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"Be specific about improvement," he says. "For instance, one leader I gave an Improvement Plan to was very bright but was not getting results. He tended to deal with future, strategic issues; whereas our business wants results now, preferably yesterday. We identified specific ways he could improve his performance in getting results, such as precise calls to make and exact, quick-closing targets to pursue."
The objective of 90-Day Improvement Plans should not be to get rid of people. "Their objective is to improve performance," he says. "Though I do write on first page, ‘If objectives are not met, further actions, including dismissal, can be taken.'"
He sometimes combines Improvement Plans with force-ranking of all his leaders into a 20/60/20 continuum. The bottom 20 percent get Plan. He says, "My objective is to have bottom 20 percent be indispensable leaders."
Mind you, in developing a 90-day Improvement Plan, keep Aesop's fable in mind and seek not compliance but commitment. The Improvement Plan must not be imposed from without but agreed upon. Here is a four-step process to do that.
First, all parties must agree to develop a 90-Day Improvement Plan. If people are forced to do it, it won't work as it should.
Second, ask poor performers to describe what should be in it. Remember, you can veto any suggestions. However, it is best if its key components come from other people. Only after they have run out of suggestions do you incorporate yours.
Third, develop Plan together, and agree on its action steps.
Fourth, implement it. Have weekly or bi-weekly meetings to insure Plan is being carried out.
If Plan is forced upon someone, it becomes just another screw, another imposed reward/ punishment. However, if it is put together with mutual consent, indeed with mutual enthusiasm, it becomes screw driver by which poor performers may very well gladly put screws into themselves.
2005 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at www.actionleadership.com