Thursday, September 5, 2019

What a Success Plan Is (and Isn’t)


Guest post from Chris Meroff:

Investing in your people should be the end game for you as a leader. They come to the workplace every day and invest their significant gifts and talents in an effort to help you and your organization reach an agree upon goal. Their success is your success. 

So, it makes sense that we as leaders would want to create a success plan for our people. But first, we have to define success. And that can be a moving target.

A success plan is much more than an annual performance review. Though they are sometimes lumped into the same category they are quite different. Annual performance reviews focus only on what’s born out of hard skills and tend to boil your people down to metrics around what they’ve done for your company. The general goal of these meetings is to determine a number that your company thinks your employee is worth. This (not so subtly) communicates that their value is based only on how much they can do for the company.  
What Is a Success Plan?
I tried the typical annual performance review in my company for several years, and it left both me and my employees feeling unfulfilled. In those meetings everyone was primarily concerned with their compensation, which is to be expected. Many were not interested in having a meaningful conversation about their passions and goals at work, let alone their passions and goals outside of work.

It became clear that I needed to revisit these get-togethers and figure out a different agenda, one that would serve the company and the team member. I realized that if these great people who were bringing their bests selves to my company every day were having to ask for my time and space to talk about their fulfillment, then I probably wasn’t doing it right. Why should they have to wait for their next performance review to have a dialogue with me about their dreams, their success plans, or their jobs?

When I realized that a change was needed, I started at the beginning. I redefined the whole notion of a success plan. Here’s my new definition: A success plan is dedicated space to focus on the success of your people, both personally and professionally, to move your employee to fulfillment. The success plan focuses on fulfillment through their soft skills and requires you as the leader to practice more intentionality and engagement on who they are personally, not just professionally. It’s a daily engagement toward ultimate fulfillment. Not that I said daily and not annually. Dialogue can and should happen anytime. Not just when I schedule it.

To be successful at success planning you have to know the full person. You have to know what makes them tick and what might influence their idea of success. This is where the pursuit happens. This is where you show your people their value beyond what they bring to work. Pursue your people and do it on purpose. Yes, it takes a great deal of time and effort to pull this off. But the benefits for everyone involved-the company, the employee and yourself- are worth it.
Meaningful Investment
Creating a personalized success plan for each of your employees requires that you really understand your people. You have to understand how they define success personally and professionally. This takes time and sustained effort; you can’t rush through it. 

Throwing pizza parties and happy hours doesn’t necessarily create these opportunities for meaningful investment and relationship building. If you care about your people and serving them toward fulfillment, be genuine and authentic in your pursuit. Talk to them about their families and home lives. Ask them how they spend their free time and what their interests are. Find out what really motivates them and how they define what’s commonly known as work-life balance. 

In my organization, we no longer use the term ‘work-life balance’. Emphasizing work-life as a balance is a win-lose proposition. So, we use the phrase work-life integration. This is meant to create more alignment between our personal and professional lives. In a work-life balance model, something gets cheated; it communicates that you need to be all things to all people at all times, which is impossible. But by working toward work-life integration, the gap between the two is bridged and we communicate that the two should complement each other instead of competing.

Figure these things out on an individual basis for each person in your organization and you will find that success becomes clear. It will be different for each person, but you can help them attain it, whatever it looks like. In exploring your people’s definitions of work-life integration, you’ll find some people who want more structure at work and others who would prefer to have more flexibility. Neither one is wrong—it’s just who they are.   

You can do all this through informal conversations that can and should happen anytime that they are needed.  

  
Chris Meroff has spent more than 25 years supporting leaders in education at both the campus and district levels. Through his work in 17 states and across thousands of school districts, he’s seen firsthand the frustration administrators feel when their efforts don’t produce the alignment they desire. He’s made a career of testing new leadership ideas to see what works—and what doesn’t—in service-oriented leadership. His business, Alignment Leadership Consulting, exists to teach leaders how they can boldly pursue a workplace culture that prioritizes employee fulfillment. You can learn more at www.AlignLeadThrive.com .

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