By engaging employees and challenging them to improve your company’s operations, you can maintain the highest profitability, achieve quick performance results and sustain them over the long term. Removing obstacles that are inadvertently built over time helps leverage top performers and motivate the draggers to achieve productivity levels you never thought possible.
“Most organizations spend a lot of time attempting to elevate their underachievers, but instead, you should ‘raise the expectation bar’ by empowering your top performers,” says Dan D’Agostino, general manager of Definity Partners’ Cleveland office.
Smart Business spoke with D’Agostino about how to identify champions of change within your organization.
How can you evaluate front-line personnel to help discover the diamonds in the rough?
Embrace people who have an appetite for continually improving by challenging the status quo — individuals who ask questions, have the courage to change and the ability to positively influence others. Praise employees who make others around them better through their dedication to the company, daily actions and positive attitude.
Top operational performers focus on creating self-reliant production systems, where products or services are consistently delivered. They focus on addressing root causes and proactively implementing solutions, thereby avoiding the reactive grind of fighting an inefficient process.
How do you change the culture of your organization?
Early on, top management must demonstrate strong leadership by communicating the circumstance and the rationale of why change must happen. Articulating performance goals and objectives establishes expectations for employees. It is critical to secure quick results to build momentum and empower employees to embrace change. People need a reason to believe and will follow someone who demonstrates a winning strategy. As time goes on and operational results pile up, conversations on process changes begin to take on a collective tone. Gaining that excitement and buy-in from front-line people is critical to making any cultural change.
As the company achieves success, a new culture with higher performance standards emerges. Employees who, in the past, may have de-motivated others will now have trouble getting others to listen to them. Historically, draggers
will decide either to leave or climb on the bandwagon and be part of a new, winning team. The peer pressure that comes from a high-performance culture is far more effective than management directives.
How do you support front-line leaders in your organization?
The best way to develop leadership skills is by modeling the expected behavior and working side-by-side with your team to secure process improvement results. Give them confidence by reminding them that we are seeking solutions through real-time implementation. Avoid brainstorming for the perfect solution. Instead, encourage them to experiment with solutions by taking action. It is important for management to support employees and to keep the end result in mind, recognizing top performers along the way.
How do you inspire top performers to drive change and encourage continuous improvement?
It is critical to demonstrate to top performers that you have their best interests in mind and that their actions are compatible with the company’s goals. One of the things that makes these individuals top performers in the first place is their drive to do what is best for the team. Your actions must be consistent with that message and allow them additional professional opportunities.
The more you communicate, the more people have a vision of where the company has to be in its performance. The more clear the situation, the more people will actively contribute and go the extra mile. It is critical to communicate the company’s current performance against an established expectation. When motivated front-line employees know the score, they will positively impact the operation on a daily basis.