No one who makes it to the Super Bowl is ever genuinely surprised. They know how they got there: It takes years of practice, dedication, coaching, teamwork, failures, adjustments and skill building. The players — their team’s top talent — get regular coaching to refine their skills and consistently deliver peak performance to achieve the ultimate goal of winning their league’s top prize, earning well-deserved recognition in the process.
While most business environments may not share the same levels of dynamism and grit (and physical talent!) required to succeed in the NFL, forward-looking organizations embrace their own iterative process of talent management to engage and develop their employees so that they achieve individual and organizational goals. Just like the NFL’s high-performing franchises, these organizations coach for goal achievement.
The Shift: Coaching for Goal Achievement
The role of a manager or people leader in today’s workplace is shifting away from being a traditional “command and control” boss to be more of a performance coach, which is exactly what today’s employees have been saying they want, according to recent research from Gallup.
Performance coaching is an ongoing process of conversations and check-ins that guide the workplace behaviors and contributions of people and teams, and then providing timely feedback, guidance and skill-building opportunities to achieve individual and organizational goals. It’s a significant shift from the “set-it-and-forget-it” mindset that has become all too common when setting employee goals.
Goal management is more than just assigning objectives and reviewing employee performance during their annual review. It’s about frequently revisiting and reviewing these goals, tracking progress, celebrating successes, identifying and discussing challenges and obstacles and reconfirming or adjusting your game plan along the way. This way, we ensure our employees know and understand performance expectations, are set up for success and are able to execute on the game plan.
Now, managers also need tools, development and a framework to enable their people to perform well and hit their goals, starting with a plan.
Plan to Win, Play to Win
Managers can plan to win by working with their employees to develop and execute specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based goals. Collaborative goal setting gives managers great insight into how to leverage an employee’s strengths to help them reach their goals. It also ensures that employees have a voice in setting performance expectations that are fair, relevant and challenging.
Not only does effective goal setting help employees hit their targets; it also improves employee engagement, increases productivity, increases motivation, lowers costs and provides a heightened level of focus companywide.
While only 30 percent of employees strongly agree that their managers involve them in goal setting, those individuals are 3.6 times more likely than other employees to be engaged at work, according to Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace” report.
To meet and exceed those agreed-upon goals, managers and employees need to engage in ongoing dialogue. Weekly or monthly check-ins are ideal (and can vary depending on what’s realistic for your organization). But annual reviews simply aren’t enough because so much can happen within a 12-month timeframe.
Adopting a cadence of ongoing performance check-ins, in-the-moment coaching, development opportunities, and feedback and recognition can help identify skill gaps, keep individual goals aligned to organizational goals and monitor goal progress.
Empowering Your MVPs in the Field
Fostering a culture of feedback, development and engagement helps prevent the major pitfall that sidelines even the most well-intentioned goals: the “too busy” trap. Other competing priorities deemed more important often push regular feedback aside in a traditional manager-employee relationship.
But when the manager dons their performance coach cap and empowers the employee to take an active role in their own development and goals, managers ultimately decrease their accountability as a boss while increasing their accountability as a coach and team lead. Performance coaching, enabled by the right tools, also helps empower employees to drive their own goal achievement progress.
Both managers and employees can use their organization’s talent management system to track goal progress, solicit feedback by adding comments or status updates, and document thoughts, wins and challenges. Managers can set alerts to follow up, easily monitor their employees’ progress, and can address skill or alignment gaps in their one-on-one meetings. The rise of mobile talent management applications also enables coaching anytime, anywhere. Managers and employees can interact and stay connected in ways that work best for their relationship — all while avoiding interaction fatigue.
High performers want to see their coaches make the time to collaborate on ongoing performance management and recognize them for their efforts along the way.
Polish Their Trophies: Celebrating and Rewarding Performance Wins
Regular conversations and check-ins are at the heart of goal achievement, but the importance of employee recognition and celebrating performance wins cannot be understated. People who feel recognized and appreciated are naturally more motivated, committed to their work and willing to run that extra mile.
Don’t underestimate the power of positive feedback; performance coaches who regularly give strength-based feedback have the most-engaged employees, while employees who receive constructive feedback are somewhat engaged. It’s not surprising that a total lack of feedback results in very low levels of employee engagement.
Offering real-time feedback and celebrating wins in the form of badges, redeemable points for tangible rewards, and peer-to-peer impressions are all fun and meaningful ways to demonstrate to employees that their contributions are being acknowledged and appreciated.
Playing in the Big Leagues
High-performing organizations know that when they play to win they make no excuses when it comes to prioritizing development for goal achievement. With managers and employees clear on the goal, and aligned on how to achieve it, organizations can remain agile, easily adapting to changing business priorities, driving positive business outcomes.
Regular and ongoing performance coaching, fueled by one-on-one meetings, helps employees understand what’s going well and where they can have a greater impact on their projects, in their roles and, ultimately, their careers. These practices demonstrate to employees that their managers are invested in their success. The best part of it all? When they’re standing in the end zone, they’ll know exactly how they got there.