How do you bring out the best in people? Managers want their people to achieve excellence at work. Leaders and management alike know that without people motivated for peak performance, companies will fail to succeed.
To achieve peak performance — a combination of excellence, consistency and ongoing improvement— one must find the right job, tasks and conditions that match an employee’s talent. Therefore, facilitating the right fit becomes one of a manager’s most crucial responsibilities.
Disengaged Or Bored?
Disengaged employees often appear to lack commitment. In reality, we all crave engagement. No one enjoys working without passion or joy.
While many factors cause disengagement, the most prevalent is feeling overwhelmed — or, conversely, underwhelmed. Disconnection and overload pose obstacles to performance, yet they often go undetected or ignored because neither qualifies as a disciplinary issue.
Meanwhile, managers try to work around such problems, hoping for a miraculous turnaround or a spark that reignites energy and drive. They try incentives, empowerment programs or the management “fad du jour,” but with only temporary success.
While it’s impossible to create “flow” moments all day long, any manager can greatly improve on the ability to help people achieve peak performance.
Use Brain Science to Bring Out the Best
While no management guru has found the golden key to unlocking the full panoply of human potential at work, research sheds new light on possibilities.
As far back as a 2005 Harris poll, 33 percent of 7,718 employees surveyed believed they had reached a dead end in their jobs, and 21 percent were eager to change careers.
The situation isn’t improving. In 2014, a survey revealed 52.3 percent of Americans were unhappy at work.
When so many people are moving from one job to the next, something is wrong. They clearly have not landed in the right outlets for their talents and strengths.
The better the fit with the job, the better the performance. People require clear roles that allow them to succeed, while also providing room to learn, grow and be challenged.
5 Steps to Boost Performance
Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, author of Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (Harvard Business Press, 2011), synthesizes research into five steps managers can apply to maximize employees’ performance.
Cited as “The Cycle of Excellence,” it exploits the powerful interaction between an individual’s intrinsic capabilities and extrinsic environment:
Step 1: Select
Examine how three key questions intersect:
Set the stage for your employees to do well with responsibilities they enjoy.
Step 2: Connect
Managers and employees require a mutual atmosphere of trust, optimism, openness, transparency, creativity and positive energy.
A positive working environment starts with how the boss handles negativity, failure and problems. They set the tone and model preferred behaviors and reactions. Employees take their cues from those who lead them.
To encourage connection:
When people are floundering, the last thing they need is to have their flaws and mistakes spotlighted. Instead, make sure you understand the real issues.
Step 3: Play
Play isn’t limited to break time. Activities that involve imagination light up our brains and produce creative thoughts and ideas. A playful attitude boost morale, reduce fatigue and bring joy to workdays.
Encourage imaginative thinking:
Step 4: Grapple and Grow
Help people engage imaginatively with tasks they like and at which they excel. Encourage them to stretch beyond their usual limits. If tasks are too easy, people fall into boredom and routine without making any progress or learning anything new.
The job of a manager is to be a catalyst when people get stuck, offering suggestions but letting them work out solutions.
Step 5: Shine
Every employee should feel recognized and valued for what he or she does. Recognition should not be reserved solely for a group’s stars.
When a person is underperforming, consider lack of recognition a cause. An employee usually won’t voice feeling undervalued, so you must look for subtle signs. In addition:
When you’re in sync with your people, you create positive energy and opportunities for peak performance. Working together can be one of life’s greatest joys—and it’s what we’re wired to do.
“Put simply, the best managers bring out the best from their people. This is true of football coaches, orchestra conductors, big-company executives, and small-business owners. They are like alchemists who turn lead into gold. Put more accurately, they find and mine the gold that resides in everyone.” ~ Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (Harvard Business Press, 2011)
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