How do we unlock discretionary performance from our employees? 

And if our employees aren’t performing up to standards…what’s the best way to help them along? 

If you’re a manager or business leader, you know how difficult it can be to get a team to perform. It’s never as simple or as easy as it looks.  

We all know that the average manager or business leader doesn’t know how to unlock discretionary performance. They don’t know how to get employees to go above and beyond in their positions. Unfortunately, it’s a special skill that we rarely see in the workplace. 

The Traditional Performance Management Techniques…And Why They Fail 

We’re all familiar with the classic techniques for performance management. Whether we’re looking to help an employee who’s failing or encourage an all-star to keep up the good work, the traditional approach is mostly the same.  

It’s always some mix of the following: 

  1. Leverage disciplinary action and rewards

  2. Offer words of encouragement 

  3. Provide constructive criticism 

  4. Give ‘em a pat on the back and hope for the best 

We know how it ends. At best, we achieve a temporary performance improvement. At worst, nothing changes whatsoever, and we waste our time and effort.  

9 times out of 10, nothing meaningfully changes in the long-term. We’re right back to square one. 

A particularly forward-thinking manager might go one-step further. They might ask the employee, “How can I help you?” or “What’s stopping you from excelling? What’s in your way?” 

It’s a step in the right direction, but unfortunately, that’s still not enough. It still misses the most important part of employee performance, which is inspiration. 

Inspiration is what happens when a leader truly understands what drives an employee. It’s what happens when they act on that knowledge to light a fire inside of them. It’s at the core of all exemplary performance in the workplace. 

Everything else is secondary. 

How Do Leaders Actually Inspire Their Teams?

In order to unlock our teams’ full potential, we have to truly understand them. We must understand what will (or already does) inspire our team members to go above and beyond in their role. 

It’s different for everyone. There truly is no one-size fits all approach here. Unfortunately, all too many managers act like everyone’s the same! They use the same techniques and approaches to “motivate” their employees. They offer everyone monetary rewards or other incentives (flex time, public recognition, awards, free food, etc.), and use the same methods to nudge employees along. 

The best leaders and managers understand that each person will have completely unique drivers and needs in the workplace and work to meet those needs. 

They gain an understanding of their workforce through asking deliberate questions and closely listening to their employees. They leverage every tool at their disposal to understand their team and what would support each team members’ success. In this endeavor, advanced people analytics are a vital tool.  

We use the behavioral assessments from the Predictive Index to identify an individual’s drivers and needs in the workplace in a matter of minutes. When it comes to understanding what will inspire a team member, this is invaluable. 

Altogether, it’s about using everything you can to gain a comprehensive, insightful understanding of your team. Without a deep understanding of our people, we can’t improve their performance. 

An Inspired Workforce is the Backbone of Every Great Company 

Every great business in history was built around an inspired teamAnd behind every great team is a leader who inspires them to reach for new levels of success. 

Few things in business are as important as making sure your teams are performing. What are you doing to ensure your people are delivering the right performance? 

If you’re interested in learning more, don’t miss our new web series and podcast, People, Performance, Profits. Get expert insights from our CEO Steve Lowisz on how to hire the right people and inspire the right performance.