Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Global Leadership: Managing Performance-Delivery vs Values

One of the difficult challenges facing a leader is evaluating the performance of his direct reports.  In my experience there are two big dimensions to be considered .  One is  delivery....did the person deliver the results promised?  Second,  does the person lead consistent with the organization's  values?

When Jack Welch was CEO at GE, he had a simple framework to help him think through some of his more difficult people issues.  He described it in his 1991 annual report and it is further described in Noel Tichy's book, The Leadership Engine.  Tichy covers it in his section on "Edge"...  the ability to see reality and act on it.  It's not new and not complicated but I've used this framework a lot in talent conversations.

A 2X2 matrix showing these dimensions looks something like the one below.  Delivery is on the vertical axis, values on the horizontal.

 Welch placed his direct reports in one of the four quadrants.  The upper right, those who deliver and do so consistent with your values, are easy.  They have a bright future and should be sponsored for advancement.  Likewise, the lower left quadrant is easy but unpleasant....they must be moved on.  On the lower right are those who operate within our values but just don't deliver.  They deserve a second chance and a thoughtful but direct "how can I help?" conversation. They may need executive coaching, skill development, practice, resources, supporting talent...even a lateral change in assignment. They have to move at some point to the upper right quadrant.  You can't indefinitely carry good people who lead in the right way, but just can't get it done.  The urgency of the need to improve results to be part of the "how can I help?" conversation.

I think the most difficult quadrant is the upper left..."Delivers Results, Low Values".  As Tichy says: "This is the individual who typically forces performance out of people, rather than inspires it:  the autocrat, the big shot, the tyrant.  Too often, all of us have looked the other way, tolerated these managers because 'they always deliver'....on the short term."

Because it's so difficult, you don't have to look far to see how prevalent tolerating "High Delivery, Low Values" is.   From financial services scandals, to rampant college football recruiting and improper payment violations, to military officer misconduct... we see evidence every day.  My final two points are great leaders don't tolerate low values performance. They don't look the other way.  They ask questions when they know something isn't quite right.  They pay attention to employee surveys and do 360 evaluations when their instincts tell them something is wrong.
The last point is the low values leader is always exposed eventually.  It may come out after they depart or sadly, after they have been promoted, but it always comes out.   That's when the "If you knew about this, why didn't you do something?" questions start.

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