Raise your hand in the air, as high as it will go.
Ok, notice where it is.
Now, raise it up just a little higher.
A pretty simple instruction, ‘raise your hand in the air, as high as it will go’ leads to an odd behaviour.
We stop short of reaching as far as we could. In other words, we hold a back a little.
Actually, there’s nothing odd with that behaviour at all – it’s entirely predictable.
Similarly, if I ask you how many cases you can sell, units you can ship or money you can make this quarter, I’m certain that you’ll apply the same approach and hold something back.
The same as you don’t want to be that kid with his hand in the air, higher than everyone else, you also want to show enough willing to fit in, to not stand out and not be questioned.
But the problem with this approach is that it leads to individual and collective under-achievement, individual and collective indifference, and an individual and collective reduction in personal responsibility.
So here are five ways you can get more from people when it comes to their performance – and so find that little bit more.
1. Use stretch targets
I have to say that I had mixed feelings about the use of stretch targets initially. I always thought and preferred the idea that there was just one number – that was the target – and everyone worked towards it.
But on reflection, I don’t think that these two things are necessarily mutually exclusive. You can still have a shared goal and single target but incentivise people to over-deliver.
In addition to providing further incentive to the individual, it also provides risk mitigation for the wider business. Ensure that a proportion of the team over-deliver, then the impact of the unforeseen issue or outlying under-performance can be nullified.
2. Give an award for the best idea monthly and annually
You might see this as a softer idea, but seriously, try it.
Run an award monthly for the one idea which is likely to have the single biggest impact on the business. Imagine if you could get even 50% of your team to enter each month and how many new ideas that could mean. Then, at the end of the year, give an award to the best idea out of each of the monthly winners.
It’s often not one single idea which makes the biggest difference, but two or often multiple ideas coming together and creating super-ideas. Those ideas exist out there today, they usually just need a forum for creation and manifestation. So provide that forum and encourage it’s use.
Ideas lead to new products, services, projects and initiatives which lead to growth – growth which may never before have been realised in the absence of those ideas.
3. Have you team review each other’s objectives and targets and challenge their assumptions
Traditionally, objectives and targets are created and shared in small groups, sometimes one-on-one.
But try this. Before you finalise your 2015 plan, share it with a wider group of people – all key influencers and owners of their respective plans. Have each of them take it in turns to review the other’s and challenge not only the assumptions behind the numbers but also the initiatives linked to growth.
In doing so you may create a fraction more growth or give rise to a significance change which could positively impact the business.
4. Pay a proportion of bonus based on attitudes as expressed through agreed behaviours
People say it’s hard to link compensation to attitudes, but attitudes present themselves through associated behaviours.
Do you want people to go the extra mile? If so, give some thought to what types of attitudes you want from your people next year. How do you want them to approach their business and their customers? Consider next the handful of behaviours associated with each of those attitudes and assess demonstration of those behaviours over the year.
This follows the causal link that performance is driven by behaviour which in turn is driven by attitude.
So in addition to defining the performance (or results) that you expect to see, take a moment to define the attitudes you expect as the foundation of your business.
5. Foster a culture of openness
As I’ve sad before, culture is everything. Get that right and the rest will follow.
If you can a create culture whereby people feel able to be open and expressive, you’re more likely to get new thinking and new ideas. You’re more likely to get positive challenge and divergent thinking. And you’re more likely to see a cumulative impact on results.
In addition, a great culture creates a competitive advantage in the market place. Which means that success isn’t just for the short-term but has the potential to sustain growth over the long-term.
If you can figure out how to create a culture where people enjoy what they’re doing and enjoy where they’re working, everything else will be easier. If you can create an environment where the people who drive the organisation don’t struggle into work in the morning but are delighted to arrive, then sales performance will undoubtedly improve. For more ideas on this, take a look here.
So the next time you ask someone to literally or metaphorically raise their hand, consider whether they’re raising it as far as this could. And if you think there’s more to give, take some time to consider how you might get more from them than you already do.