Tip #338: If You Want Employees to be Productive: Tell Them What They Need To Know

“I’m slowly becoming a convert to the principle that you can’t motivate people to do things, you can only demotivate them. The primary job of the manager is not to empower but to remove obstacles.” Scott Adams

If a business wants to be effective in this (or any other) economy, the key is to make sure employees can be as productive as possible. This can be accomplished by using effective performance management and making sure that employees are able to make informed decisions.

What role does performance management play?

It is impossible to hit a target that is not identified. Employees need to know what they are expected to do, how well they are expected to do it, and how their performance will be measured.

For example: A newly hired trainer in a consulting firm was told that he was expected to meet with clients, identify their training needs, design a training program and deliver it to the satisfaction of the clients and the supervisor. The supervisor would wait until the trainer had delivered a new program twice (to work out some of the bugs) before sitting in to observe the training.

When the first session of the training went terribly, the new trainer did not wait for the supervisor to come to observe the third session. He went to the supervisor immediately to discuss the problem and identify some solutions.
The employee took responsibility for his performance, which is what a supervisor wants.

Why do employees need to understand the back story?

Performance management will tell employees what they should do, when they should do it, and how well they should do it. It does not necessarily tell them the reason behind the task or assignment. Without knowing this, it is very difficult for the employee to make effective decisions.

For example: The owner of a printing company complained that delegation did not work with his employees. When pressed for an example, he explained that he had recently needed to leave the plant. He called one of his employees into his office and explained that a customer would be calling about a printing order. The owner told the employee what he should say to the customer when the customer called.

Obviously, the owner did not tell the customer what her side of the script should be. When the customer called, the customer asked a question that the employee was unprepared to answer. The employee was afraid to make the wrong decision, so he made no decision.

The owner pointed to this situation as an example of the failure of delegation. It was actually a failure of communication on his part. This wasn’t intentional. The owner had had many previous conversations with the customer. He just forgot that the employee did not have the benefit of that information. If he wanted the employee to really be able to serve the customer effectively, the owner needed to explain the background and context of the customer situation. Just providing a script of what to say was insufficient.

If we want employees to be productive, we need to give them what they need to know so that they can take responsibility to monitor and improve their own performance and make decisions to fulfill delegated duties.

May your learning be sweet.


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