To develop a performance driven culture a key element is to begin to focus not on the technical elements and processes, but to begin to consider the impact that poor behaviour has on safety, quality and service. This shift must start with leaders at all levels. Real change will never come from an annual conference or the latest management fad. It will come from within an organization whose leaders are committed to a common purpose and have the character to inspire confidence to achieve the strategic aims of the organization. Sadly and with great regularity, we are witness to the self-destruction of leaders and their organizations who fail to grasp the fundamental connection between individual leader behaviour and organizational performance.
Closing the performance gap in health care or any other noble enterprise is a nonnegotiable imperative. In the middle of this gap between our current levels of performance and where we can realistically improve, real people, the patients, are suffering real and avoidable harm. Decades of emphasis on technical skills and technical solutions have provided some modicum of marginal improvement. The real key to improving the safety and quality of care and reducing the financial impact of a system fraught with errors and mistakes is to focus on behavioural skill development.
One way we can start improving the training and development of our leaders and simultaneously hold them accountable to strategic outcomes is rethinking the annual performance review process. In his article “It’s Time to Get Rid of Annual Performance Reviews,” Merge Gupta-Sunderji argues, “Most employees look forward to the annual performance review the way they look forward to a root canal. Feelings range from anxiety and angst to annoyance and anger. Not that performance reviews are a thrill for managers. Typically, they involve hours of preparation, and the outcome is often a leader and team member who is less engaged than before. If you add the antiquated practice of forced ranking, the result is more people who are disillusioned, disconnected and demoralized than before you started.”
If we have leaders and individuals in our organizations that are so toxic as to disrupt performance, quality, safety, and workplace values then we need effective leadership behaviour that transcends development plans and performance appraisals. Furthermore, we should be developing leaders with the coaching skills to address performance in a systematic and continuing process rather than a one-year event. Research indicates that a consistent and progressive process of meeting with team members on a regular basis with constructive feedback tied directly to performance outcomes gets more at the heart of true employee engagement and success.
For example, a behaviour based feedback tool that engages employee’s behaviours strengths would include questions such as: Do you know what behaviours you display on a daily basis? Are your habits bringing you closer to or preventing you from achieving higher levels of performance necessary to make a significant difference in the lives of other people? This process can and should occur not just one or twice a year, but as constant leader-to-leader, peer-to-peer engagement sessions. We must recognize that this type of process leads to and develops long lasting and productive workplace environments that are healthy, collaborative, and built around the mutual acceptance of trust. This also creates the opportunity to discuss leadership development and performance achievement in a constructive and positive way that will achieve sustaining results — not one that’s built on an outdated model of technical skill achievement and internal office competition.
At the heart of behaviour development is the skill of Positive Presence™ — a new and deliberate way of thinking and behaving that makes the connection between emotional energy and behaviour and is easily practiced and developed right on the job. For many, it is just a lot of common sense, but for others it is a slow and gentle process that requires the help of both team mates and leaders.