I walked out of a door at the Ramada Inn South motel looking for Ms. E. She is the owner’s wife and the General Manager of the hotel. I saw her walking away from me down the sidewalk toward the restaurant. She did not see me. All of a sudden, she walked into the grass to pick up a small piece of paper. Then, she saw me. She said, “Jim McGriff, never walk past a piece of paper.” I still do not walk past a piece of paper. This is performance leadership. She set an agenda in my mind, do not walk past a piece of trash.
I think formal performance management is for managers. That is, measurable action steps set for your department usually by upper management. Most times you and your employees have a hard time showing their impact on these department measurements. Performance management is mostly mumbo-jumbo for the first line employee. Performance leadership is about setting agendas for people. First line managers must set the agenda for their department in the employee’s mind. What is the department’s main function? We must answer this question in a human way. Not in the formal performance management way. How do you measure attitude and team work? Does performance management create an employee with a team attitude? These are human traits that cannot be measured by a mathematical formula. The first line manager sets these agendas; this is leadership performance.
As a first line manager you must set the agenda for your department; and, be the example of how you expect employees to act. You must check the details that support your department’s mission daily. When employees miss a detail, show them the consequences of missing that detail. Ms. E told me, picking up the paper is more than trash in the yard. Picking it up shows we care about the cleanness of our hotel. It is about the image of the hotel. The same attitude applies to your department; employees must carry out the details to build their department’s image.
The first night Emily and I ate dinner at the bankrupt Ramada Inn Crest motel, I handled a performance leadership problem. The waitress served us overcooked potatoes. The potatoes were black inside. I introduced myself to the chef, as I walked into the kitchen. I gathered him, the waiter, and the other kitchen employees to show them the black potato. I said, “What do you think the customers think about you when you serve them a potato like this? This is not only about the restaurant’s reputation; It is about your reputation, it is about you.” I saw the look on their faces. Certain things are not acceptable, handle them immediately in a human way. This is performance leadership.
Notice, I did not set up a spread sheet to track the number of black potatoes we were serving. I did not add this to the employee’s progress reports as a measurable action item. I, also, did not write a procedure to prevent this from happening again. It is simple, the waiter will cut and check each potato before serving it. We are never going to serve a black potato again. This is the performance measure. Not only will we not serve anymore black potatoes; our food quality will improve. Employees got the message; we are going to take pride in our food service.
Performance management without performance leadership is not effective. Performance leadership without performance management is effective. Performance management is about measurable action steps. These steps are forgettable. Performance leadership is about what we see and experience. Performance leadership establishes personal attitudes that travel with people wherever they go.