Episode 6: Leadership & Productivity

Featuring Mike Jobson

In this episode, business coach Mike Jobson talks about the correlation between leadership and productivity and the importance of both.

Mike Jobson Oxford Innovation Cornwall

Having a more productive organization isn’t rocket science, but it does require us being more deliberate about how we manage our time, both personally, and the time of our team members.

This podcast will walk you through some simple but effective strategies for increasing our productivity at work. There are a number of reasons for poor productivity, but within small and medium sized enterprises the three main reasons are:

  1. poor or lack of processes
  2. poor management
  3. undefined company departmental and employee objectives and deliverables

So we’re going to concentrate on number 2 and 3, which should give us areas to focus on, where changes can be easily implemented, and improvements made. The so called “quick wins”.

Setting Tasks and Objectives

So dealing with tasks and objectives, if these are missing, then this can result in a lack of direction for our teams in the workplace. The old saying still holds good: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” We all respond to having clear direction within our job roles, and this should mean that I have agreed with my manager, what my key deliverables are, that must be achieved on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

I should also know the broad strategic priorities for the company which will establish the context for my own key deliverables. In other words, tell me what you are expecting of me and measure my performance against my achievements on a regular basis.

The other truism that springs to mind is “what gets measured gets done”. In our experience in Oxford Innovation that would indicate that at least 50% of SMEs don’t develop a strategy from which deliverables, objectives, and key tasks are cascaded. So what is the result of this failure? Simply a lack of direction. Staff generally get confused due to constantly changing priorities, new priority projects are introduced in an effort to remain afloat.

Team members are assessed subjectively rather than objectively poor morale as team members don’t understand the bigger picture because management haven’t decided what the picture looks like. What can we do to resolve these issues?

Step 1: beginning the planning process

Strategically, step one: sit down with your leadership team, and if you haven’t already done so, begin the strategic planning process.

OI have coaches that can help with this, if you qualify for our help. Setting out a roadmap for the next five years, which sets out key targets for turnover and profit, are essential. In addition, having a clear understanding of which market sectors you’re going to prioritise will help deliver the strategic objectives.

Step 2: Creating an operating plan

Step two: once you’ve agreed your strategic direction in detail, convert the first-year strategy into an annual operating plan. This ‘AOP’, as we call it, should have a properly prepared cost-centre budgets, departmental objectives, and plans, so that everyone within the team knows by month, what objectives need to be achieved by all the team members. The business should also have a comprehensive cash flow forecast prepared to avoid any financial problems.

Step 3: Agreeing targets

The third step of this process is for each department or manager should agree key targets and business objectives with each team member to ensure a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved on a weekly and monthly basis. Progress against these targets should be monitored by management to avoid any nasty surprises, and also to develop the skills of every team member. This is a simple and well-tried ‘management by objective process’ (MBO) used across many national and international businesses. To ensure that company objectives are achieved, and success is delivered.

MBO is the establishment of a management information system to compare actual performance and achievements against the defined objectives. The major benefits of MBO are that it improves employee motivation and commitment, and allows for better communication between management and employees. However, a sighted weakness of this process is that it unduly emphasizes the setting of goals to attain objectives, rather than working on a systematic plan to do so. This can be avoided by cascading corporate objectives to team members.

All of these should be what’s called “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Critical to this process is that managers actually review the performance of each team member as part of a regular discipline of performance management. This involves reviewing achievements and getting behind the reasons for both good performance and non-achievement.

Getting an outsider’s perspective

Those organizations that get performance management right, become formidable competitive machines. Ongoing discussions with employees about their work should be an inevitable part of the manager-employee relationship. Pep talks can be used regularly with staff performing to variable standards. Sometimes a short chat with a focus can help an employee to regain their commitment.

These are similar to regular one-to-ones that are impromptu and can be useful. Where an issue can be handled immediately, as it can help build competence, by supporting and rectifying the problem quickly when an individual is performing well.

Feedback and discussions will be about recognizing those achievements, and identifying areas where further support can be provided by the manager. For example, reinforcing the behaviours and actions that contribute to good performance, identifying parts of their current role that they can continue to develop, exploring ways to continue their development and skills, and looking at opportunities to be involved in different activities to maintain motivation. Essential in this area are discussions around their own aspirations and how they might work towards them.

Finding the root of a problem

On the other hand, managing poor performance frequently does not occur largely due to their managers’ lack of experience, and courage in tackling these issues. When you become concerned about an individual team member’s performance, attitude or behaviour, then we should try to address this with the individual as quickly as possible.
However, before doing so, it’s important to consider whether there is anything that could be causing the issue of underperformance. For example of is the manager made it clear what is expected of the individual? And does he or she have a common understanding of what is required? Have I been, as the manager, providing appropriate feedback on performance? What support have I provided, what else might be available?

For example, more training, more guidance, different equipment, flexible working arrangements, etc. Are there any underlying issues or factors that might be impacting on the individual’s ability to perform effectively? In reality, in many cases of under-performance, a relatively informal discussion at an earlier stage should be enough to address the issue.

Overall, performance management should be seen as a process of continuous improvement, to assist our team members to become more effective and productive in their roles. In summary: agree the targets and objectives for the cooperation, department, and individual team members. Regularly review how team members are performing against their targets. Give any training and guidance that’s required. Reward good performance and weed out poor performance and repeat the process.

Interested in working with Oxford Innovation Cornwall? Get in touch to see how we can help your business grow.


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