‘4 Steps To Enforcing Performance Standards That Your Team Will Follow’

Click here to read my original article, which is exclusive to SEE Change Magazine, that was published on December 8, 2014.

Leaders can’t accomplish their goals without enlisting the help of others. Although they’re likely to have expertise in various areas, it’s important for leaders to remember that their accomplishments are an extension of others’ contributions. Leaders must, therefore, know how to effectively delegate responsibilities in their personal and professional settings. Moreover, teamwork is exemplified when everyone completes their shared responsibility to meet the larger goal. Leaders can cultivate teamwork in any setting through transformative leadership, which involves providing people with individualized encouragement to actualize their full potential.

So how can leaders inspire others to adopt performance standards that they’ll follow? These four steps will prove effective. After all, people will maintain excellence in roles and responsibilities that are clearly-defined, meaningful, and in line with what they would like to do.

Defining Objectives

When someone creates an objective, there are necessary action steps for it to be completed. However, people need to know why and what it is that they’re doing to reach a particular objective. Appropriately, leaders should communicate team objectives with their related actions steps to both peers and supervisors. Additionally, leaders should take people’s questions and concerns seriously; otherwise leaders will experience resistance and unwillingness to help and no objectives will be accomplished. For example, I once led a research study that was composed of five team members. Each team member had unique expertise in an academic discipline with more or less research experience than me. Initially, I was anxious about how we would delegate our action steps due to my limited experience in leading a research study.

However, my long-time mentor and friend suggested that I first create a list of specific assignments that were necessary in order to complete our research study. Next, he suggested that I give each team member a copy of the assignments and that we all have a conversation about who would like to be responsible for what. Shortly thereafter, I took his suggested approach and my team members were excited to be responsible for different aspects of our research study. Since these assignments were necessary for the completion of our research, my team members understood that each task had to get done. Furthermore, the deadlines that were associated with each assignment were based on our agreed-upon timeframe for the study. Intuitively, leaders can enforce performance standards by helping people do what they’re comfortable doing. Defining objectives gets participants excited about and investing in the vision, mission, and values of a particular objective.

Determining Task Assignments

Whenever possible, let people volunteer to take on assignments related to a particular objective. Since people are their own best experts, they know what they’re good at and want to do. Leaders often have trouble getting their peers and supervisors to take direction without experiencing resistance or noncompliance due to not having assessed the skill-set of team members or assigning tasks that aren’t in-line with their interest. For example, staff members who work in non-profit organizations typically have more work-related responsibilities than their job descriptions listed. Furthermore, these staff members may find themselves doing things for the first time to progress the vision, mission, and values of the nonprofit organization.

Consider that a staff member may be asked to manage the organization’s Facebook page, without any prior experience or interest in doing so. Consequently, this staff member may become resistant or unwilling to perform the task. To navigate this situation, leaders should make clear which tasks he or she is responsible for first. This approach should inspire peers and supervisors to follow suit after recognizing the leader’s dedication to being a team player. If that doesn’t work, leaders should ask their team members for clarity on how they would like to support the vision, mission and values of the objective(s) they’re being asked to support. Then, leaders should assign responsibilities that are in-line with people’s passion, asking for feedback and addressing their questions as they may arise. In this way, people will take advantage of opportunities to step up and take care of things that need to be done.

Rationalizing Performance Standards

People always have to work with others in order to get things done. Consequently, leaders must be able to set performance standards for themselves and others by taking and giving directions. Leaders must always inspire people to believe that their contributions to the team’s success are important. Teamwork is often misunderstood as being one’s willingness to do anything as needed. However, teamwork occurs when people are collaborating through specific responsibilities that are necessary for accomplishing a common objective. Consider the example of how two landscapers may work together to beautify a yard within two hours. One person decides to mow the lawn while the other trims the perimeter of the lawn, as well as the hedges. Based on their clearly-defined responsibilities, these two landscapers accomplish their objective. This example illustrates how having clearly defined responsibilities and deadlines results in the accomplishment of a particular objective. As a final point, whereas some people require less convincing than others, leaders must convince their peers and supervisors that successfully performing a role on deadline is integral to the team success.

Responding to Questions & Concerns

People need to know the reasons behind what they’re doing. When people experience difficulties in their role and responsibilities, they need to be able to refer back to why they’re supporting the overall objective in the first place. Leaders should therefore validate people’s questions and concerns while addressing why their contributions are vital to the team’s overall success. If team members are unsure of their role, leaders must clearly explain that they were assigned particular responsibilities based on their skill-set and expertise. After all, people’s number one need is to feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves; they deserve to feel their contributions are valued. So, when specific questions are asked and specific concerns expressed, leaders should reply in a way that conveys that they’re part of a particular mission Furthermore, it’s equally important for leaders to validate others’ feelings through their reassurance that no questions are foolish and that no concerns are superfluous. And leaders should remain cognizant of questions and concerns when communicating objectives and their related action steps.

In conclusion, leaders must not be afraid of challenging people to give and to take direction. When people can set their responsibilities, leaders empower them to adopt a leadership role in order to accomplish the objectives by their stated deadlines. However, when people are unable to determine their responsibilities, leaders must always convey how their individual success is essential to the team’s success. The process of enforcing performance standards that people will follow should be as inclusive of everyone involved as possible. By keeping everyone’s questions and concerns in mind, people will be receptive to being held accountable for the tasks they chose to pursue.

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