Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Month: November 2013

What your favorite pie says about your personality — The Test

Well, I am not sure of the construct validity of this test relating pie and personality but I believe that it just might be as good as some of the instruments that we use for leadership development. And the other good news is that it IS about PIE!

I am going to go with my first choice, APPLE pie and you can click on this link or on the image to go onto that Buzzfeed page to scroll down the pictures and the inferences made.

Apple Pie from Buzzfeed

Yes. This says two things about me, I think. One, that it is the Friday after Thanksgiving and while I plan to buy some software today online, you will not see ME out in the stores. And, second, it is about pie and this is the day after Thanksgiving.

Do have a nice holiday out there — even if you are not in the US, The whole notion of Thanksgiving is that we should simply be thankful for what we have and thankful for our families and all that. (And WHY it is called Black Friday and why all those minimum wage retail folks are forced to work from dawn to midnight to satisfy some “shopping craving” is pretty crazy.

———–

Scott at work 2

Have fun out there!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving (to those of us who celebrate this here in the US)

Yeah, Thursday here is a national holiday, what we celebrate as Thanksgiving for the collaboration and courtesy and kindness of the Native Americans showing compassion for the poor immigrants coming to these shores.

It is something that we should most assuredly continue. And, in that light, let me offer this:

Happy Thanksgiving and Motivation

and this:

LD Turkey Day THANKS digging

and this one:

LD Turkey Day Poem WE 1

and, if you are doing emails and work-related stuff like so many others, close your eyes, take a deep breath and put your computer or smartphone to sleep.

Have FUN out there!

smiley spinner

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car – some practical ideas about implementation, ownership and involvement

I just posted up some ideas on my poems and quips blog, which tend to be my short little ditties with a simple point and a cartoon or two. You can see that blog here and my post about this theme here. And your likes and subscriptions and comments would always be most appreciated. The whole idea is to try to keep the concepts simple and direct and actionable.

But after posting it up, it occurred to me that I should probably expand on the simple idea and theme a bit more, since it is an important one and I see that a lot of companies and leaders “kinda sorta seem to get it.” But the overall data about involvement and engagement and alignment tend to suggest that we are not really getting this job done very well. Thump. Thump.

(This is a pretty solid post around the issue above)

There are a lot of blogs and slideshows and articles out there about the issues of engagement and implementation. The data on strategy implementation makes it pretty clear that leaders are not doing the job all that well — here is an article about my friend Robin Speculand and his work on that issue in a journal in Singapore.

Simply put, managers are not involving and engaging people in their organizational change efforts. They still seem to believe that telling people about their ideas will be sufficient to generating actions on those ideas, that talk will equate to other people’s walk, something that is not likely at best!

So, I thought to illustrate that issue with a couple of cartoons that I think will be somewhat self-explanatory. Let’s start with this one:

SWs Nobody with Pride cartoon

Yeah, let me restate that key point one more time:

quote Nobody Rental Car

The issue is simple. Are we really doing the things that we could do to generate ownership? Are we really getting our people to not be somewhat active actors but real participants in the overall change we desire?

In my post on the theme of trust and trust building, I used a series of cartoons to illustrate the gap that exists between the view at the front and the view at the back as it relates to overall motivation. The view and perspective at the front is different and leadership tends to be somewhat isolated:

Square wheels image Trust Bubble Front

At the same time, the view from the back of the wagon is not necessarily all that great and there may also be issues caused by isolation:

Square wheels image Trust Bubble Back Navran.

So what we need to deal with are those gaps in how we view things

square wheels illustrations view front back

and find different ways to involve and engage.

  • We simply MUST pay more attention to the issues of involvement and engagement
  • We simply MUST do things to share the vision and align the participants in the journey
  • We simply MUST do things to get their understanding of the issues they face and the opportunities that exist for improvement

Otherwise, how can we expect things to change as we keep doing things the same way?

We cannot become what we want to be

———–

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Some simple thoughts on improving performance

I read a Zig Ziglar quote

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst.
Capitalize on what comes.” 

and it got me thinking that I can do something similar with my Square Wheels cartoons, as they illustrate a lot of themes around people, perceptions and organizational reality.

So, I thought about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to anchor and illustrate it to my way of thinking about leading organizational improvement:

That seems to sum things up pretty nicely.

Square Wheels image UNDERSTAND the basic reality

The reality is thumping and bumping along on the things that do not work smoothly. There are LOTS of Square Wheels operating out there.

As inspirational and effective leaders of people and performance, we generally have an involving and engaging vision of where we are going and its attractiveness. The View from the Front is what generally keeps us moving forward. (If you do NOT have a view from the front, then your view might look more like the one in red!)

But effective leaders understand that not everyone shares in that View at the Front and that the view from the back of the wagon is not really motivational and inspirational — that many people do not feel engaged, involved and empowered. (There are lots of data out there on un-engagement and worse, you realize! See THIS and THIS.)

So, understanding that we need to all engage in some initiatives to make improvements, and recognizing that continuous improvement is continuous and that the future will operate differently than it does today, we get that final illustration in green:

Celebration color green train

Pretty good food for thought, eh?

We motivate people by getting them actively involved and engaged in implementing their own solutions to the issues they face in daily life and work.

Motivate Me poem

Some frameworks are just more elegant! And our Square Wheels tools are simple to use, bombproof to implement, and pretty magic when it comes to effective ways of involving and engaging people to generate solutions for organizational improvement.

For the FUN of It!

Elegant Solutions

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

See our powerful $20 Toolkit to improve communications and collaboration:

Square Wheels Icebreaker is simple to use

Slideshare Overview of Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, a team building game

In the past few weeks, people have been asking me for a fast overview of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, something more than what is on the PMC website and a fast and clean overview that they could share with their prospects who are interested in teamwork and building collaboration or integrating an exercise into their leadership development materials. They wanted a descriptive overview and not a sales piece, which they would do independently.

The result was a Slideshare program that has just been uploaded, one that covers the basic setup and framework, and includes the key goals and desired outcomes, and goes through a solid overview of some of the key debriefing themes and tabletop questions we use.

Slideshare Dutchman icon

The play of the Lost Dutchman game is really designed as, “an excuse to do a debriefing.” By design, we put metaphors in the game that would easily link to issues within organizations in any debriefing of the behaviors and outcomes resulting from playing the simulation:

  • Turbochargers represent Best Practices, better ways to do things than what are in general use now.
  • Mud represents the organizational glop, the bureaucratic goo, the cultural practices that tend to take more energy to deal with.
  • The Goal is to Mine as much gold as We can,” with the “we” referring to the entire group led by the game’s Expedition Leader and not the more competitive “My Team, My Team, My Team” approach for a tabletop.
  • The Role of the Expedition Leader is to Help Teams Be Successful, so that the game leadership can act to help and encourage, with the reality that teams generally do not ask for help.

Overall, we designed the exercise so that players can make mistakes but continue in their play until the end. All teams are successful, but some are more successful than the others. We show the results randomly instead of ranking tops down, simply because ALL the results contribute to the overall total ROI — and we also task the top performing teams with questions about why they chose to not assist or support the lower performing teams.

We’ve got tons of testimonials about the effectiveness of Lost Dutchman in a wide variety of organizational settings on a global basis. Feedback from our many users supports our belief that Dutchman works elegantly as a most powerful and easy-to-deliver team building game that addresses the issues of strategic planning and collaboration  within and between teams. Below is one of many testimonials and others are also, here, on our website:

Stamm LD testimonial

Thanks for taking the time to read through this. You will find dozens of other Dutchman articles in my blog  around the general themes of improving teamwork, working with large groups, ideas for debriefing and similar.

Energize and positively impact future performance of your own teams, organization or clients with this worthwhile game.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Thanksgiving, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, and poems for followup

I’ve been building up a series of illustrations to use for following up on training and many of the cartoons and poems will wrap around issues raised in the Lost Dutchman team building exercise. We thought to make a powerpoint file available that contained some of the cartoons and some poems,

Square Wheels on team building and WE

or some like these, with built-in followup questions about what the participants have chosen to do differently:

collaboration cartoon and poem on followup

clicking on this image will take you to the download of the poems

The idea is simple. Reinforce the tabletop discussions we had in the sessions using the same illustrations, add a poem or ditty of some kind, and then ask what choices and changes were made following all that investment of time and energy.

It is so easy to make no changes and to do what y0u have always done. By the same token,

We cannot become what we want to be

So, as leaders, managers, and influencers, we need to do those followup things that push people to make different choices and to do things differently. As we play more with the poems and illustrations, we will develop a pretty complete toolkit for improving teamwork, collaboration and engagement of employees.

It is all about influencing the choices we make and our efforts to generate a variety of alternative choices and considered outcomes.

You can download this bundle of cartoons for free by clicking on the change quote above or on this text.

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Trust. Promises. Innovation. Some thoughts on improving performance results.

I just blogged about three cartoons in my other blog, my poems on performance one. But I thought the issue was important enough to build on a bit more as I continue to play with the ideas for the new team building game on issues of planning, collaboration and trust building. It is fun to be in this creative mode of operation for a while.

SWs Both TRUST Navran viewpoints

The thought is that both the wagon puller and the wagon pushers have viewpoints and histories and experiences with the issues around trust and promises. The idea is that we cannot change the past, but we can do some things to build on the trust that already exists and that this will help improve performance results, impact motivation, and increase creativity, engagement and innovation. There is no downside to building trust other than it raising expectations for the future.

Lots of people have lots of experiences behind them to which workplace expectations can be anchored. Not all of those experiences and memories are good ones:

SWs Yellow Experience

 

and all sorts of possibilities might come to mind:

SWs Yellow Possibilities

But there are also some good possibilities, some alternatives to consider and things we could choose to try to accomplish that would help improve motivation, alignment and collaboration. The issue of engagement and involvement is important and some activities could look like this:

Square Wheels Images Trust Good Possibilities Green

It is about the choices we make and how we wish to address our people in the ongoing and future performance initiatives. They have plenty of ideas that can help address the issues they see. But they need to have some connection to these themes of trust and expectations.

For the FUN of It!

scott tiny casual

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

 

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Dominoes and Dutchman and some thinking on Trust Building

In a Teambuilding group on LinkedIn, I posted up some questions around what activities existed for games focused on the issues of building trust and being trustworthy. The literature seems to have three main things, the “Trust Walk” kinds of activities, the “Red / Black” or prisoner’s dilemma exercise (also called Win as Much as You Can) exercise framework and then the various “Trust Card” kinds of self-disclosure / conversational kinds of things.

Trust walks are okay and often memorable, because there is some perceived physical risk and also the kinesthetic aspects of them that make for memorable events. But many people comment that walking around or falling backwards is not all that similar to what happens at work, that the links are okay but not really good. (I guess I can liken it to doing paintball or go-kart racing to business process improvement…)

Red / Black is a classic prisoner’s dilemma game — you can find it a lot of places as a freebie (or here) or sold as some packaged program. The literature on this comes from the 1970s, when I was first exposed to it. Individuals or teams vote and decisions influence the results — it has to do with trust and a lot of people know about the exercise, so they tend to skew results or make the framework unpredictable when one uses it in a training program.

Card Decks and Disclosure exercises — There are different card decks out there and a variety of frameworks where people and groups can sit and talk about trust and trusting and their personal perspectives on why trust is given or taken away. They share personal disclosures, though, and often people are uncomfortable with those kinds of activities, There can be different ramifications to disclosing personal information in workplace situations, also.

Trust is a real, as well as common organizational issue:

Trust - pushing or pulling bubble

What I am looking for is something new and different, something anchored into behavior that has business implications and applications, something that senior managers can use for framing up organizational cultural issues or that trainers and consultants can use to link to organizational change and performance improvement.

Frank NavranMy basic anchor point is my old friend Frank Navran’s quote:

Trust is the residue of promised fulfilled.

He shared that with me 20 years ago and it still rings true. Trust is behaviorally-anchored and it builds up over time. The residue of trust can also be quickly washed away by a single act.

Sharon Quarrington and I have been engaging in filling out a LinkedIn discussion thread on the subject of behavior and trust and games. And I see her thoughts as really right on target in how she thinks about these issues and how she frames up some behavioral activities. So, I thought to publish parts of our most recent exchange, with my comments in blue, hers in black and my highlights in red:

I read and reread your post and had a few comments and thoughts. Your reactions to those would also be appreciated, as this conversation IS stimulating my overall thinking around this issue. I will insert some thoughts into your text.

(in a game where not all of the rules were given to the participants):
None of the clients “guessed” the solution, they all thought it was a strategy game and when the reveal happened, they “got” that collaboration would have helped them all achieve their goal – but only intellectually. During the break the conversation focused on how if they had understood the rules they would have won the game – so the real learning was about probing to ensure the rules were understood. 

This was day 1 of a 3 day event (remember those?) and for the rest of the event every time a new exercise was introduced the group followed up every set of instructions with detailed questioning of the facilitator in order to identify further tricks…

So they learned not to trust the facilitator – oops. 

Yeah, the good old days of multi-day sessions. Now, they want you to compress a full day’s training into an hour and expect something to actually change. There was a question about designing a “training flag” in one of the groups and people were sharing ideas for flag design. My thought was that it should be a black flag, like the old poison logo of that name, with a dead bug with its legs in the air and little fume markings, since that is how most senior executives seem to view “training and development” these days.

It will be interesting to see if that flag generates any dialog — I actually chose NOT to get responses to that thread and will pop back in there in a day or two…

I used to do something similar in our program – left out some details and all I got was push back from the group to say that if they knew all the rules they would have responded differently. So I started giving them all the rules and to my surprise found that as long as I also give them a time restricted task they almost always focus so much on the time goal that anything else is forgotten. (sometimes they say they could have planned better if they had more time but that is easy to counter as in real life we never have time to fully plan so you do your best, learn from it ant move on).

My thought is to never intentionally leave out any details, but to offer the players choices.

In Lost Dutchman, teams can choose to get one or two “videos” that have information that, “teams find useful” but they have to give up one or two of their 20 days in order to get it. They can also choose to team up with another team and get one each or they could choose to share the information with other teams after they acquire it.

They contain strategic planning and best practice information that IS useful to that team and useful for optimizing the GROUP’s performance — the goal is to mine as much gold as WE can but they tend to miss the issue that “we” means something other than “My Team.”

I want my facilitators to be able to act impeccably in their leadership of the exercise. Leaders should always be there to help and teams need to ask for help in order to optimize real-world results.

Teams seldom ask for help.

In this case you could try telling them that there are no restrictions on the conversations they can have and that the overall goal is to maximize the resources – then tell them they only have 3 min to plan and 1 min to bid and likely they will spend all their time in their own group. In the end the debrief can be around why we stick in our silos, how the time goal overshadowed all other goals and reduced creativity and collaboration, how easy it is to forget the big picture – overall goal of the organization when you focus on the small – maximizing team effectiveness.

My thought on the Silent Auction is to label it as silent and tell teams that the “rule” is that they cannot talk. But the reality is that there is no enforcement of any punishment or reaction if they DO talk, and they could always ask if they can. The issue is that silence might be better for facilitating the excise and keeping things under control, but it sure is NOT better for impacting the performance of the group. 

My other thought is that the exemplary performers pretty much always bend or break the stupid rules that constrain results and it is something that I try to blend into my games. CJ allows some rule-bending and I&I is all about bending the rules to improve play and results.

If you only do the exercise once the experience is one of not achieving the goal – and the learning (collaboration works better) doesn’t stick If you debrief and redo the exercise they get to experience how success works and feels.

In both Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement, they can be played again since a detailed explanation of the rules of play is not required.

An alternative – the challenge would be to make the longest and most complicated domino run – 5 min to plan 5 min to build- their assumption would be that the teams are competing rather than collaborating. First round debrief could include congratulations to the leading teams – and then tell them that you want to take it to the next level and work together – so no “gotcha” but instead a challenge. I prefer to avoid exercises that are designed for participants to fail and then learn comes from failure – why not set them up for success in the first round and even more success the second – so they can see incremental learning and improved results. No one likes to fail and the emotional response, particularly in high competitive types can negate learning.

In Dutchman, every team is somewhat successful, and some are much more successful than others because of planning and information and better resource management.

In the debriefing, I do not focus on the low performing teams but on the high performing teams, basically asking about why they CHOSE to not share information or resources with the others since I, as Expedition Leader, am trying to optimize the overall results of my organization and not one team over another.

Competition is an issue of balancing it with collaboration, when it comes to organizational performance results.

I allow a LOT of time for discussion and tabletop work. We do NOT lecture much at all, simply trying to connect the dots from the play and choices in the game to the play and choices in the workplace.

Both rounds would still be done in teams but the second round adds the need to collaborate and be proactive around problem solving (so they don’t bump into each other… – the trick is to leave a gap between sets that only gets filled at the last second).

One of the guys who facilitated the exercise used to stop play in the middle and have lunch, using the lunch time to challenge the tabletop teams to rethink the choices they were making and to identify ideas for things they could do differently when play resumed. I actually built a resource management toolkit of forms for summary of resources and stuff like that. I have never personally done things that way, though.

They can experience how the collaborative domino run is more spectacular. You might get 3 rounds if the larger domino failed the first time – it doesn’t really matter as long as they succeed in the long run – let them problem solve each time it doesn’t work.

The final debrief could focus on the difference between working in silos and working together – what helps, what hinders, what extra challenges their are, what extra rewards…

So, I thank Sharon for sharing some interesting thoughts on how she addresses issues of trust in her training programs. Sharon also works with horses in her team building and leadership training. Horses are just so sensitive to issues of trust and leadership and give instant feedback about good things being done with them.

And, the development of the new PMC Trust exercise continues…

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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Zombie Ants, the Battle of The Homeland

I posted up a short thread on my battle with Zombie Ants on my Facebook page (yeah, I know, but it is just my social stuff…). Some of the comments I got pushed me to share that situation with readers, since there are strong problem-solving and lateral thinking skills that should appear. Plus, some other people on my team might have a suggestion or a better framework for my actions.

Okay, it started many years ago about this time of year, when an ant or two appeared on the white sink in my upstairs bathroom. Eventually, they disappeared and The Bug Guy at the exterminating company suggested that they were just “seasonal” and not a problem.

So, a couple of weeks ago, a few appeared on the sink and I smushed them and then flushed them down the sink drain. Gone.

Only to reappear a few hours later. So I smushed them again and flushed them again, only for them to re-appear again. Now, I am thinking Zombie Ants, rising from the dead and coming back to eat my flesh or something. So, for the past few days, I smush and they reappear. It is actually pretty amazing and I post a picture here:

ant

Yeah, they are pretty small, but obviously really tough little guys.

Well, since smushing and mushing and flushing was obviously not a solid strategy, so I thought to build a barricaid. That seemed to make sense. So, I got some bread crumbs. It really worked well to keep them out of the sink itself, which I surrounded, but it did not seem to work all that well to slow their progress overall. I did not see a single one in the sink, but it was somewhat different around the edges.

ants

Darn Zombies multiplied. So, more smushing and flushing. That actually seems to work pretty well. Now, I know I gotta think out of the box a bit to deal with this, so I think I will try something totally new. Nothing in their history of being ants deals with vibrations, and I have one of those vibrating toothbrush things so…

Yeah, that did not work too well either. I thought I vibrated some of them to death after attracting them to some toothpaste, but all that did is being a whole bunch more that just seemed to be sitting there and waiting for the next session. It seemed like they felt that it was Ant Disneyworld or something like that…

None of my friends had any good ideas, other than poisoning my whole bathroom which seemed a bit much. SO, I next thought, “Trap Them!” Yeah, build a trap to capture them. Something sticky. So, I mixed up some chocolate syrup and sugar water — I mean, what is stickier than that, right?

Well, those Zombie Ants will apparently eat anything!

So, I am at whit’s end. I am thinking of setting up a vacuum cleaner and running that for the next couple of days, but that will use up a lot of electricity and make a lot of noise and I do sleep up there.

Yeah, innovation and lateral thinking skills.  Hmmm. My live animal trap works well with squirrels in the attic but ants are a different issue. Sticky stuff doesn’t work, nor do barricaids. These Zombie Ants can’t be killed through crushing or drowning, apparently. My TV-chopping machine works great for potatoes, but I think that would simply make a mess of things and that marble counter top was not designed as a chopping block.

Fire. Think I ouught to use some lighter fluid or something like that and burn the little buggers?

And I just googled “zombie ants in brazil” and this is some scary stuff. They invade cities and wreak all sorts of havoc on people, homes, communities and entire countries. Yeah, I need to stop this here and now. Maybe use some dry ice or liquid Nitrogen?

Ya think? And maybe I can creat a game around all this. I AM creating a game on managing the Zombies in an organization and recruiting the Slinks to be positive contributors, but nothing planned with the ants.

For the FUN of It!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

,

Getting More Done with More – Managing Performers, Slinks and Zombies

In my experience, 30+ years of working with organizations  the workplace tends to operate with a leader and some workers and it appears something like this:

SWs One green watermark

Every workplace has its share of involved and engaged workers, the wagon pushers who simply get things done and who often share Round Wheel Ideas for continuous improvement. But communications is often difficult and wagon pushers simply get tired of pushing and talking with no changes happening. Top performers keep pushing forward, but not so much all the others.

Leaders pull and expect their people to push, and every manager needs people who are in touch, involved and engaged in overall initiatives of rolling forward. However, a zillion different studies show that this is not a common happening and what does exist is a broad range of involvement and engagement levels among employees.

Un-engagement is a common phenomenon.
People get less involved and motivated over time. 

While top performers always exist, many or most employees will be only somewhat engaged and a few will be very dis-engaged. We can think of the latter as our Zombies – they walk around with minimal effectiveness, possibly infecting others with their attitudes and behaviors. You can probably identify these Zombies in your own workplace as they are not behind you and the wagon. They are usually not even in the picture!

Zombies in the workplace, though, are generally not bad people, in actuality, but they are also not really good employees. And it is not an issue of capability since they could do the job if they had a reason to do better.

So, what do you do? How does one manage to improve performance results? Let me share some simple ideas…

One, always recognize the performance of top performers. They have their own motivations and a key for you is to not get in their way. They sometimes bend the rules a bit, so let that slide or change your processes and procedures to generate more of these Round Wheels. They look to peers for recognition, so keep performance feedback flowing. However, do be careful about adding any extrinsic rewards to the workplace, since that can change the environment in negative ways.

The Zombies? You probably avoid them. You might try the old “transfer” strategy and pawn them off onto another company workgroup. You should change the performance feedback they receive and be sure that they can compare their own data to realistic expected results. Often, they don’t get that information in effective ways and feedback is what drives performance results.

 (You can find a Performance Feedback Analysis Checklist here)

Your real leverage comes from better management of the “Slinks.” Unlike Zombies, Slinks have not yet turned. They are simply in the middle of the performance and contribution curve and are the average employees. They are not those you immediately think to use as team leaders or project managers. Look to better involve and engage them, aligning them more closely to your goals and objectives to vaccinate them against “zombie-sickness.” Ask them for involvement on teams and give them opportunities to implement workplace improvements.

Basically, most people want to meet expectations and to feel good about their work. A few try to justify their poor results by blaming past occurrences or work problems, but they can be re-aligned and re-engaged with effective performance measurement aligned with realistic goals and objectives. Most people are rational and well-meaning.

Some Zombies may simply need to work elsewhere as they are too far gone to be healed by what your medicine can realistically do. The old joke is that research statistics find that one out of every three people has suffered from mental illness, so just look around!

Often, the entire workplace will breathe easier once a Zombie exits the stage. Everyone knows who they are and where they lurk…

Lastly, make sure that YOU are not in Zombie mode, wandering aimlessly and repeatedly doing the same things while expecting different results. Work to better involve and align people to shared goals, building trust by setting expectations and then meeting those commitments.

It reminds me of our Christopher Columbus Award

Christopher Columbus Award color

Remember this simple idea:

“Trust is the Residue of Promised Fulfilled.”
(Frank Navran)

 And make sure that your behavior as well as theirs aligns neatly with your desired outcomes, expected results, and defined expectations.

You can find more information about our tools to better engage people in performance improvement here:

SWs Facilitation Guide $50

And Have FUN Out There, too!

square wheels author

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/
Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.

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