Episode 13: Planning for Performance Excellence

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To perform with excellence leaders must be both prepared themselves and capable coaches of others. As the year comes to a close and we turn to the New Year, what new ideas and skills will you and your team need to add to succeed? Join us as Jeff and Jennifer share best practices for creating and shepherding Individual Development Plans, and the top resources they use personally and with their clients to ensure that all of us continue to grow to our next level of leadership and performance in the coming year.

Jennifer Owen-O’Quill, Leadership Director for Voltage Leadership Consulting, is an executive coach, facilitator, organizational consultant and leadership guru. With 25 years of leadership experience across a broad range of industries, she has coached leaders and their teams to execute institutional culture change through effective organizational management and leadership development. Some of Jennifer’s clients include: Carilion Clinic, WDBJ-7, Fenway Sports Group, Novozymes Biologicals, Yokohama Tires, Canatal Steel, Polymer Solutions, Interactive Achievement, Corvesta and the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. Not-for-profit clients include Washington and Lee University, Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, New Horizon’s Healthcare, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwestern VA, and CMR Institute. Jennifer coaches professionals in firms in the Southeast and across the country, including Abbott Laboratories, Baker McKenzie, and Kirkland & Ellis.


Jeff: Welcome. We are so glad you could be with us today. We’re here in Roanoke, Virginia today and the streak is broken. This is our 13th week doing the show, and Jennifer, this is the first week we haven’t had beautiful weather. It is flat pouring down rain and cold. Well, I guess all things have to end, maybe it was that number “13”.

Jennifer: That’s right, but it’s not snowing, Jeff.

Jeff: It’s not snowing.

Jennifer: Not snow, it just rained.

Jeff: That’s good.

Jennifer: Wet.

Jeff: Well, welcome. I am Jeff Smith and you’re listening to Illuminating Leadership. You can reach us at 1-866-472-5788, you can also email us at jeff@voltageleadership.com. I really appreciate those emails; sometimes they come during the call, sometimes during the week. I really appreciate all the kind words that we've been getting, so thanks for sending that. Again, jeff@voltageleadership.com.

You can also find us at www.voltageleadership.com, you can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership, connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting, or Jennifer Owen-O’Quill at Leadership Consulting, and you can follow me on Twitter @VoltageLeaders. And if you were following this week, there was that JMU football game, we won our playoff game in advance so… very excited in the Smith household about JMU football.

Today Jennifer is back, she's been with us several times as our co-host. Jennifer is an outstanding facilitator, loves to work with companies, help them set their strategy, identifying high potentials, growing the high potentials, coaching people up, and just loves to interact with folks and help them be the best leaders that they can be. She is married to David and has a son Daniel, and Jennifer in this holiday season. Welcome to show.

Jennifer: It’s great to be here. Happy holidays.

Jeff: Thank you. I know a lot of you guys are trying to get one of those last one or two things wrapped up in office, but our minds start to turn towards 2017. Jennifer and I were just having a conversation about some of our 2017 goals; right before that I had two coaching sessions this morning. Both of those coaching sessions revolved around, “What did we like about ’16? What will we want to take in to ’17?”.

But what are our stretch goals for 2017? So we thought we’d spend some time today, and probably the next couple of weeks, we’ll hit on different topics that relate to this but around performance planning, and how do we really make sure that we have an excellent year. So Jennifer, do you want to just open with some of your thoughts about this?

Jennifer: Yeah, I would. Jeff, thanks so much. One of the things I think about with performance planning, it has to do with how much time we spend looking in the rearview mirror versus how much time we spend looking through the windshield.

In performance planning, we sit down and have these conversations to really spend that time glancing in the rearview mirror, but spend most of our time looking through the windshield. I’m curious about what’s going to happen next and how we can create the best year possible going forward. Using the experiences that we’ve had, for sure, to give us some guide posts about what we might want to change.

What do you think about that change, Jeff, from that rearview mirror to that windshield? And how much time do you think leaders are spending in each one?

Jeff: Well, I’d say that most of leaders, probably 80/90%, are looking backwards; looking in the rearview mirror and they keep trying to say, “What did we miss?” and, “What can we do?”. I get a little frustrated because there’s not much that we can do about the past.

A formula that I’d like to use a lot is instead of it maybe being 80% past-based, and then maybe we spend 10% on the present, and then we wrap up the remaining 10% for the future. What if we start with future-based questions? And then we spend about 50% of our time in a future-based conversation. Then let’s spend 40% of the time in the present, like “What can we do today to make that future happen?”.

And then maybe 10% look into the past saying “Ok, what were the lessons learned? Is there anything else that we need to do?”. So I absolutely think that we should be doing more of the out-the-front-windshield; but most of my leaders, probably 80% of the time, it’s a past-based conversation.

Jennifer: That’s right. It’s really hard to make change for folks that are held hostage to what happened in the past. If that can’t be left back there so people could move on, it's very hard to move forward with that drag.

If you have made mistakes or if there’s things you are trying to change, I hear over and over again folks talk about “Oh, I’ve got this guy and he’s really making an effort, but his colleagues won’t give him a chance because they just shut him down and I don’t know why.”

It’s in those moments where we’re so focused on the past or what happened before that we can’t even let people make the changes that they need to make to be more successful in the future; so future-facing conversations are helpful.

Jeff: Yeah, if we’re going to plan, we should probably start talking about “What are the results that we want for next year?”. I do think though that it’s worth a moment to reflect if you’ve done this really well, you would have set goals at the beginning of 2016 – maybe late 2015 – and take a moment over the next couple of weeks and really assess “How did you do?”.

Jennifer and I are recording this from our Voltage office today, and on my whiteboard right behind Jennifer I’ve got about four of my major goals over the course of this year; they’re always in front of me and I’ve got updates by quarter about how I did. Part of that is I’ve kept a running total about of “How have I performed?”. If you haven’t had that, or this is the first time you’re really sitting down to do this planning for the next year, I think the most critical thing is to say “What went right this past year?” so do an assessment.

I know you do a lot of strategy work, one of the assessment tools that I really appreciate that I know a lot of you used for some of your class is the SWOT analysis. You’ll want to run folks through – the reason I was thinking of with the SWOT, this is one of those where we can look at our Strengths, our Weaknesses, our Opportunities, our Threats over the past year. Maybe if we didn’t have a time to set clear results, this can give at least a sense of “Where are we?”. How do you SWOT?

Jennifer: I use it in two different ways actually; the traditional SWOT often happens in the four-box for you. Just take a piece of paper, you write two lines perpendicular, and in one box you put the strengths of the organization or strengths of the year and the weaknesses that you’ve found; those are internal strengths and weaknesses inside the business.

And then the O is the opportunities that are on the outer horizon that you took advantage of; and then the L’s are the liability, the W’s, rather, are the weaknesses. So, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats; let’s get the O and T, correct here.

Opportunities and Threats are on the horizon out there in the world; and when you take a look at the internal and external Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and you have them just sitting – facing the page then you have the opportunity to figure out “What am I going to do next?”.

Another way that I look at that same set of ideas is I’ll take Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and I’ll put them in a ladder. I'll use the Strengths as one arm of the ladder and Weaknesses as something on the outside of the ladder. And then I’ll take the Opportunities is on the other arm of the ladder and put the Threats on the outside of the ladder.

And then I’ll figure out what steps to take in each of those rungs. So that’s another way that I look for how to use your set of leverages, your Strengths and your Opportunities to move the organization forward.

Jeff: Ok, good. Well, I think that’s a good place to start. We’ve got to know how the business looks. I would encourage you to do the same thing with your own life. And one of the tools that I would like to use is something called the Wheel of Life; if you would just Google it, there’s different kinds of wheels of life out there.

It’s a pretty quick exercise and it helps you understand your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, but it does it in different way. So just picture a wheel, and it’s going to have pieces of pie – there are things like your career, maybe your family, physical health, spirituality if it’s important to you, financial, significant other-romance etc. And what you do is you judge it from a 0 to 10 and you say “How well am I doing at this?”.

The goal here is not going to tend to everything; that’s just not really possible. What to notice, though, is where are you maybe at a 4 or 5. So when I looked at this a couple of months ago, on my “friends” I was down to about a 4. This stage of life for young kids, running a business, doing a lot of volunteer work – it’s hard to stay connected to friends.

So when I did this and it was through a leadership program, it gave me that sense of saying “You know, I’m not really hitting it on the friends”. “Career,” gosh, I was probably at a 9. So what I did, as soon as I figured that out, I said, “One of the things I’m going to do in 2017 is I want to be better connected my friends.”

I immediately called a couple of friends; we did a Boys weekend. And for some of you that have been tracking this – you know, I haven’t been able to run since September because of the knee and all that kind of stuff – I also committed to saying “I’m going to get to start running here, December 16th, and be able to start running with friends again.”

And that’s an example of not just the business, but I really want you to say “How are you doing as the leader?” because it’s critical that you’re taking care of yourself if you’re going to lead your organization. Thoughts?

Jennifer: Yeah. The other thing I like about taking a look at the whole life is with all those different parts that we have going on, if there is an area that isn’t very important to you, to also understand that that’s your value system at play.

But that might not match the people in your team; they might have some different things that they need. And to be aware of what those differences might be so that you can be a better leader of those particular folks, and to allow for those differences to be in your mind when you're leaving them.

Jeff: That’s a great point. I’ve got somebody that I’m coaching right now – they don’t have a family. Parents are passed away, brothers and sisters are out of the equation, but that doesn't mean that they don’t care about family and they can’t recognize in others. But to them, friends are their family. And for them you’re doing all this stuff with friends, so don't judge. Just know that everyone does it a little differently, and for you as a leader it plays two ways.

So when you do an assessment, do it two ways. One, ask the people in your team to do it so you get a better sense of who they are. The other is to sort of say “Where are you?” and then be vulnerable –  tell people “This is what I'm trying to do.” so that they can see this. When you open yourself up to that in the workplace, people are going to respect you more. You’re going to become that leader that people want to follow. Right.

Jennifer: Let me say a word about that vulnerability in the workplace because I know that that’s a word that can make a strongest of leaders feel like they want cower behind the rocks that are around them.

Vulnerability in the workplace. When we think about people being vulnerable and we hear that, for ourselves we think “Oh, if I were to share…” or “That’s a sign of weakness.” or “What are people going to think of me?”. Whereas, just remember a time when you experienced a leader actually being vulnerable with you, and what happened in that experience.

When I have someone really tell me their story, you did that right when we began, I remember where we were and I remember what you shared, I remember thinking “This is the leader I can respect. He really thinks about what he does and why. And he has values that matter also to me.” So I knew that we were aligned in some important ways.

But that sharing was not a sign of weakness on the part of the receiver, but it might have felt a little scary to be the person doing the sharing. So when you extend yourself like that, it’s how we hear it. When I hear people say something that’s risky, I think of them as brave; I think courage. So, it might feel vulnerable to do it but the experience somebody has of you is “Wow! That took some courage.” and just keep that in mind when you’re thinking about what you might share.

Jeff: Good. Well, certainly not where I thought we’d go on the first part.

Jennifer: Right.

Jeff: We went and dug deep. So, when we pick up after a break, what we’re going to do is continue to talk about some of the tools to help you in your planning. We really appreciate you being here on Illuminating Leadership, and we’ll be back in two minutes. Thank you.


Jeff: Welcome back. We’re so glad you could be with us today. We’ve got Jennifer Owen-O’Quill today in the studio, and we’ve been talking about performance planning for 2017. But it’s performance planning and how can you be excellent at it, how can you get more out of your life. Part of this is being intentional – a lot of us just sort of let year over year kind of happen to us, week over week happen to us, right. The first part of the show we’ve been talking about looking back. And now it’s time to start looking forward.

So, I want to share with you, one of the practices we do at our firm is we take time each quarter to really stop and assess how we’re doing. Our next one is December 20th, so we’ll probably take a break during that day and I think they’re going to get three of us that day. We’ll do a radio show in the middle of our strategic planning day.

But I think that it’s really incredibly important part of “How do you performance plan?”; you actually spend time together. I will always block a couple of days at the end of the year to do my own performance planning. It starts with what we talked about in the first part of the show – I look back – but then I really start to say “What would 2017 look like for success?”. I’ll pick a revenue target, I might pick how much I want to exercise, or a couple of key things I want to do, or something I’d want to do with each of my four kids.

But each one of those things, once I get the intention out there, I’ve got a much better chance of it happening. So, Jennifer, we sort of transition from looking back to looking forward. What do you talk to our clients about for them with their performance planning?

Jennifer: To get really future-focused, there’s a couple of things – a couple of approaches that I like to have. One is about “What do you want with the whole team?”. It’s good at the beginning of the year to reset those ground rules again, to really gather up and say “Hey, how do we want to be together going forward?” and “What do we need?” and “What do we do when this breaks down?” because it will break down. We all have breakdowns and mess-ups that we need to fix; and so that's one.

The other is to get our one-on-ones going in the right direction. What is it that is going to best create the best communication plan between you and I, Jeff, as we move into 2017. What we need given that we have the experiences that are behind us? What do we really want going forward for us to be successful this year? What does that look like? And to unpack that on a regular basis and to keep the conversation going.

So if we have a habit of being able to go back and revisit those ground rules every time we meet as a team; if we have a habit every time we sit down, “Hey, is the communication between us good? What do I need to clear up?” just to keep that momentum going forward. The other thing that comes my mind is that “Stop, Start and Continue.” That’s a great way to say “Okay, to be successful what do I need to start doing?”, “What do I need to stop doing?” and “What do I need to continue doing?”. You could do that with your team, you can do that one-on-one with people, to keep the communication clean.

Jeff: Yeah, I really liked that last one; I like everything you said, Jennifer. I was coaching a dyad at a recruiting clinic. So it's medical director and an administrative officer. So we’re doing a three-way conversation and one of the things we really looked at was “What did everybody stop doing?”. They had brought in new staff, managers to groom them over the course of a year. We really started to say “Okay, we probably need to stop attending a few of these meetings. Maybe we can stop producing a few of these reports because they know how to do their job now.” And the end of the year is a nice time to do that.

So as we looked into the next year – “Okay, if we’re going to stop that, what is it we want to start doing? Where do we want to invest?”. One of the critical things that was working in particular for this group was they had a really good plan where they had sort of a Monday-morning meeting for about fifteen minutes – just a quick stand up “How’re we doing?”. And then they have a regular schedule one-on-one with each other every week.

They said, “You know, that has been so essential to us this past year. We probably honored it 40/50, maybe 45 times out of the 50 or so weeks that there were.” that they were there together. And they’re like, “Those weeks that we honored – all of that – our weeks were great.” You know, it is that “Stop, Start, Continue” so I think that’s a great tool.

Jennifer: It’s a matter of looking at what’s working and naming it - and noticing and naming it. It is that process that allows people to keep doing what you appreciate. And when we take the time to do that, we get people to know what to keep doing. Some of that is just setting clear expectations; people really do thrive when they know exactly what is expected. And they need to know oftentimes what to keep doing; but that’s the thing that can often get missed.

Jeff: Let’s talk about those expectations. We had Amy Ankrum last week on the show, President of Qualtrax. They do a really nice job of using the rhythm technique, from the book Rhythm, and they sit down on quarterly basis reviewing strategies and all that.

So how clear do my expectations need to be? You know, because that takes a lot of time and it can be pretty hard; and for a lot of our listeners it’s ambiguous what’s in front of us. So how clear – help me understand, when you say “clear expectations” what is your definition of a clear expectation?

Jennifer: I think you’ll find your answer to that as the leader when you ask what somebody understood.

Jeff: Okay.

Jennifer: And then, if they’re saying something back to you that matches what you had in mind, you know that they can run. But if they say something back that’s muddy when you ask, then you probably need to spend a little bit more time and give a little more clarity.

Also, it depends on what the desired outcome is; how clear are you about what you want? And how important is it to both of you that it be crystal clear. And I think that depends on the kind of person that you have sitting across from you; not just the kind of person in their competence but also where they are, their confidence in their job.

That will change over time so we need to be more direct and paint a bright picture of “Put the dart in the middle of the dartboard” and make sure that it’s there; and you can actually touch the “dartboard.” And then, put the “dart” right in the center versus “Oh yeah, just grab that and go run with it”.

Jeff: Right.

Jennifer: That’s a big difference, but a newer person or someone who is new to a roll needs that description of “Go and actually find that target and touch it, and then put the dart right in there.” Take ten steps and do that. It depends on the person, is what I would say.

Jeff: Yeah. I’m just thinking – I’m pretty fiercely independent, right. And so, if you were to give it too crystal clear to me, …

Jennifer: Right.

Jeff: I’d be like, “Why do you need me?” Right. Do understand what I would say is – this isn’t a one-time conversation though; this is you thinking about your upcoming year understanding. So a great question to ask your leader is “What’s on our plate?” “What are you being held accountable for?” and “How can I help?”. And let’s get some clarity on that. And then, it’s a “How do we keep coming back and handle the conversation?”

I think a best practice is sort of a one-on-one per month where you pull back a little bit and just say “Hey, how are we doing on the big stuff? I hear a couple of big projects that we’re working on. Here’s what we really want to focus on this year. Are we on track or not?”.

So the clearer you can set expectations from the front end – so whether that's a revenue target, a key project, a new product, “How many people do we want to develop?”, “What’s our succession plan look like?” – the clearer you can get on that, the better that will set up future conversations so that you can say “Are we on target? Are we not on target?”.

I know that, again, Amy with Qualtrax and several of my other companies, they sort of use the “Red, Yellow, Green” so they can come back to the review and say “Okay, this was our aim. You know, are we still on track? If not, is that yellow?” Or is it “We’re in red and we really got to coalesce.”? Or “Hey, you know we’re in green, so we probably don’t need to talk a lot about that, but it’s maybe time to celebrate that we are in green and let’s take a moment of appreciation.” But then let’s start to talk about some of the other things, about how do we move the needle most.

Jennifer: And when you’re in green, to be able to have a good conversation; “This going really well. How do we keep it going well? And is there a way that can be better?”. It doesn't have be perfect, we don't want to be perfect but to spend a little bit of time not celebrating in the green but being curious about it; “Why is this working and how much value is there for us?”.

Jeff: Yeah. I would also just say this is tried-and-true, but this is smart goals, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. When you're at the start of the year, sometimes the goals are still little vague. As you start to get into the first quarter, come back and revisit that a couple of more times, and see if you can get more specific and more specific.

Too often what I see in this performance planning is the reason why it doesn't work particularly well is it's a one-time conversation maybe in December or early January and then we get back to regular work. And our companies that we work with that have best practices, they revisit them on a regular basis and say “Are we still working on the right things?”. Additionally, they say “You know, we really had some good thinking in December but maybe were wrong. Maybe this isn't one of our major goals and we really need to shift a little and concentrate on that.”

The hard part is sometimes saying no and stopping something; what will happen? 27 goals is just what I use. So we've got 27 goals, it's probably like seven or eight, but my hyperbola needs to say that, right. How do we wheedle the seven or eight down to two to three that are really possible and achievable? I think for good performance planning, execution, and excellence is picking 2-3 goals that are realistic but challenging and really focusing on that. Thoughts from you Jennifer.

Jennifer: Yes, less is more. And to do something and do it well, to really have two, maybe three, critical moves over the course of the year you'll likely hit the target if there's one or two, maybe three.

The other thing is that when you're adding things that stop, peace is so important. Whether or not you're adding a lot of complicated things to really simple - I love the story you told about "Do we really need these reports. They're not serving us"; before you even begin anything to say “What is wise to stop doing that we don't need?”

Jeff: Right.

Jennifer: What can we do just by habit now because of who we are? And how we're coming together, and what the needs are out there.

Jeff: Yeah. This concept that I used to begin this week actually. Derick Strand, shout-out to you, from Richmond. There are some cultures where it's really hard to say “no”.

Jennifer: Yes.

Jeff: You know, or “stop”. And Derick taught me this concept of saying “yes” more slowly. What that means is instead of just saying “Yes, I'm going to do that,” what I want you to understand is every time you say "yes" that actually does mean you're saying “no” to something else.

So if you're saying “Yes, I'm going to work on this project.” you might be saying “no” to developing your team. So if you say “Yes, we're going to hit this deadline by Friday.” you might be saying “no” to your team getting out of here by six clock in the evening, right. Just understand that about yes' and no's. In some cultures, it's just not very easy to say “no”.

So when someone comes to Jennifer and says, “Jennifer, I'd really love to have this done by Friday at five,” she might say, “You know, Jeff, I appreciate that you would have confidence in me, could we talk about whether Friday at five is still realistic or not?” “No, I really need it to be Friday at five.” Then you might say, “Okay. Then is it okay that I'm not going to work on this?” “Yeah because this is a higher priority.” Or it might be, “Does it have to be me? Or could Debbie or Lee work on that for me?” “Yeah. I'm okay with that.”

So it's not that you're saying “no,” it's just that you are clarifying. That's going to be one of the things that's going to be critical for us in our performance planning. Today on the show with Jennifer were up against another break so we've been talking about performance planning. We'll pick up on a few more best practices after a two-minute break. See you in a few.



Jeff: Welcome back. I'm here with Jennifer. She's the leadership director at Voltage Leadership Consulting. She is also a strategist, business coach, and fantastic facilitator, leader. We’ve been talking about how you plan for an excellence and really try to come up with best practices, and how do we move forward.

I appreciate we've got a couple of questions and emails in my inbox. I'm going to address those in the next segments so feel free to keep sending them and address them in the last segment of the show. What we're going to hit here is the individual just a bit.

We've got something called individual development planning. So I'm going to call them IDP's from here. What that is, it’s a discussion that you have about how do you want to grow and develop yourself over the course of the next 1 to 3 years is to generate a contact conversation, whether you have it with your manager, occasionally human resources.

What I encourage people to do is to really look at your top two or three strengths. How are you going to leverage strengths over the course next year? And is there one thing that maybe we need to work on? So for you to go back to earlier segments in our shows, it's that Tim Gallwey model where Performance equals Potential minus Interference.

What we want to do is make sure that we are using our full potential with our strengths, but is there also one piece of interference that’s getting in our way? So that is often how to create individual development plan; your individual development plan is how you as an individual starts to fulfill against the goals that we've been planning as an organization.

So we’ve done a little planning in our organization, we made you an offsite to plan that. But now it's about you the performer coming back and through your individual development plan saying “How are you going to get bigger, better, stronger, leap tall buildings in a single bound, look amazing doing it, and wearing a red costume?” All good?

Jennifer: Love it.

Jeff: I feel good. I'm prancing around.

Jennifer: Right?

Jeff: What ideas do you have for us?

Jennifer: So when you sit down to have a conversation with someone about their performance, the important thing to remember is that it's a conversation; and to be curious. When we carry our curiosity into a conversation, that's the best gift we can bring. When we bring questions that say “I'm really interested in helping you or a team member of ours.” Discover for yourself where it is that your best self lies, where the magic might be.

So when you sit down and have those conversations, yes we want to have in mind what the organization needs to move forward, but I’ll also be curious about the aspirations of the person. “What do you want? What do you really want?” That's the best data point for a leader to be able to discover the aspirations of the individual that's working with you.

Because if you know what those aspirations are, you have the ability to plug in their aspirations to the needs of the organization, and to be able to communicate those needs in ways that can fire them with passion and purpose when they're doing their work.

Jeff: I know this is an international audience, we have people coming from all over the world; China, UAE, India, New Zealand, Italy etc. so we appreciate everyone. The next data I'm giving you is from the United States. Right now our unemployment rate has dropped from about eight years ago was almost 10% all the way down to about 4.6%; that's almost basically full employment.

There's certainly people that could be in jobs that are more rewarding for them, better use of their resources. But we’re getting pretty close to full employment. What that means is that people are starting to have choices, people are starting to get offered sign-on bonuses, headhunters are calling people more often now. So this IDP and this performance planning discussion is a really great retention tool too.

Jennifer: Absolutely

Jeff: This is a chance for you to say “Hey, here's how I see where you're fitting in”. If there’s a superstar, this is also a chance for you to re-recruit them and say “Here's the amazing things you're doing. Here's the path that I see for you, here are the possibilities”. And some of you guys, there may not be a position that's open, but that doesn't mean we can't keep developing them and saying “What is it that they want to work on? And how do I get to go grow them?”.

What's critical, though, is what type of conversation are you having? So we use this – again, this is from the Burson book on Thanks for Your Feedback – are you in an appreciation conversation? Are you coaching them on the development or in an evaluation? Generally speaking, this time of year, you're going to start with evaluation; how did the year go? And then look forward, so it might start out with evaluation, but it's critical for you to say “Here's what went really well” and “Here's one or two things that I think you can do differently.”

Now, let's create your development plan together so that I can coach you up, but don't miss out on that appreciation, especially for superstars; everyone needs it. But I'm telling you right now the headhunters are starting to call those superstars in your company and if you're not appreciating them, well that green grass on the other side of the fence looks pretty good right now.

Jennifer: Absolutely. That is so important and not just "Thanks. Atta boy. Appreciate you." but “You did this piece of work and this is the impact that it had on the business, and you erased my need to think about it and I really deeply appreciate it.” “You created the most creative proposal that we've seen in a long time and look what happened to our business.”

Whatever it is be really specific about what it is that you saw, that you really appreciate it, so that you know they actually noticed. And you know what, I'm going to keep running. I think the specific appreciation goes a long way.

Jeff: Yeah. One of the things that came from the listeners was really around “How do we go about taking these concepts performance for the next year and breaking it down in to the conversation with your direct report?”. So we say that our revenue is going to increase by 27%; that we're going to try to decrease costs by 12%. I think that makes sense at a theoretical level but how do you translate that and whose job it to translate that? Is that an employee's job? Is that your job as a leader? Where does that work get done?

Jennifer: I do think it's the question when you sit down with someone and you might talk about very brief terms as large goals of “Increase revenue by this. Decrease loss by this”. That's a helpful data point for them to know where the organization is trying to go, but then be curious about what is it that you want? What is it that you really want? What are you decided about working on? And how can that contribute to the ways that we are looking for new business? How can that contribute to potentially new revenue streams or cost-saving measures depending on what that person is interested in?

And to find out where their creativity is and see if they have a particular thing that they want to run with, does that line up? And how can you make it? Maybe it needs to be shaped a little bit here on the edges, but if you can allow them to take something and run with it, there's just a lot of energy that people have when they really want something that they owe to themselves.

Jeff: Let me just reflect a few of folks that I've coached. “Yeah, that's nice Jennifer, but I need to get work done here.” Like, “We've got to make the bottom line,” or “We’ve got to hit our mission,” or whatever. You know, “I can't always line up what people's goals and desires are; Jennifer I run a real business here, I've got to hit his bottom line and you don't know the pressure under and blah blah blah blah.” But that's real.

Jennifer: Right.

Jeff: So how do we strike a balance of the individual's needs with the organization's goals.

Jennifer: So I'm going to come back at you with this; what do you do with the leader who says “I'm bringing 5% of my creativity to the table because I always get told now.”

Jeff: Right.

Jennifer: So I think the piece of it that's missing is accountability. “I want you to sit in my seat. I hear your idea; I want you to analyze your idea. I want you to do some analysis of how you'd think it would be developed.” Put them in charge of driving their idea and building out and proposing it. Just like you would expect if someone was coming to you with a new business idea that you are supposed to reflect on; that employee can certainly do that. Then that's up to them to see how much skin they want to have in the game. You haven't said 'no' -

Jeff: Right. I’m saying yes more slowly.

Jennifer: - but you're saying yes more slowly. And then you have a data point; yourself of how much? Did they go and do it or not? Or did they give up? And there's a few things that you've mentioned to me over time, if you're only interested in that go find that out. There's some of them you never heard about it again.

Jeff: I love it. Yes, I agree with all that. What happens, though, that we get the superstar that is just fantastic and we don't have spot for him?

Jennifer: Right.

Jeff: They are driving great projects for us; they are a great teammate; again, awesome attitude, they're the dream employee, but there's really no place to go. The business just doesn't have the need, yet. How are we going to handle that?

Jennifer: I think it's an honest conversation, and to say this is the deal. This is where the business is at. Do you want to stay? Are you happy? It might be for their age and stage in life, but they’re perfectly content right where they are and that anxiety is yours, right; not theirs. So find out be curious.

The other thing I would say is that what the amount of time are you going to allow that person to do some work that's in their field? But that might not be your organization; maybe there's a professional organization that they can have leadership.

There's someone that I'm thinking of that I work with; she has this tremendous capacity for leadership but she doesn't have a huge team. So she leads, she is the president of her professional organization, and they mix time and space and resources for her to go travel and do that work. And it's helpful to the overall professional capacity of the people in her roll, but it's not contributing directly to the business; but they are retaining an excellent person for a long time.

So they get to keep all of the knowledge, they get to keep all of that skills; and they get her ability to then coach other people in the business, they are colleagues, not necessarily direct reports. So in what direction can you help people look see that their aspirations are getting fulfilled inside of the business.

Jeff: Good. So a few key points from the segment. I think it's about setting some smart goals, you know, to be very clear. I think it's conversation between the leader and employee that they're talking to. It's about creating an individual development plan that both meet the needs of the business but can be inspirational to the person that's actually trying to grow themselves.

The individual development plan should not all be things that need to be fixed, there should also be leveraging of the strengths so that we can do it. Again, the more specific, let's just not go work on something, how do we measure it? You know, it might be measured by getting a Degree, maybe it's a Masters that you need.

It could be "Hey, you know, I've never had the chance to do the budget so I'm going to get the chance to do the budget for the first time this year. And how we measure success is that I am in the meetings and I make the final proposal, and I get to you about on how well I did in my budgeting process”. But the more specific we can get then the more likely it is that we can do a good job of saying “Did we have success in 2017 or not?”.

The other thought that I have is that it's the leader's job to the people who are setting up a lot of these conversations to translate these big goals that we as an organization are coming up with to "What does that mean for our team?" and "What does that mean for individuals on our team?".

Jennifer: That's right.

Jeff: So we are up against another break. What we'll come back talk about are some of our favorite best practices. Also, how do you use maybe an outside facilitator? Is that a benefit - not a benefit? We're certainly in that spot sometimes. We'll be coming back from the break in two minutes, and we'll hit a few of these last topics for the day. Thanks.


Jeff: Welcome back. I'm so glad you could be with us today. I've got Jennifer Owen-O’Quill with me today. We’ve had a meandering, lovely conversation about performance planning and hit lots of topics. So what we thought we would wrap up the show with today is some of our best practices, maybe some of the traps that we see some of our companies fall into, and be able to leave you with a few practical tools and tips to take away when you're working on your planning for performance excellence. Jennifer, I think there is one point that you wanted to pick up on from the last segment.

Jennifer: Yeah. One of the things that I was thinking about is that there's – you were talking about the high potential but there's no place for them to go – one of the options really is to have that honest conversation about “Is it time for them to go?” “How would they like to be sent?” or “Would they like to stay?”. And it's much better to have an honest conversation about that so that you can be prepared rather than surprised.

I certainly had these conversations where over the course of a year I equipped someone with really great high potential but there was nowhere for her to go and she had real aspirations; she was young and young in her career, and we sent her out a great next thing. And I was proud of that, I actually helped get her recruited out and to find that new thing. And then there was somebody ready to move into that role that, could then, created a movement inside the business. So, losing great people is good if you're taking care of your bench.

Jeff: Right. Yeah. Somewhere, I think of a young one that I worked with – gosh, 15 years ago – and she loved what she was doing but knew that wasn't where she wanted to be in life. And by having the honest conversation, she opened it up to me. We eventually helped her get her Masters in something that was not really related to what we did, but we got to keep somebody for two more years that was a superstar, and she left and pursued something that she loves doing in Washington DC now; she's fantastic at it.

Here's the interesting part, in the next two or three years she sent over 30 people; she referred over 30 people to our company, many of which were superstars. If we hadn't listened to her dreams and aspirations – we could have just said, "no, we’re not going to do that" – instead, we were really able to find a good partnership. So I think the best practice is all the way back to - it is a conversation, be curious about the folks that you work with, and what's their performance plan for 2017.

Jennifer: And your people are your best advertisers, so if you send great people out into the workforce, into a new role, you want them to exit with a great experience so that they can go and say great things about you. That she would circle back around and bring me 30 other folks and referral back to the organization as a wonderful testimony to her experience with a group.

Jeff: Yes, and sometimes it's just within the business, right. It's going to another part of the business, but you lose, because you're losing a superstar out of your area.

Okay, one of the questions we've got in here was – can we talk a little bit about “Should we use a facilitator for some of this performance planning?” and “Is that a benefit? Is that not a benefit?”. What are your thoughts about that? Then I'll weigh in on that as well.

Jennifer: I think that depends on what your pain point is.

Jeff: Okay.

Jennifer: Things are going well and you have a good rhythm that's working for you, great. I do think that facilitating a conversation for everyone to participate fully, a strategy conversation, an outside facilitator provides tremendous resources in the thinking; and that it frees up everyone in the room to think. So nobody is having to hold the space and ask the hard questions, and make sure that the ideas are getting collected. It's very helpful to have facilitators for those points in time.

Once you do those big strategy sessions, then the question is, "Do you need someone for ongoing accountability? Is that helpful or is it just a luxury?" And that's a real question. I think it depends on the momentum of the business in that given year, but for sure those annual strategy sessions are well served with an outside facilitator.

Jeff: Yeah, I agree. I'm not new to that word "facilitator" so we are going to view it in this perspective.

Jennifer: Sure.

Jeff: But, you know I run Voltage as well, and I can tell you that there are times where I really am in that awkward space of I'm trying to keep track of time, I'm watching everyone's reaction, and sometimes I get so hung up on that that I lose track of the conversation. So I do think that there is benefit to an outside facilitator.

To Jennifer's point, the downside sometimes is that an outside facilitator won't always know everything that’s going. So, I think for maybe the kickoff meeting could use an outside facilitator. I also say that trying to identify someone that's maybe not on the team, this could be a stretch of an assignment for someone to come in and help facilitate a team.

So maybe not the executive team, but maybe at the higher levels or mid-management can use a peer, or someone else from another department and let them come in and help facilitate a discussion. This could also be part of someone's individual developmental plan.

Jennifer: Absolutely. And I have been well served by facilitators that were internal-external facilitators, right. So, they were not part of team, but they allowed the team to really engage because they understood what the language was; what the pressure was.

Jeff: Good. So Jennifer, I'm going to task you with thinking about 2 to 3 of your best practices that you would want to recommend. I'll start and then let you come in with your couple. So for me, one is "Make the time". Really take some time at the end of this year/beginning of 2017 and look back first and say "What did we have success in?".

I love the "Start, Stop, Continue exercise that Jennifer mentioned earlier in the show so that we can really say, “Okay, are there things that we should start doing, stop doing, and continue doing?"

Next is to really be realistic about "What are the 2017 goals?". Brainstorm first to come up with 27 ideas, but then let’s come up with the two or three that are really realistic. And then I might put it on a 2 x 2 matrix of, like “What's the payoff? What's the ability to get this done?”  versus “How hard is implementation going to be?”

And then start to move down to “Okay, given these are our separate goals, how do we start having conversations with our individuals over the next month about what's gone right for them over the past year and where they want to grow?”. So having conversations about people, with people about what do they like about this past year? And what are their hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. Jennifer, how about for you?

Jennifer: I would say conversations that are curious; conversations that aren't just about "What do you want for the future?" but are curious about what their ultimate aspirations are. "What do you want? What do you really want? What do you aspire to?" And then, finding out ways that you can plug in that passion and purpose to the things you need.

The other thing is to catch people winning in clear specific ways. We get so much more we praise, bless and encourage one another. The other tool that I like – I really like resetting those ground rules every year, returning to that and letting people know "These are the rules we had before. This is how we were getting together last year,” if you had ground rules, "Let's do this again. Are these still the right ground rules for us? Do we need to add or subtract something? Where do we need to make adjustments?" so that you keep the conversation alive; it's not something one-and-done.

And then, those feedforward conversations, that's Marshall Goldsmith's term, how do you set the stage in conversation? Not for what happened in the past but what you want the future to look like. So, looking through the windshield, where are you going? What do I need to do to have, on a scale of 1 to 10, a one-point higher communication number with you?

If we're at an 8, how do I get to a 9? If we're at a 3, how do I get to a 4 with you in our communication? So that we can figure out what's that one small habit that I can add; what's that one small practice that I can add to get to the next level?

Jeff: Thank you, Jennifer. It's been a real honor and privilege to have you here again today. So I would wrap up the show. Again, the Wheel of Life is a nice way for an individual to start with. You can google it, you'll find it, it will have different things, put the pies in that you want. But, really take a moment and just, sort of, assess: "Are you where you want to be?".

So, you've been listening to Voltcast - Illuminating Leadership. It's been lovely to have Jennifer Owen with me today. Next week we'll have Lee Hubert back on the show and we're going to be, again, a little bit on this topic, but some more best practices around some coaching and learning with you.

During the week, if you want to reach out to us, you can reach us at area code 540-798-1963. You can email me at jeff@voltageleadership.com. Our website is www.voltageleadership.com. You can like me on Facebook at Voltage Leadership. Connect with me on LinkedIn at Jeff Smith Voltage Leadership Consulting. You can follow me at twitter @VoltageLeaders.

If you're in the strategic planning or you're needing help as a client, please feel free to reach out to us; that's what we do. We're very passionate about this topic. We'd love to see organizations to succeed; we get a real charge out of that. And, we also love to see the individuals to be able to reach their full potential.

If you find yourself in need during this performance planning, please reach out to us at one of these places. Jennifer, thanks again for being with us today. You've been listening to Voltcast - Illuminating Leadership, we'll see you again next week at the same time. In the meantime, have an awesome week. Take care.