I am an introvert. That doesn't mean that I am not social. I just don´t get my energy from being around a lot of people. However, I like being part of a team. I somehow always ended up leading teams without ever asking for it or volunteering. I accepted the roles always out of a sense of responsibility. I was captain of the soccer team and captain of the volleyball team. A year after starting my first job I was not only a manager but I was managing the people that managed me. I skipped two levels at once. At age twenty-seven, I managed three hundred people. I have been managing and leading people all my life. I never looked for a leadership role but it kind of always happened to me.
Why have I always been asked to lead teams? Probably because people trust me. Trust is key to getting things done. Other things that are key to getting stuff done are intelligence (IQ), emotional Intelligence (EQ), hard work and follow through. If you are trusted in your own organization, by your partners, clients and in the market it is a lot easier to get things done. But what is trust? For me the best mental model for trust is Covey´s trust model, which splits trust up into Character and Competence.
As Richard Barret states: Character is a reflection of how you are on the inside, your intent, and the level of integrity you display in your relationship to others. These depend primarily on the level of development of your emotional intelligence and social intelligence. Intent is demonstrated by caring, transparency and openness; integrity is demonstrated by honesty, fairness and authenticity.
Competence is a reflection of how you are on the outside, your capability, and the results you achieve in your role. These depend primarily on the level of development of your mental intelligence, your education and what you have learned during your professional career. Capability is demonstrated by skills, knowledge and experience. Results are demonstrated by reputation, credibility and performance.
Even though the focus on competence (capability and results) is important, these are skills that can be learned and accumulate over time. I believe the focus on character (intent and integrity) is more important because these qualities are required for bonding and are much more difficult to develop. Competence is about achieving results; character is about how you achieve them.
Now that I am getting older, I am starting to reflect on how I lead and what ´instruments´ I use. For me simple mental frameworks have always been best. I started to reflect on how I classify people for performance management. And I must mention that one of my axioms is that for just doing your job you get a salary. If you do your job well you get a salary increase. If you want to get a bonus or a promotion show me how you are advancing the company and others outside of your day job.
Which people do I rate highest? What are my criteria? The axes of my framework are:
Getting things done. I rate people that get things done highest. Getting things done means being able to create and produce something on your own but it also means getting something done through a team or through an organization and meeting deadlines.
How you get things done. There are various ways of getting things done. On the one extreme, there are people that get things done by using others and burning ships and on the other extreme there are people that get things done through other people while at the same time giving these people the feeling that this is the best thing that ever happened to them. I had one boss who was a master at this.
You might ask why is intelligence not one of the axes? For me intelligence is a hygiene factor. It is a minimum thing you need to have in order to be successful. I know very intelligent people that have not been successful in life and other people that have a lot less intelligence be very successful in life.
Then I use other mental continuum's to classify people. For example high maintenance versus low maintenance. The high maintenance people are the people that are always in your ´office´ telling you about all the things they have done and in general are people that need a lot of time and attention and lots of pats on the back. The low maintenance people are the ones that need just a couple of words to get going and similarly need very little emotional bandwidth from the leader of the organization.
Other continuum's I use: are people lifelong learners or are they complacent with their learning? Are they team oriented or individualist? Are they hard workers or not? Are they pro-active or reactive? I came up with a 3 by 3 matrix.
I will take you through each of them in how I would stack rank them.
A1. Your absolute Superstars. A superstar gets things done deftly, is low maintenance, pro-active, creative, a lifelong learner, a hard worker, team oriented. A superstar is Getting Results WITH people. A superstar is respected and loved. And the best thing? They tend to be low ego and low key and don’t even know that they are superstars. Try to keep superstars busy and happy but never try to tie them down. If they are ready for a next step you should encourage them to take it even if it is outside of your department or company. They will remember and be grateful.
B1. The Bull. The bull is like a superstar but without the refinement and the level of EQ that a superstar has. A bull gets things done, is low maintenance, pro-active, hardworking, team focused but not a master of emotions. A bull is respected but not loved. It is hard for a bull to become a superstar as it depends on his EQ. Coaching and mentoring might get him or her there. A bull gets results THROUGH people. (I named this the bull because of the saying ´a bull in a china shop´)
A2. In general has a high EQ and a high IQ. Is a team player, hard worker, learner. Is potential superstar material. Wants to be a superstar but needs coaching. His or her performance can augment dramatically and he or she can become a superstar with training, coaching and additional assignments or responsibilities. Average Results with strong upside potential.
B2. This is where most of your people are. Being a B2 is not bad, it is good!. B2´s want to get stuff done, could be hard workers, are team oriented but maybe not leaders and need coaching on the IQ and EQ side to get more stuff done more deftly. There is definitely upside potential for some of them to move to become a bull or a superstar.
A3. Has a high EQ and potentially a high IQ but doesn't know how to advance things and make things happen. It could be that he or she lacks the experience or the drive to make things happen. An A3 makes people feel good but gets below average results. People in this quadrant that have the right level of energy and drive can become superstar eventually with the right training and coaching.
B3. A B3 tries but doesn't always have the skill or EQ to get things done. With enough supervision a B3 can become a B2. If a B3 lacks motivation you should manage him out.
And now we are getting to the C-level. The C´s are very dangerous in any organization. In general they should be managed out.
C1. The pirate. The Pirate gets stuff done but by using others and burning bridges. A pirate tends to be high maintenance, an individualist and sometimes a prima donna. A pirate tends not to stay in roles long as the organization he is in will learn after a while that the results he or she is getting are coming at a great people cost to the organization. In large multinationals pirates can survive internally for a couple of years by moving from organization to organization. You will have seen pirates coming in from the outside. In general, they bring in their own team and fire half of the team that was in place already. A pirate is getting results at all cost. Managing the pirate out is one of the most difficult things for a leader as a pirate in general is producing the numbers and spends time managing upwards and cozying up to your boss.
C2. The C2 is dangerous as s/he is probably one of your smartest employees but somewhere down the line, he or she lost motivation. A C2 produces average results with downside potential for the organization as s/he can influence many people negatively. In very rare cases, a C2 is a former superstar and can become one again. This will be at a great personal effort and investment from a leader.
C3. The C3 has no interest in getting anything done, has no drive, is reactive, doesn't want to learn new things, is an individualist and tends to have a negative personality. S/he can have a high or low IQ. The ones with the high IQ´s are the most dangerous. C3 are like an infectious disease in your organization as they can negatively influence many people but worse the other employees will feel you are a weak leader by keeping such people employed.
In general managing people at the C level out will have a positive effect in the motivation off all the employees at the A and B level.
In summary these are the actions you need to take:
This is my personal mental framework which is hopefully useful to other leaders out there.
O yes and one more thing on stack ranking. Stack ranking is not bad. I cannot see any performance management system work that does not stack rank people. What doesn´t work are performance management systems that stack rank and that are rigid on how leaders can use financial rewards so that the top ranked make twice or three times the amount of the lowest ranked. Or systems that mark people for life once they had a bad ranking. Everybody can have a bad year or be in the wrong job. Or systems that do no award teamwork as one of the key competencies.
This is just my personal attempt on helping other leaders with performance management reviews. I have no background in HR, nor in psychology. Experts will see a lot of flaws. I however am interested in your opinion and how yo do performance management.