Management Information

The Ten Keys to Maximizing Employee Performance

1. Let people know what you expect. If people know what's expected of them, that's what they'll do--if they don't know what's expected, they'll do something else. Communicate clear and unambiguous performance expectations and hold people accountable for their achievement.

2. Be a systems thinker. Remind people of their interconnectedness and that something happening in one area affects all other areas. If people know how what they do impacts on others, they'll try harder to do it well.

3. Keep people informed. Don't assume that others can read your mind. If there's something going on, let them in on it. Without information people invent it and the human tendency is to think the worst. A well-timed word can prevent a lot of worry.

4. Let people "own" their jobs. Remember your first car and how you felt about owning it and how hard you worked to keep it clean and in good running order? Well the same hold true for people's jobs. If people feel ownership of their job, the harder they will try to take care of it and do it well.

5. Establish a feedback culture. Things go wrong probably no more than five or ten percent of the time yet we spend ninety percent of our time belabouring those few things. We probably only spend ten percent of our energy talking about the ninety percent of things that are done well. Spending more time providing feedback about the positive outcomes makes it easier to talk to people about those that are negative. Passing on a good word about someone or providing deserved praise or recognition doesn't diminish you in any way. It doesn't take any light from your candle to light someone else's. Feedback truly is the breakfast of champions and people who feel like champions act like champions.

6. Share your power. Invariably when I ask people in my training sessions who has power in the room they point to me. To an extent that's true. I do have power but only if the group gives it to me. When we're given power, there is an expectation that we will use it responsibly. People who use power responsibly shun manipulation and intimidation and focus on what they can give to others rather than on what they can get. They share their power, giving others the opportunity to influence events and situations. And, like the biblical direction about "casting your bread upon the waters," the return is a thousand fold. Those with whom the power is shared give it back in greater measure and the mutual ability to influence is enhanced. Simply put, power shared is power gained.

7. The coach, not the players get fired. When a sports team performs poorly, the coach is fired, not the players. And the players, not the general manager, fire the coach. How does all of this work? Quite simply, the coach fails to provide the conditions that motivate players to maximize their performance and, as a result, they play just hard enough to keep their jobs. "Spoiled athletes," you might say. "The money they make should be enough to motivate them!" Which leads to eighth key:

8. Money only keeps them coming back. Take it away and they won't come at all but more of it will do nothing to make them work or play harder.

9. Treat your people like volunteers. Have you ever noticed how hard volunteers' work, how dedicated most of them are, how much time they give to their volunteer organizations? Why is that? Well mostly because others recognize and appreciate their skills. Often volunteers are given important jobs that carry large responsibility. Recognition and opportunity are what drive volunteers. Treat the people who work with you like volunteers and the results will amaze you.

10. And finally, remember that happens while you're there doesn't matter--it's what happens when you're not there that counts.

© Dr. Tom Olson 2004, all rights reserved Permission to reprint article granted as long as this signature remains intact.

About The Author

Dr. Tom Olson is the author of Don't Die With Your helmet On. Visit for more information about Dr. Tom, the book and his work.

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