As the UK school exam period comes to an end I was prompted to write about something I come across often when I speak to managers, regardless of business sector. It starts with a very unscientific question from me which requires managers to give a purely subjective estimate in reply. The question is directed at the current level of performance of the team that they lead and goes something like this:
“How close to their current level of potential, do members of your team perform, on a weekly or monthly basis?”
Must try harder
Usually without prompting, the reply comes back from each manager in the form of a percentage, where 100% would indicate someone working absolutely at the highest level they are capable of currently. What would you expect that answer to be? 75% … 85%… 95% ….
Nope. Typically, the bulk of replies I have received from hundreds of managers I have asked, is from 40%-60%. I’ve not kept score over the years but my impression is that more replies are at or below 50%.
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that people can or will work at 100% of their potential, 100% of the time. But come on! 50% !
A myriad of underlying causes
What are the reasons for such low engagement? Well there are almost as many reasons given, as people that I have asked but I have usually received a full, frank and very open response from managers and the most common responses can be grouped together as follows:
- Change of context e.g. organisational change
- Lack of communication
- Lack of clarity over roles and expectations
- Manager taking their eye off the situation
Ask, tell, listen, monitor
- How they think they are doing.
- What range of their potential they are using
- What would enable them to tap into more of that latent talent
- What you expect
- By when you want it
- Don’t tell them how to do it if they have the experience and skills but do if they don’t (still with me?)
Listen to people:
- Listen intently to the replies
- Listen out for what is not being said
- Listen for underlying causality
Monitor people and tasks:
- Agree timelines and milestones and best methods for reporting back accurately to you
- Celebrate passing key objectives
- Create early warning systems to ensure everything keeps on track