Getting Great Performance From Employees

Here is a good piece about getting better performance out of your employees.

It all sounds so sensible: Expect the best from your employees, and they'll give you their best—a phenomenon that J. Sterling Livingston, founder of the Sterling Institute, discussed in his seminal 1969 Harvard Business Review article "Pygmalion in Management." On the other hand, expect little from employees, and they'll give you meager performance in return—what INSEAD professors Jean-Fran´┐Żois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux have named the set-up-to-fail syndrome.

But the interplay between managerial expectations and employee performance is more complex than these commonsense maxims suggest. To be sure, expectations exert a powerful impact on an individual's performance. Yet managers who believe that they've done their job merely by defining and declaring high expectations—without involving employees in the process—will likely get the same poor results that bosses with low expectations receive.

We've all read The One Minute Manager, which really kicked off the whole management-by-goal-setting thing (at least I think it did). It was followed by a million other books singing the praises of setting goals. Surprisingly, lots of people still don't do it. Unsurprisingly, for the people who do, it doesn't always work. Employees have to be involved in the process so that they understand the goals and see them as realistic. But goals, like everything else, can be highly situational. Some things are difficult to quantify, but easy to qualify. In that case it comes down to training.

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I have sales training twice a week, goal setting/discussing meetings once a week, and skill specific meetings the other two days. It seems like a lot, but if I keep presenting new material, practicing old skills, keep them on their toes, and make it fun and interesting, they will follow along. So far, I've taken people who hate to sell and at least made them half way decent at it. And that problem employee I wrote about a few weeks ago? He has actually been coming along nicely. If he keeps it up, he may keep his job after all.