Led Zeppelin as the goal.  Rather, choose goals that can be achieved.  The team will hang in there and work to get better, if they can gain a sense of accomplishment as they work.

3.      Stop comparing your team to others.  As the research suggests, there are other ways to motivate.  Challenge the team to work towards improving their performance every day, every week and every month – Jimmy Page wasn’t born a virtuoso.  He grew his talent over time through practice and dedication.

4.      Provide air cover.  If you have someone else to answer to, as most managers do, you may not be able to control how you and your team are measured from above.  So, it’s essential that you have your teams back as they progress.  By providing some air cover you’ll give your team the chance to mature and evolve into meeting and exceeding all expectations.

5.      Make it about the journey and not about the destination.  It’s OK to have some fun at work.  Make performance achievement about the “this is how we get better” and, not about the consequences of not meeting goals.

To close, comparison can be a perilous path to take when working to motivate.  Like the guitar teacher, you can intimidate those that you’re trying to inspire.  Instead of falling into the comparison trap, try some of these tips and you just might lead your team to outstanding performance.

NOTE: This piece, Work Performance and the Perils of Comparison,  was originally published in Inc. on July 18, 2016.

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Jun 26, 2015

Challenge Coins, and, How They Help Rebuild Morale

This piece is about Challenge Coins, and, How They Help Rebuild Morale.  It was published in Management Issues.

Be sure to check it out and share it often!coin

Thanks, in advance, for getting it around for me…

Jun 1, 2015

The Business Case for Building a Cross-Cultural Workforce

This popular article is on Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace:

The Business Case for Building a Cross-Cultural Workforcefaces

Be sure to share and share alike!


Feb 15, 2015

Two New Articles on Performance

Here Are Two New Articles on Performance and Measurement:Performance

I hope that you enjoy them enough to pass them on.

Jan 17, 2015

Managing Gen Y

From an early age, they were told that they were the best, awarded trophies for just for showing up, and developed a false confidence that partybegets their frustration and doubt as they enter the workforce. Here’s how to engage them by Managing Gen Y

Read More at Inc. Online

Please pass it around — your team will be glad that you did!

Jan 4, 2015

5 Healthy Resolutions for Busy Entrepreneurs

Just up at Inc. online, something to help you to usher in the new year:


5 Healthy Resolutions for Busy Entrepreneurs


Happy 2015…Let’s Share, Share, Share!


Dec 20, 2014

Watch Out for Girls That Code

My Inc. Magazine Online column this week  covers the topic of gender inequality in the tech space, with:


We need to get working on this in the United States because if we don’t we will continue to lose girls who codeimportant jobs overseas.

So, please read, think, share and discuss…Watch Our for Girls That Code!

Thank You.

Copyright 2019 James M. Kerr       info@executive‑       860‑301‑2085