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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Archive for the ‘Performance Planning’ Category

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

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Before managers can successfully lead their organizational units through a transformational change, they must overcome existing general fears and negative attitudes. Most of these fears and attitudes have been formed over the past two decades by actions and decisions organizations have made that have detrimentally affected individual employees.

From the 1980s on, businesses have faced the greatest overall restructuring since the Industrial Revolution. The depth and scope of this restructuring has been painful. Many employees have experienced downsizing, layoffs and a host of management fads, including the chaos, uncertainty and heightened frustration of reengineering. The methods used often resulted in covering and masking a number of management actions and mistakes.

Pain was further increased by the visible unfairness and callousness of many employee layoffs. The result left for managers to deal with is an employee mindset that translates into a lack of willingness to contribute personal initiative and productive work. This reflects itself in less effective teaming efforts and a lower output of quality decisions and products, as well as decreasing the loyalty leaders require from their unit members to lead their organization through the ongoing transformational process.

This is important for managers to grasp because organizations competing in the twenty-first century need the willing help and assistance of intelligent, motivated, collaborative and enterprising employees. This presents leaders with a real challenge: they must first work with their employees to overcome the problems and sentiments of past organizational actions before moving forward into an active transformation. Organizational stakeholders and investors who want to see increased results and overall improvement further complicate the process.

The International Survey Research Corporation, which tracks employee satisfaction for Fortune 1000 companies, reported that since 1989 employees:

  • Feel that management fails to provide clear direction.
  • Do not believe what management says.
  • Are less sure about keeping their jobs.
  • Worry about their company’s future.
  • Fear being laid off.
  • Feel overall morale is lower.

These facts frame the starting point defining where many leaders find themselves in the face of transformational change in their organizations. While time heals all wounds, most managers do not have this luxury in the face of the chaotic events and issues.

The most practical answer to overcoming these fears and attitudes is increasing employee empowerment. However, this is not likely to work without the total commitment of everyone holding a leadership position. Leadership can come from the ranks of senior managers or from organizational unit and team leaders. Any major transition will not work without a commitment from each level.

In addition to employee empowerment, managers need to establish working teams to tackle ongoing problems and concerns. It is better to establish multiple teams than to create one involving every employee in the organizational unit; the best workable size is between five and six members. In many instances, teams can work on the same problems. This furnishes a method of developing multiple solutions and alternatives. A collaborative team can be established to select the best solution and then assign specific aspects of it to each team to address and implement.

Employing a team approach demands specific leadership skills, including:

  • Goal setting
  • Planning
  • Effective follow up procedures

If managers fail to develop one of these three skills or eliminate them from their leadership contributions, the team will break down.

Managers furthermore cannot assume that if they simply form a team, participants will decipher what needs to be done and how things need to be accomplished. They must train unit members in working together in teams, focusing on the important issues, dealing with other teammates, and getting results.

In order for this training to be successful, managers must make sure the following team elements are adhered to, including:

  • Clarity of goals
  • Good communications
  • Effective dissemination of business objectives so the team understands how it fits into the general business plan
  • An effective process to guide and direct the actions of the team

While empowerment and an effective team approach will not immediately resolve many of the nagging employee problems and attitudes a manager must actively deal with, it does establish a foundation for improved performance and participation. As leaders initially start the process, they will need to develop strategies to cope with and address the emotional baggage issues brought to the table by their employees. They must allow the venting of frustrations and criticisms, then eliminate each of these issues in turn until full participation is achieved.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD


Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Barriers to Integrating Change

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Managers as Facilitators of Change

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

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Employees must remain motivated if they are to perform to their maximum capabilities. Negative attitudes and behaviors not only impact personal performance, but left unchecked can spread like a cancer through the entire unit. It is essential that managers identify and address these problems as quickly as possible in order to minimize their overall impact.

When managers identify a problem, the natural tendency is to directly confront the employee and place him or her in a defensive posture. The natural reaction of the employee is to exhibit fear of repercussions and punishment for his or her behaviors and attitude. While this may be emotionally satisfying to the manager, it does not move him or her any closer to a solution. In fact, the solution may be even further away than before the employee is confronted.

It is important for managers to deal with negative behaviors and attitudes in a factual and objective fashion. By remaining emotionally and personally detached, managers will be more able to pinpoint the cause and identify acceptable paths to a productive solution.

When dealing with a negative employee, the manager must approach the individual with an open mind and remain free of personal bias and emotion that may taint the process. The following steps can be used to successfully rectify the problem.

Identify the Problem

The initial step in dealing with employee negativity is to formally recognize that there is in fact a problem requiring corrective action. The problem may be initially indicated by a decrease in performance or by a remark or complaint made by an associate or customer.

Once a problem is identified and is verified to exist, the manager needs to examine and document the extent of the problem along with possible implications and ramifications.

Talk to Employee About the Problem

Once managers have examined and documented the extent of the problem, they need to meet with the employee and objectively get the problem out on the table. This presentation should be factual and free of emotion, finger-pointing or assignment of blame. Such subjectivity will only inflame the situation, create barriers to a solution, and place the employee on the defensive.

Allow the Employee to Provide Input

The employee should be given adequate opportunity to provide their input. While he or she may be allowed to vent any frustrations, managers must keep the discussion as free of emotion and subjectivity as possible. Both the manager and employee should work together to identify the sources of the problems in a factual manner.

Identify the Source of the Problem

Often employees are so involved with and close to the problem that they are unable to look at it objectively. By remaining calm and at arm’s length, the manager should be able to pinpoint the root causes behind the problem. As often the employee will only exhibit symptoms of the problem, it is up to the manager to probe more deeply in order to uncover the problem’s causes.

Identify Potential Solutions

Once the problem is adequately identified and defined, the manager and employee then brainstorm to identify all potential solutions that are available to remedy the problem.

Again, when problems are approached in a calm, objective and factual manner, the fear of repercussion is diminished. This allows the employee to be more open to the possibility of an acceptable solution.

Agree Upon a Plan of Action

After the manager and employee have had an opportunity to brainstorm all potential solutions to the problem, proper time should be taken to carefully review each. Some will be revealed to be impractical for obvious reasons, while others may provide paths to concrete resolution of the problem.

Both parties should agree on the best option. Once chosen, a specific plan should be detailed and agreed upon. In this fashion, the employee is empowered to solve his or her problem and is accountable for implementing the plan and the solution.

Monitor Solution and Provide Feedback

Managers should actively monitor the employee’s progress in carrying out the plan to resolve their problem.

Managers should provide feedback to the employee on the acceptability of his or her work to resolve the problem. If they are meeting or exceeding the plan, praise should be given accordingly. Conversely, if he or she is failing to meet the goals of the plan, the appropriate punishments should be administered. The goal of the manager is to work with the employee to rectify the problem and eliminate the negative behavior.

If and when these steps fail to rectify the problem, the manager may have no other recourse than to terminate the employee.

Excerpt: Negative Workplace Behaviors: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD


16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes

Recognition Must Be Given Liberally, Frequently and Publicly

Motivation Is More Than Money

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Awash in Data But Starved For Knowledge

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Leaders are awash in data and information but starve for knowledge. Information is useless unless it readily provides the leader with key insights that allow him or her to apply their expertise to solve a problem, resolve an issue or improve performance. Additionally, too much information can hinder a leader’s ability to effectively lead their organization.

As corporations grow, they tend to become bureaucratic. Individuals generate reams of reports and forms to justify their position and importance. Some managers hide their inefficiency behind mountains of reports and data. Effective leaders are able to rise above this sea of information and distill it into a series of key metrics and reports. This effort provides them with the knowledge needed to manage their areas of responsibility.

This is important for leaders to understand because it is too easy to get bogged down in meetings and reports that don’t contribute to their productivity and profitability. Leaders use information to their advantage but cast off the burdens of needless information that hinder their ability to lead.

Leaders are able to filter through the bureaucratic sea of information to obtain the specific data and reports they need to effectively manage their activities and organizational unit. They are able to do this by using the following techniques:

Knowing What Is Being Reported and Available

Leaders know what is being reported throughout the corporation and what is available to them. They are able to filter out the reports and information they need to receive. They cancel or delegate other reports to subordinates to analyze for them.

Knowing What Information Is Needed

Leaders know what critical sections or numbers in a report they need to access. Where possible, they use subordinates to generate a simple one-page summary of the information they need to effectively lead and manage their organization. If necessary, they refer to the full reports for additional detail. They understand that delegation frees up their time and ability to effectively lead. This action also allows subordinates to professionally develop critical skills.

Knowing What the Information Reports

Effective leaders ensure they are provided with precise information and data they require to efficiently lead and manage their organization. They also know what every metric means to them at a single glance, gauging whether performance is increasing or lagging. When necessary, they know where to go to obtain the supporting data and analysis required, to assist them to pinpoint problematic areas of performance.

Knowing How Often Information Should Be Received

Effective leaders know the frequency when specific information needs to be reported to them. They know what information they need to have at their fingertips and what can be periodically reported to them. They understand that timeliness of specific information is essential to their success. They also know that information reported too frequently is as hindering as having too much information.

Knowing What to Do with the Information

Effective leaders know what to do with the information they receive and what events and activities each piece of information and data triggers within their organization. They clearly understand what the information means to them and how they need to apply it.

Knowing What Will Happen if Information Is Not Received

Leaders understand that there is certain information that is essential to effectively direct and lead their organizations. They also wisely know that a great deal of information will never be missed if they never receive it. Unessential information is delegated to subordinates or eliminated all together.

Knowing How to Maximize Time by Minimizing Information

Information can take many forms besides reports. Many leaders are needlessly copied letters, faxes and emails by subordinates. More are included in countless meetings. Effective leaders learn how to delegate and eliminate many sources of unnecessary information. They understand this works to hamper their ability to effectively lead and manage their organizations. If their presence is requested at a meeting, they assign a subordinate to represent them or turn down the request if their presence is not totally necessary.

Effective leaders understand that a specific amount of information is required to manage the organization. Anything above that level is a needless burden. If they allow it, an oversaturation of information decreases their effectiveness and productivity. They use their expertise, wisdom and experience to distinguish between the information they need to know and the information that carries little or no value to their efforts.

Excerpt: Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD


Performance Management Must Begin With the Managers

Attaining Organizational Results Requires Visionary Thinking and Planning on Multiple Levels

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Measure What Needs to Be Measured

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

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A performance plan differs from a conventional plan in that it is a proactive document. It is designed for continuous use throughout the year as a guide and reference tool to direct the leader and his or her unit’s activities. The primary purpose of a performance plan is to create results and maximize performance.

Managers often produce an annual performance plan only to give senior management what they want to see. Leaders view performance planning as an opportunity to review and analyze actual past performance. It gives them the means to identify ways to improve their personal and organizational unit’s overall performance and productivity.

Managers as leaders actively use their performance plan to drive the unit’s as well as their own performance. They continually reference their performance plan as a roadmap throughout the year to guide and direct their activities and courses of action as well as those of their subordinates.

Leaders work and plan under the direction of senior management. They define overall strategic company goals and plans. Senior management also forms operational and tactical strategies directing the company’s activities during the year. Typically leaders are responsible for specific aspects of the operational and tactical plans. Their performance plans are directly linked to their assigned goals and objectives. How leaders accomplish these goals and objectives is self-defined. This is where they are given an opportunity to shine.

As was discussed in the previous lesson, leaders are driven by a vision of what is possible, not expected. In formulating a performance plan, leaders begin with an initial preparation before it is formally written and executed. This preliminary process includes:

Collecting and Correlating Data

Leaders collect and correlate the information and data they developed during a review of their organizational unit’s prior performance. This provides a complete picture of the unit’s successes and weaknesses. It helps pinpoint how successes can be capitalized on, and identifies the problems and issues that must be resolved to maximize the unit’s performance.

Leaders ensure their plans coincide with their vision. This is necessary if their vision is to be attained. They analyze and make sure plans can be incorporated into their overall goals and objectives.

The information collected from these two planning activities provides reliable insight and direction. It shapes how performance plans are to be formulated and becomes the foundation for all future performance plans.


Leaders obtain input and feedback from all members of their unit. This strategy works to bring individual members “on board.” It greatly increases the probability they will accept the plan and implement the necessary strategies to make it successful.

Leaders use brainstorming to get reliable feedback. They use this feedback to creatively approach the development of their performance plan. They need to “think outside of the box” to view their goals and objectives creatively and without bias. Brainstorming accomplishes this by encouraging entrepreneurial thinking. Then leaders can easily define the issues concerning maximizing unit performance from various perspectives.

The purpose of brainstorming is not only to identify ways to achieve goals and complete tasks. It is used as a method to seek out information and ideas for exceeding normal expectations. Leaders always look for ways to optimize performance and results. Effective brainstorming also helps them improve budgetary performance as it maximizes the use of assigned resources.

Formulating Plans

Throughout the preparation and brainstorming phases of planning, the performance plan begins to take shape. Senior management has assigned the overall goals and objectives. The feedback and the analysis of the organizational unit details what needs to be accomplished. From this information, assumptions can be made that will form the basis of the plan.

Leaders clarify the specific direction the organizational unit will take. The steps needed to achieve this direction are carefully outlined and detailed. Each step is then formulated into specific objectives along with the activities required to attain the chosen course of direction.

From this information, leaders assign specific tasks and responsibilities to each individual unit member. These assignments become part of the performance plan, assuring that all objectives will be accomplished.

Leaders make sure each subordinate assigned to a task or responsibility has the necessary resources to be successful. Additionally, each task and responsibility includes established milestones so subordinates understand exactly what they need to do, by when. Milestones provide leaders with performance standards to ensure assigned tasks and responsibilities are accomplished in a timely fashion. This allows for effective managing of the performance plan as well as making modifications when needed.

Formalizing Plans

The final step of performance planning is to formalize a written plan. This becomes the actual management tool that guides and directs the organizational unit in the accomplishment of its goals and objectives.

The degree to which plans need to be refined will vary according to company standards. However, leaders make sure their plan clearly and precisely details the goals and objectives of the entire organizational unit. They write these in clear, easily understood language. Plans also include a timeline plotting each task, responsibility and milestone. Each time segment details the individual(s) responsible for specific tasks and their accomplishment and defines the resources to be allocated. All supporting data collected throughout the planning process is included to substantiate the plan, as well as the list of assumptions the plan is based upon.

Excerpt: Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD


Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

Measure What Needs to Be Measured

Performance Driven Leaders Must Establish Clear Employee Expectations

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Maximizing Financial Performance

Strengthening Leadership Performance

Performance Management

Problem Solving

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Planning as a Means to Generate, Oversee and Measure Results

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Most corporations require leaders to produce an annual plan to project possible future results. Many leaders tend to undertake this assignment with little or no enthusiasm even though it is necessary to forge new paths to generating positive, successful outcomes. Once completed, most annual plans sit on the shelf until the next planning cycle. Many times the rationale is that people are too involved and overwhelmed with daily activities to follow their plan.

Effective leaders tend to view planning as a means to generate, oversee and measure results. Planning gives leaders time to consider how they can improve their own as well as overall workplace performance. It allows leaders to reflect on ways to stretch their employees’ abilities in order to make them a more viable resource for generating and enhancing long-term results. In order to get the best results possible from their leadership efforts, leaders need to prepare for them.

Leaders must recognize that preparing for results does have its challenges, and be aware of them before beginning their next planning cycle.

During planning and budgetary reviews, leaders sometimes develop unreliable projected numbers and assumptions. It is all too easy to develop projections without specific facts to back them up, yet obtaining positive end results relies on sound forecasting.

Many leaders fail to invest the needed effort to review past performance, and this deficiency tends to affect their end outcomes. Some also fall short in taking the necessary time to effectively base future projections and assumptions upon what their organizational units have actually achieved in the past, which distorts expectations.

Obtaining results implies that plans and budgets not be developed in a void. Effective leaders realize that they must build on past successes and determine why and how past failures occurred. They know that to increase results it is essential to plan for strengthening weak and non-performing areas.

Leaders can only accomplish this by thoroughly reviewing past performance in all areas in order to link plans to where the organizational unit currently stands. Performance reviews allow leaders to accurately project their organizational unit’s performance forward in incremental steps. This is the only realistic method of achieving and sustaining growth.

As leaders begin the planning process to increase performance and results, they need to address five specific areas that tend to create the greatest challenges:

Faulty Assumptions

Every plan that is designed to increase results needs to be based upon a series of assumptions. Consisting of future and anticipated variables that impact the actual performance of the plan, assumptions include economic conditions, sales and production forecasts, as well as anticipated major orders.

If assumptions are inaccurate, plans will be worthless and future results will not be realized. For example, if a plan is based upon 10% growth when in reality the economy is causing a 10% decline, everything in the plan is based upon an inaccurate assumption.

When developing their plans, leaders must focus on carefully creating, listing and detailing accurate and realistic assumptions. As conditions change during the year, reviewing assumptions becomes a necessary procedure in order to adjust them to actual conditions. This enables leaders to quickly alter and adapt their plans throughout the year, ensuring the likelihood of obtaining the results they want.

Inaccurate Information

To get results, the development and use of accurate information within the planning process is essential. Accurate information is one of the most important aspects of planning and the most significant step in the plan’s implementation process. Leaders must take the opportunity to examine every aspect of their organizational unit’s past performance. This includes reviewing past plans and budgets against actual performance.

Results-oriented leaders understand what worked in the past and why. They identify areas for improvement, revision, modification or an increased workforce. They then focus on underlying causes that tend to influence or precipitate inadequate employee performance. Leaders who make it a point to conduct exhaustive performance reviews are able to produce accurate information and data, which helps to generate higher levels of results over shorter periods of time.

Once leaders produce a comprehensive review, it becomes much easier to update and maintain their information with a higher degree of accuracy. Leaders use the planning process to audit their information and insure its reliability and accuracy.

Pitfalls to Effective Plan Development

The first major planning pitfall that definitely affects positive end results lies in leaders choosing to create new strategies by simply duplicating previous annual plans with one or two selective changes. Most often changes include simply altering numbers to reflect current conditions. The completed plan is then submitted to senior management. These plans have little value in terms of results-oriented direction or particular action steps to follow.

A second major pitfall is found in writing plans from a “backward perspective.” This is where plans are made according to where leaders want to go, rather than on where they should be going. Strategies are developed without regard to the specific facts, data, timelines and information needed to ensure they are accurate and realistic.

All pertinent information and related data supporting various desired outcomes must be included when generating plans, with all other information that tends to conflict with the desired outcomes omitted.

Both pitfalls are attempts to short-circuit the planning process or avoid it, and greatly reduce the chances of obtaining the results leaders need to generate. When this happens, leaders fail to meet their responsibilities to themselves, employees, associates, senior management and stockholders.

Impossible Plan Timetables, Allotments and Factors

How plans are scheduled can have a major impact on whether or not results are obtained. Many leaders often assume they can achieve more than is realistically possible to attain. They tend to insert and carry over expectations of impossible timelines and deadlines for employees to follow and meet.

Performance plans should stretch each organizational unit and members’ capabilities. Time allotments to move processes and actions along toward achieving goals and objectives must be realistic. Additional time must be factored in for unanticipated events that will inevitably occur during the year.

It is essential for leaders not to under-plan, where employees are not pushed to perform. Equally as important they should not over-plan, where employees are constantly placed under stress to meet deadlines. To get better results, leaders must consider the need to balance their plan’s time requirements, workload criteria and expectations.

Failing to View Performance Plans as Positive Management Tools

Often leaders will produce required plans and forget about them until the next ones are due. It is a serious mistake to view planning as an impediment to their work and daily responsibilities.

Results-oriented leaders appreciate how and why performance plans are powerful management tools. Plans guide and direct their actions throughout the year toward the accomplishment of their goals and objectives, which always move them to securing higher levels of workplace results.

Results-oriented leaders focus on taking their plans and breaking them down into smaller monthly plans, which can be easily monitored and altered. Leaders also make certain to generate smaller step-by-step plans for every individual employee. This process tends to link both time and individual performance toward the accomplishment of common goals and objectives.

Planning is a continuous, ongoing process. Performance plans need to be continually revisited, modified and adapted to reflect actual conditions. Situations change and performance plans should allow leaders to readily anticipate and adapt to fluctuations, speedups and slowdowns, as well as unforeseen occurrences.


Looking into the Crystal Ball

The Need to Test Opinions Against the Facts

The Mastery of Details is an Integral Part of Leadership

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

Excerpt: Becoming a Leader of Your Own Making (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Focusing Your Employees on Future Performance

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The establishment of individual employee goals and objectives can be stressful in many organizations, especially if this is a new concept. Employees often resent being held accountable for their actions. Their perception is that these actions are punitive rather than intended as a mechanism to move the organization forward.

While the establishment of individual goals or objectives is a critical process, managers should recognize that they might be dealing with employee groups with varying degrees of experience in goal setting and implementation.

It is important for managers to understand that these gaps in experience can affect the ultimate success or failure of an individual employee. With this in mind, managers must take steps to help employees succeed, which is dependent upon their personal levels of experience. They must recognize that some employees will need more assistance than others. The key is to dedicate the time required for all to be successful in the attainment of their individual goals.

Related: Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

The establishment of individual goals and objectives can be a stressful exercise for many employees. Though the process includes elements of an employee review, it is not an evaluation but a process of setting the employee’s direction for the future as well as coordinating individual goals with those of the organization. The following techniques and strategies should be utilized to successfully establish individual goals:


Before a manager begins the formal process of establishing individual goals and objectives with an employee, the first step is to allow the employee the time to express his or her ideas and feelings. This discussion should establish a good mood and should focus on the positive aspects of the employee’s job. If complaints are voiced, managers should ask the employee for ways to correct the problem. By giving an employee the opportunity to resolve a problem, the discussion remains focused on the positive aspects of his or her job while empowering them to develop a realistic solution.

Related: When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Be Forward Looking

Past performance of the employee will undoubtedly become part of the discussion. However, managers should keep the discussion focused on the future goals and objectives and avoid dwelling on past performance issues. This way the employee is focused on his or her future performance and not mired in past problems.

Be Candid

As managers move through the discussion of individual goals and objectives, they must be both candid and honest regarding the employee’s abilities so that obtainable goals can be established. This is a constructive, not negative, gesture in that it helps uncover what the employee is capable of and expected to achieve.

Small Steps

To many employees, individual goals can be overwhelming when viewed in their entirety. Managers can effectively ease these fears by breaking long-term objectives down into smaller, short-term targets that move the employee forward. Creating annual, quarterly and monthly goals that both the manager and employee can agree upon is the starting place; it is then the employee’s responsibility to break those goals into weekly and daily objectives.

It should be noted that not all employees have the skills to effectively plan their own activities. Managers should review this procedure with their people and perhaps walk them through the process of taking a month’s goals and breaking them down into weekly and daily objectives.

Secure Agreement

Once both the employee and manager have developed a realistic set of goals and objectives for the employee and demonstrated how to plan their weekly and daily activities around meeting them, both parties should secure an agreement. The agreement should focus on the individual objectives and how they will be accomplished.


Managers need to have a clear understanding of how each employee plans to reach their goals and the steps that will be taken to accomplish them. However, managers must make sure that all individual goals are aligned with the organization’s, as well as with those of other unit employees. Failure to do so can result in employees working against each other rather than cooperatively toward the mutual accomplishment of common goals and objectives.

Related: Five Strategies to Build Trust


As managers are facilitators, whenever they see an opportunity or need, they should take the time to share their knowledge and expertise with employees regarding how to best reach their individual objectives.

Since goal setting can be a new experience for many employees, they may accept a goal and not know where to start or how to get there. When managers share their expertise, they are facilitating the success of the employee to achieve his or her individual goals. This is what makes the entire process both meaningful and worthwhile.

Remain Task-Oriented

Throughout the process of establishing individual goals and objectives, the climate should be warm, friendly and informal. Yet managers should ensure the process remains task-oriented, as well as be aware that they will need each employee’s assistance in the future to help attain their goals. The key is that all should be working together toward the accomplishment of mutual objectives.

Commit to Change

Managers should recognize that the establishment of goals and objectives is a commitment to change. With this in mind, employees may be resistant to change and fear the consequences it may bring. Employees may also be reluctant to commit to goals and objectives out of a personal fear that they will be unable to attain them.


Once the goal setting process has been completed, managers should review each individual objective with the employee. These goals should be committed in writing with both the employee and manager receiving a file copy for future reference.

Excerpt: Strengthening Performance: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Plans Must Be Rooted in Past Performance

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Performance planning is not developed in a void, nor is it based upon unsubstantiated estimates of budgets, performance and plans. Effective leadership demands plans be based upon past performance and results. By successfully implementing such plans, leaders can stimulate their subordinates to exceed normal performance expectations.

It is surprising how many managers develop annual plans and budgets without accounting for previous years’ performance and the realistic capabilities of their operational unit. Plans that lack these important elements are typically ineffective as roadmaps for achieving high output from an organizational unit.

Related: Six Key Benefits of Performance Management

Effective leaders understand that in order to move their unit forward, they must look at what has worked in the past and then build upon those successes. They also take proactive measures to eliminate any apparent failures and weaknesses.

This process is important for leaders to understand if they wish to motivate their subordinates to reach higher levels of achievement. Plans are not a worthless set of documents to be viewed only once or twice a year: they outline significant milestones and detail what the unit needs to do to effectively operate throughout the year. Leaders understand that performance plans lay out the path for attaining their goals and objectives.

The importance of proper planning cannot be emphasized enough: if it is to be effective and realistic, it must be focused upon prior performance of the leader’s organizational unit. Therefore, a formal review must be conducted in the following three critical areas:

Operational Performance

A formal review in this area is normally conducted on two levels simultaneously: operational and leadership. The operational review compares the organizational unit’s performance with the stated goals and objectives passed down by senior management. The leadership review compares the organizational unit’s performance with the leader’s expectations. While both levels review the same information, the leadership review is conducted from the leader’s perspective of how he or she can motivate the unit to exceed expectations.

The process of a formal review begins with a superficial selection of areas that need further examination. Particular attention needs to be paid to what did and did not work during the past year. This is where leaders can begin to develop strategies to build upon their unit’s successes and eliminate or correct any failures/weaknesses.

Leaders next need to rate the actual performance of all aspects of their organizational unit, including personnel, tasks, assignments, roles, resources and so forth. At this point, any required changes and adjustments should be noted for inclusion in future performance plans.

A final review of operational performance needs to explore the impact and affect of new trends, changes in economic conditions, and uncontrollable events on the operational unit. A thorough examination should note exactly what occurred, how it impacted the leader’s unit and how the unit responded. Any lessons learned from these experiences should also be included in future plans.

Related: Measure What Needs to Be Measured

Resource Utilization

A formal resource utilization review should be conducted to determine if the leader and the organizational unit maximized their use of available resources. Typically, this review determines if the unit effectually used personnel, machinery, equipment, time, schedules and financial resources.

Leaders need to analyze the operational or production capacity of their organizational unit. This can be conducted from several perspectives, such as production, operations or administration, depending upon the responsibilities of the unit. A resource utilization review pinpoints any bottlenecks or problems that occurred in these areas.

Next, leaders must determine the causes of bottlenecks and problems, which can include inadequate scheduling or insufficient human or financial resources. The findings should be detailed and included in future planning activities.

Related: Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Financial Performance

The last step in this review analyzes the unit’s financial performance. First, leaders determine how well their organizational unit worked within its budget. They will often discover problem areas that can be more deeply examined during the performance planning process.

An additional review should be conducted to look at the profitability of the organizational unit, including potential ways for it to cut costs and improve productivity. These findings should also be detailed and noted for further examination as well as inclusion in future performance plans.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices in performance planning to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog | 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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