Tools and Resources: the Link to Performance

Have you ever tried to complete a report while your computer kept crashing? Have you been given an unrealistic deadline, had people ignore your requests for information, or tried to find a missing file that is nowhere to be found? When you don’t have the right tools or resources, it is hard to perform well, let alone at the exemplary level.

When we talk about the tools needed to do your job, the obvious items come to mind. However, there are other tools that we don’t often think of which can impact performance. For example, I once worked in an office and had to walk to another side of the building when I printed a document. This walk took about two minutes each way if no one stopped me. However, most of the time, I ended up talking with someone. This meant that picking up a document could take 15 to 20 minutes of my day. If there were a printer close to my desk, I would have been more productive.

Thinking about the resources needed to do your job, you often need to work with others, access to information, allocation of budget, and adequate time. Without these, performance will suffer. The challenge with resources is that we don’t think about them until they’re not there. For example, I worked on a project and needed information from our VP of Sales. I emailed him, then called him, and then called again the next day. A few days later I found out he had traveled out of the country and he wasn’t able to get me the information I needed until he returned. This put me behind and unable to complete my report on time.

In reviewing the Tools and Resources factor, this seems straight forward. However, it is not always easy to address. For example, what if leaders are slashing the budget to save jobs and you can’t get money to buy a new printer? In the case of the Sales VP being away, how can you learn that faster and ask for the information from someone else? In situations like this, be creative to overcome these barriers. In my research and experience, I have found that exemplary performers never let this stand in their way. They find a way to get the tools and the resources they need to continue performing at the exemplary level.

This is exactly what you need to do. First, identify whether you have the tools and resources needed to perform at the exemplary level. Then, if you lack something, find a way to get it. I once used my personal laptop until the company fixed my work computer. I also have been known to go to every leader in a department until I received the information I needed (I learned from the Sales VP experience). When faced with a tools and resources challenge, think of it as an opportunity to show how resourceful you are. Never let it get in the way of your performance.


Environment and Performance

How do you interact with your environment and how does it impact you? In this post, I will discuss the next of the 7 Factors that drive performance: the Environment. I will briefly define what it is, talk about the two types of environments, and help you understand how to determine if this factor is the most important reason for the level of performance achieved.

In my book, I define Environment as the physical, emotional, and interpersonal elements that form the context in which a person works and lives. Environment is everything outside of us. It is not our innate abilities (talent), knowledge, skills, or motivations. Those come from within and determine how we interact with our world. Rather, it is how the world interacts with us. When we get to work each day, the arrangement of our desk, how our office is set up, the relationships we have with others, and the constraints put forth by the organization can have an impact on our performance.

In the definition of Environment, you may have noticed that the environment includes elements specific to work and elements specific to life outside of work. Therefore, there are two types of environments that we interact with. The first is our personal environment and includes all the things outside of work. The second is our work environment and includes all the things at work. Since we are almost all human (there’s a few people I’m not so sure about), we have a finite amount of energy. How we use that energy has an impact on our performance. Also, both environments impact each other. In other words, things that happen at work impact our home life and things that happen at home impact our work life.

In working with people to leverage an exemplary strength, you can discuss and observe what is done at work and outside of work. For example, how do they organize their work space, how do they interact with others, how do they leverage the culture to elevate their performance, and how do things outside of work drive them to achieve exemplary performance levels? In working with people to develop an expandable strength, you would ask about the impact of these elements on their performance to determine if there is something in their personal or work environment that is holding them back.

While there is much discussion of the elements that make up the work environment, we often stay clear of discussing things that are happening outside of work. We don’t need to counsel people if things outside of work are impacting their performance in a negative way (nor should we unless we are qualified and licensed to do so). However, knowing this will help us understand how someone is using her energy and why performance is or is not at the exemplary level. We can then we can apply the right solution to grow her performance and not make assumptions and/or excuses about the person or the organization.

Talent and Fit: the Link to Performance

In my earlier post, I discussed the background of my 7 Factors model for driving performance to the exemplary level. Although there is no particular order to the 7 Factors, I will discuss the Talent and Fit factor first.

This factor consists of two separate but similar items so let’s start with a few definitions. The first part of this factor is talent which consist of the innate abilities one has as a function of their genetic and psychological makeup. These are the things that are hardwired into our brains, are the way that we are physically structured, and includes our personality. For example, I may have an aptitude for math and just understand calculus formulas almost effortlessly. The other part of this factor is fit. This is where we prefer to use those talents. For example, I may have a great talent for sales but dislike the products and services of my company.

Where performance is concerned, the part talent and fit plays is largely determined by the nature of the job. If a job requires a person to write technical documents, she should have the talent to do that and prefer to use those talents within her organization. Other jobs may just require basic abilities that are easily taught so talent and fit is not so much of a causative factor.

The talent and fit factor is often the first thing leaders look at when performance is lacking. Too often in my career, I have heard leaders say that a person is not the right fit. I have also heard them say that a certain person lacks the ability to perform at a higher level. This is really code for “I have no idea what to do” or “I don’t want to take the time to figure out how to help this person”. Later, when that person is transferred to a new leader, he often performs much better. This shows us that talent and fit was not the real issue to begin with.

When looking at what drives performance it’s important that we take into account the person’s innate abilities and their preference for exercising those abilities within our organization. Even though I start with talent and fit, it is often the last factor that’s to blame for lack of exemplary performance. It’s also the factor with the fewest remedies. If talent and fit is the factor that’s truly a play, all we can do is change the job itself to leverage the person’s talents, move them to a new job that leverages their talents, or, in the most severe cases, get rid of them. So when using this factor to gauge performance it’s important that you take into account all it’s going on with the otherĀ  factors first.

What Drives Performance

Many of you that know me are aware of how interested I am in the factors that drive performance. In fact, I have been so interested in this topic that I created my own model and have published a book on the topic. Over the next few months, I would like to talk about the factors I have identified that drive performance.

Before we get into that, this edition of my blog will provide you with some background. I will be short and to the point so I encourage you to contact me with any additional questions.

My interest started in college back in 1986. I took a course that required a project and mine was on decreasing absenteeism and tardiness. Amazingly, I actually got results from my intervention. I studied the topic for years and, after extensive research into every model I could find, I found that every model had gaps. To remedy this, decided to develop a more holistic and simpler approach to impacting the performance of people.

The model I will discuss has 7 factors that drive performance. That’s probably why I call it the 7 Factors model. I have found through my experience and research that these factors account for all the reasons for performance. The factors are talent and fit, tools and resources, the environment, motivation, clear expectations and accountability, process, and knowledge and skill.

I have found that these factors can be applied to individual, team, and organizational performance. What differs is the process used in each of those cases. While my first book focuses on a strengths-based approach to developing the performance of an individual, the same 7 factors (but a different approach) would be used to address a team or an organization.

In my next post, I will discuss the talent and fit factor. Until then, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Conferences forĀ Development

I am in the throws of planning to attend the ASTD International Conference & Exposition as well as the SHRM 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition. A few things have come to mind as I plan the sessions I want to attend, time at the expo hall, and meetings with colleagues I may not get to see at other times of the year.

1. Do they have to let us know there is an exposition by putting that in the title of the conference? Just wondering…

2. At any given time, there are a lot of sessions. Because of this, two questions come to mind. First, why is it that my favorite sessions always happen at the same time? And second, how can there be times when dozens of sessions are going on but nothing that appeals to me? I know these contradict each other but I guess it’s an example of “feast or famine”.

3. Planning each of these conferences takes a lot of work. Thousands of people attend each conference and finding value for everyone that attends is a monumental task. So be extra kind to the conference organizers and volunteers.

4. Each event is being held at a great city. Part of the reason is that there are only so many cities with facilities to support such large conferences and they happen to be great cities. Another reason is that the conference planners know the city is almost as much of a draw as the conference. They are smart cookies!

5. There are dozens of talent management-related conferences each year and each has something specific to offer. Most people that I know can only attend one conference. In choosing which to attend, think about your development needs above your interests. For example, performance in the workplace is my passion but I am attending the more strategically important sessions to get ideas that I can transfer to action when I return.

Hope to see you there. Leave a comment if you will be attending!