Recipe for Success

My aunt Sylvia baked the most mouth-watering bread. I often stopped at her house on my way home from school for a fresh slice warm from the oven and slathered in melting (real!) butter.

My aunt made wonderful cookies, too. And many other delicacies. But bread was her specialty and fondly remembering it, I tried my hand at her recipe after she died.

In time, I knew that recipe by heart. (I admit that there aren't too many ingredients to bread—flour, salt, leavening, liquid and shortening, basically. Aunt Sylvia's recipe also calls for molasses, brown sugar and caraway seed.)

My procedure quickly became routine and now I can do it with my eyes closed. Unfortunately, that's just what I sometimes do. And when I do—when I don't pay attention and when my mind wanders—my system derails. I make errors. I forget to add the salt or the caraway seed. Once I even forgot the yeast.

And the sad fact is, were it not for my aunt's recipe and procedures, my bread would fail more often. Yet, as you can see, even procedures can become routine and then easily ignored.

Here is why I mention this: To do a good job, your managers need procedures too. But over time their procedures—just like my aunt's bread recipe—can become routine and unconsciously your managers can begin to falter.

So here are three symptoms signaling the potential that a manager might derail. With each, I give you behaviors that can help you recognize these symptoms. And I include a few suggestions to help you determine what to do to help your manager.

Derailing symptom #1: Resisting change
People are "wired" differently. Some find change exciting and embrace it; others find change threatening and reject it.

If you see a manager resisting change, he likely is at risk for derailing. How do you know who is resisting change? Look for these behaviors:

Additionally, his team members might complain about mixed messages from leadership and their manager.

What should you do if you spot any of these behaviors?

Begin by understanding your manager's appetite for change. Knowing how someone will respond to change helps you tailor your communication to get your manager on board.

Secondly, help him understand his natural aversion to change. With this understanding, he can develop his own way of helping himself adapt to change.

And lastly, help him focus on new priorities. Translate change into meaningful actions and goals for him, and then inspect what you expect.

Derailing symptom #2: Inability to deliver expected results
Do you have a manager who is unable to deliver expected results?

If you answer yes to these questions—even some of them—your manager may be at risk for derailing.

To "cure" this situation, first clarify the expected results and goals. Make sure she clearly understands what she needs to achieve and how to achieve it.

Next, spend time coaching her so she can achieve her goals. Not everyone is naturally goal oriented. Those who aren't find setting, tracking and achieving goals extremely intimidating. When possible include her in the goal-setting process to get her buy-in.

Finally, inspect what you expect. Establish a process for tracking this manager's most important goals.

Derailing symptom #3: Missing the big picture
Some managers raise invisible walls around themselves and their teams. We call this "structure" a functional silo. A manager who cannot see beyond his functional silo also may be in danger of derailing. You will recognize him because of these behaviors:

Additionally, his co-workers might complain that he is out of touch with the organization's mission.

The first step in developing a manager boxed in by his own silo is to establish clarity. Explicitly spell out how he and his people fit in and interrelate with other units to achieve the organization's greater mission.

In addition, include the manager in at least one cross-functional team so he experiences firsthand what it means to contribute to a broader team and depend on others to achieve a significant common objective. Similarly, establish at least one cross-functional goal for the manager.

Ideally, in both the above cases your manager should work under an experienced team leader who can provide coaching and a positive experience, monitor progress, facilitate discussion, offer advice and drive accountability.

Finally, monitor your manager's progress. Hold him accountable to ensure that he is 1) aligned with the company's priorities and 2) changing his behavior. You will find input from multiple sources—his managers, peers, cross-functional teams and subordinates—invaluable.

Watch for Symptoms—They Can Surface at Any Time
I hate to say it, but at-risk managers are more common than you might think. The three symptoms I list above occur in newly minted managers and old, grizzled ones. And they can surface at any time. Ignore them for too long and your managers, teams, and possibly your organization can derail.

So bottom line: Monitor your people regularly. It's crucial to treat each of these derailing symptoms immediately in order to ensure that your managers stay on cue and productive. Because if your managers aren't doing their jobs, your business will fall off the track, productivity will decrease and profits will plunge.

Tips: Four Key Strategies in Managing Performance*

When building, each step in the construction process is key and taking shortcuts will weaken a structure.

Omitting a step in managing individual performance has the same effect. So it stands to reason that you should know—and employ—the four key strategies important to managing performance:

  1. Set clear goals for your organization and your employees. In setting goals, you can create a mission statement for the overall company, but you must also ensure that your employees know their job duties and performance goals. From the secretary to the CEO, all should know what is expected.
  2. Monitor and give feedback to employees regularly. Feedback should include praise and constructive criticism. The key is to "catch" your employees in the act of doing well and praise them immediately. Correct mistakes immediately, too, but correct constructively and privately.
  3. Develop your employees. With skill training and other resources, you can give your workers the ability to do their jobs and climb the ladder to success.
  4. Reward and give recognition. From a simple "Good work!" to a complicated recognition scenario of reserved parking, gift certificates and extra paid days off to increased compensation or a promotion, rewards are important to managing performance. Be creative. Above all, match the reward to the performance.

Are your employees as productive as they could or should be? If not, you now have the four building blocks of performance management to make it happen.

* Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management

Your Solution Toolbox: How to Know Your Employees

Measuring What Matters

When managing performance, you can never know enough about your employees.

After all, if you don't know the people you're working with, how can you come up with an in-depth plan to train, manage, motivate and develop them? How can you build the very best team of employees?

To get at the heart of an employee—in other words for a total person assessment—we use the ProfileXT®. Indeed, it is by far the tool we use most and one we recommend to all our clients.

ProfileXT® measures 20 performance indicators including thinking and reasoning, behavioral traits, interests and aptitudes. Therefore, you can use it for selection, development, training, managing and succession planning. You can also use it to develop job descriptions and job performance models.

You will find that the ProfileXT® will help you boost retention and improve productivity.

From this feedback your leaders can compare others' opinions with their own perceptions, positively identify their strengths and pinpoint job performance areas needing improvement.

Why not see for yourself? Call us today at 952-322-3330 or send an email to

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Call me, too, if you are looking for professional assistance with your personnel questions. We'll help you learn how to:

Let’s Talk! We offer a no obligation consultation to informally assess your current policies, procedures, and practices. This may help determine what’s missing in your current programs to meet the above recommendations. Call 952-322-3330 or send an email to

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