“They are on a plan,” as in a performance improvement plan.

performance improvement planWhen we hear that phrase we typically assume that an employee’s performance hasn’t been up to snuff. “The plan” was developed by a supervisor to document what the employee must do to continue in their job, or to avoid termination. Being on a performance plan has decidedly negative implications. It is frequently seen as part of a process leading up to termination if they do not meet targets.

But that context is beginning to shift. In some organizations with a culture that is deeply rooted in employee engagement, executives, mangers, supervisors and hourly workers are being encouraged to proactively develop their own performance improvement plans, but not because they are not passing muster. Hardly. In fact, the reverse is true. It is all about pushing to move from good to great.

Productivity and performance go hand in hand. Various applications, like the ones from Microsoft, are perfect when it comes to becoming more productive in the workspace. Which is why it proves beneficial to learn Office 365 applications. The skills thus achieved tend to improve performance of every employee in that workspace, be it supervisors, managers or hourly workers. And when the top performers in a company announce that they have developed their own professional development plan, that sends a powerful message to everyone else.

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Do not confuse these personal development plans with an organization’s business plan targets. No, these personal development plans are about seeking input from their boss, their peers, and their subordinates regarding those areas that colleagues see as either weaknesses or more broadly, areas where improvement would benefit the team. These suggestions include these types of general categories:

  • Enhance communications, promote transparency throughout the team
  • Improve follow-up, from timeliness to depth of the content
  • Be a more attentive or active listener
  • Be more visible and approachable; make rounds, schedule meetings with direct reports on their turf
  • Become a better mentor or coach
  • Be more encouraging to peers and subordinates
  • Pay attention to the little things – team members birthdays or anniversaries, and provide support when they experience setbacks; know them personally

These categories are worthy because they support building a more engaged, respectful relationship with colleagues at all levels. And the idea of demonstrating a commitment to personal performance improvement, especially when you ask team members for their advice, is a powerful demonstration, but it is not without its risks. If you “fall off the wagon” so the speak – if you get busy with your established routines and forget to make the effort every day – then any value you hoped to achieve will be lost and your lack of commitment will affect morale.

I recently interviewed a senior executive who said that when he decided to create his own performance plan, his boss was skeptical and anxious. “I think he was concerned the idea would catch on and he might get sucked into the process,” the executive explained. “When I asked members of my team – direct reports and those with whom I worked on a daily basis, they thought I was bats**t crazy. Then I had a tough time convincing them that I would not bite their head off if they suggested some improvements I did not like. It took some time but finally I got them to trust me. I think they were amazed that their boss valued their opinion enough to seek their help. But what blew their collective minds is that I asked them to hold me accountable for actually improving.”

“This has been one of the best decisions I have ever made,” the executive explained. “Now I do it twice a year. Some of the items are carried over but I take this very seriously.”

Now here is the amazing part, other members of the team launched their own personal performance plans. What started off as a personal effort by one executive is sweeping through the C-suite. “When they saw how my team’s performance improved across all dimensions, from improvements in revenue, a sustainable reduction in costs and improved satisfaction scores, they decided that I wasn’t so crazy after all.”

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If your goal is to improve your personal performance as well as advance in your career, this might be a strategy worth considering.