A company's performance is highly dependent on the performance of its teams. Hence, as CEOs and managers prepare for the new business year, I thought I would share some tips for improving, or even maximizing, team performance.
1. Summarize your strategy and share it with everyone at your company
As a CEO, you must understand that many corporate workers are unaware of their organization's big-picture corporate strategy. In fact, a 2005 Harvard Business School research study found that "95% of a company's employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy." This lack of understanding can adversely impact businesses - the same study found that "if the employees who are closest to customers and who operate processes that create value are unaware of the strategy, they surely cannot help the organization implement it effectively."
As one might expect, people who understand how their own tasks contribute to the overall strategy of the firm for which they work often perform better than those who do not. Of course, complex strategy documents can confuse people - so the best CEOs keep their strategy documents simple, short, and to the point. A one-pager is usually ideal.
2. Establish clear objectives for every business unit and team
Having a clear overall strategy is not, on its own, sufficient - you must ensure that each department and team within the organization knows what its objectives are, and how those objectives relate to, and align with, the overall strategy.
One way that many great CEOs ensure proper alignment is to use the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method, in which management defines both objectives and the measurements against which performance towards those objectives will be measured (the key results). To learn more about OKR, please see the relevant Google Ventures video.
3. Create proper alignment of objectives across the company
If you are not already aligning objectives across your company and aligning team and group objectives to the corporate strategy - make sure to do so ASAP. Consider that if if you do not align objectives across your organization you could have people replicating one another's work or, even worse, "rowing in opposite directions."
4. Manage execution towards objectives by utilizing Continuous Performance Management
Many of the best CEOs today utilize Continuous Performance Management (CPM) throughout their organizations. CPM refers to performance management processes that occur on an ongoing basis, rather than via some annual or biannual appraisals. Near-term objective setting done as part of the CPM process should be based on the strategy and alignment discussed above. CPM need not be time intensive - many successful CEOs simply request that every manager meet with her reports on at least a weekly basis to review performance - often in an informal meeting that lasts for no more than 10 minutes. These meetings give workers a chance to educate management on where employees stand with respect to each relevant objective.
5. Ensure that every manager has weekly 1-on-1 meetings with all of his or her direct reports
Expanding on the prior point, it can help performance if you ensure that all managers throughout your organization adhere to the discipline of weekly 1-on-1 meetings with direct reports - a practice that some consider to be the most important business management practice of all.
Weekly meetings not only help a firm practice CPM (described above), but, they also enable managers to understand and address obstacles impeding progress toward goals before they become big problems, as well as to learn about employees' "small wins" and to provide recognition for such; recognizing "small wins" often improves employee performance as discussed by Professor Teresa Amabile in a recent TedX talk.
6. Leverage Data
The most effective CEOs ensure that all of their companies' managers manage their teams and operations as objectively as possible, and armed with as much information as possible. They accomplish this by leveraging measurable data to manage people's performance, and utilizing data tools to understand as much as possible about the going-ons within their organizations. Don't shoot blind - the more information that you have and can properly analyze, the better the decisions that you can make.
7. Make sure your company and your employees are cyber secure
As I have mentioned in the past, employees want to know that their employers protect workers' confidential information such as salaries, performance reviews, W2s, etc. Hence, besides inflicting financial damage, irritating customers, and disrupting operations, hacker breaches can undermine employee morale and productivity - especially if personnel records are compromised. Also, keep in mind that if an employee's personal computer or smartphone is breached, the compromised device could become a hacker's conduit for attacking your organization. For tips on how to keep your business cyber-secure without spending a lot of money please see the article, 13 Tips to Achieve Great Cybersecurity Without Spending a Fortune.