Motivate Your People With the Performance-Potential Matrix

Motivate your people with the performance-potential matrix
Performance-Potential Matrix

Use the Performance-Potential Matrix to motivate your people to help them reach higher, dream more, do more, and become more.

A few years ago, I was involved in a large-scale change management project that included a full-scale cultural shift from being a sales-based organization to a service-based company.

Next to consulting the learning and development department in their L&D strategy, HR in their talent management practices, and all other departments in altering their approaches, a great amount of time and effort was put into aligning the new leadership team with the organization’s new brand promise.

As a coach, mentor, and consultant, I found that many members of the leadership team were extremely motivated to change, but lacked essential skills that help encourage their people to dare to do things differently. No matter how much prompting from leadership, people still struggled to change their day-to-day habits and rituals. This challenge to effectively drive change motivated me to come up with a number of coaching tools that help managers better facilitate change in their people.

One of the greatest errors I still see in managers today is that they often believe that telling, asking, or even trying to motivating their people to change, is the path to the brain’s capacity to comply fully with the proposed changes. In my book: HeadStrong Performance, I speak about the neuroscience of change and the mechanisms involved in the brain’s resistance to change. What we know from neuroscience is that a brain will always resist change unless it volunteers to do so.

In the field of positive psychology, researchers Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan coined this the Self-Determination Theory (SDT). Through their research they identified 3 key ingredients to self-determination which are: 1. Competence (our desire to master and control our environment), 2. Relatedness (our desire to interact with, be connected to, and experience caring for other people), 3. Autonomy (our desire to have a sense of free will).

What we can learn from this is that no amount of telling, asking, or even motivating, will have a lasting effect on change, permitting your people are self-determined to change. The trick therefore is to find ways to trigger self-determination in your people and once they find it, to nurture that self-determination so it manifests into the positive behaviors that are aligned with the company’s brand promise.

One of many tools that I have developed over the years that has proven extremely helpful in triggering a greater level of self-determination in others is the performance-potential matrix, which is what I would like to share with you here.

Understanding Performance

Even though a clear definition of performance has not yet been fully agreed upon by researchers, at a high level the word performance could be understood as “the individual’s behaviors and actions that produce specific and non-specific outcomes

Authors John P. Campbell and Brenton M. Wiernik mention that In the context of organizational performance, the desired outcomes of employees are generally pre-determined by the organization with the hope that the collective behaviors of all individuals transfers into favorable organizational outcomes.

Historically, in most organizations today, an individual is considered a high performer when their behaviors and actions produce results that either meet or exceed expectations of the organization. Conversely, a poor performer would then be considered someone who does not meet expectations.

Job Performance, for that matter, is something that many organizations try to quantify, and is therefore still seen by many organizations as a bench-mark to evaluate staff effectiveness and productivity.

However, more and more organizations are beginning to challenge the validity of strictly using performance as a benchmark for success. In a 2016 article in the Harvard Business Review, the authors call this a “Performance Management Revolution” where qualitative, but coachable factors, such as passion, desire, resilience, mindset, and grit are becoming equally important benchmarks that are deterministic for organizational success.

Understanding Potential

Where performance might typically be seen as the quantifiable results from specific behaviors, potential, on the other hand, contains the qualitative factors, such as passion, desire, resilience, mindset, and grit, that raise the capacity of developing into something in the future.

A key word here, and an area where I have spent years researching and coaching many of my clients, is Capacity. In business, capacity could be defined as “a specific ability of a person or organization, measured in quantity and quality, over a period of time”.

My research, over the past 10 years, has focused extensively on the building blocks within each individual that raise our potential for greater performance and to develop a quantifiable methodology that can measure capacity and potential in a fun and engaging way. The result of this is the HeadStrong Performance Assessment, which is a one of a kind assessment used by increasingly more individuals and organizations today, and in my opinion is going to be a critical marker for organizational performance in the future.

If I were to ask the question: “How much potential do you have?”, chances are your answer would be “unlimited”. Even though this may be true or not true depending on how you ask, a much more critical question to ask when measuring capacity is: “What are you doing to live up to your potential?” The amount of effort, time, and attention we spend raising our capacity is measurable. A person with high potential could therefore someone who is hungry, driven, engaged, and exhibits the courage to respectfully challenge authority. On the other hand, a personal with low potential may prefer a place of comfort, safety, may be afraid of making mistakes, and is quite happy keeping things the same.

Understanding the Performance-Potential Matrix

It is quite possible that a person with low potential can still meet milestones set by the organization and may even be considered a high performer by the organization since they are meeting, or even exceeding expectations. In my experience, people who try to live up to their potential also tend to have a much greater sense of fulfillment in their work versus to lower potential staff members who are still performing and meeting expectations.

In other words, a matrix can be drawn classifying high performers vs low performers and high potential vs low potential. I have uploaded a PDF file that includes the Performance-Potential Matrix and instructions that you can download here.

As you will see on the matrix, there are not 4 classifications, which is what is normally to be expected in a matrix, but instead, there are 5, each with its own set of behavioral and mindset characteristics. The PDF contains a list of most common behavioral characteristics for each of the 5 classifications.

1.    Superstar Player: High Performer-High Potential (Extreme Top Right Corner)

2.    Strong Performer: High Performer-High Potential (Upper-Right Quadrant)

3.    Regular Player: High Performer-Low Potential (Lower-Right Quadrant)

4.    Emerging Talent: Low Performer-High Potential (Upper-Left Quadrant)

5.    Non-Mover: Low Performer-Low Potential (Lower-Left Quadrant)

Important to note here that some high performers who are extremely critical of themselves may see themselves in the bottom left quadrant as a non-mover, but in fact may be in the top-right quadrant when looking at their behavioral characteristics. In this case, a team member, or team, may need a lot of positive reinforcement to help them believe in themselves more.

On the other hand, you may also experience people who exhibit the behaviors of a non-mover but see themselves as superstar players. In this case, a reality check may be in order to help them visualize a more realistic placement.

Generally speaking, most of the hundreds of people with whom I have done this exercise tend to be pretty spot on as to where they see themselves on the matrix and really do want to know how to raise their capacity and potential and feel more fulfilled in what they are doing.

It will likely take some practice to get this exercise right, but as you get more comfortable with using the matrix, you will begin to see the immense power this exercise has to trigger that unleashed self-determination in your people.

How to use the Performance-Potential Matrix to Trigger Self-Determination

In a nutshell, you would want to use the Performance-Potential Matrix to help your people answer 5 critical questions to help them visualize where they see themselves today and where they could be in the future.

Question 1: Where do you currently see yourself on the Performance-Potential Matrix and ask them to draw a circle at the intersection where they see their performance and where they see how much they feel they are living up to their potential.

Question 2: Where would you like to be on the Performance-Potential Matrix and ask them to draw another circle at that intersection.

Question 3: List 5 things that you feel you would need to do differently to help you move from where you see yourself today to where you want to be in the future.

Question 4: What timeline do you foresee it will take you to adopt those 5 things into your daily routine?

Question 5: What potential road-blocks do you envision that may inhibit you from achieving those milestones and what can I do to help you overcome them.

Ultimately, what you would want to get out of this exercise is to help your people visualize their own potential and help support them in their own pursuit of greatness in everything they do. If nurtured well, you will begin to see growth in your people you have never witnessed before, and that growth will translate into greater positivity, productivity, performance, and profit for the entire organization.

4 P’s of People Development

If you are a manager who is interested in knowing how to help facilitate growth in your people, then the 4 P’s of People Development is for you.

Taking a business from ordinary to extraordinary means understanding and embracing the difference between management and leadership. Management is largely about doing things right, such as ensuring all business systems and processes are in order. Leadership, on the other hand, is more about inspiring people to want to be the best versions of themselves so they can be actively engaged in the creative processes that help the business transcend far above performance expectations. In other words, where management might be about tasks, systems and processes, leadership is more about people.

Good managers have an excellent grasp of the tasks, systems and processes within the organization, as where great managers have an excellent grasp of perfectly blending being task oriented as well as being people oriented.

Interestingly, a 2011 study conducted by PDI Ninth House showed that even though leaders unanimously agree on the critical necessity of people development, as leaders climb the corporate ladder, their people development focus and skills tend to decline. What this shows is that many of our C-suite executives today likely spend more time being task, process, and systems oriented, their area of comfort, than being people development oriented.

In my work coaching senior level executives over the years, I’ve had many conversations about the necessary balance between being both task and people oriented. One consensus is that tasks, systems, and processes are quantifiable, and thus can be easily managed in spreadsheets and share-holder reports. On the other hand, people behaviour is more difficult to quantify, thus often taking a backseat in business management. For that reason, it’s likely that a company may prefer hiring managers who are biased toward being task, process, and systems oriented rather than being people oriented.

Even so, many of my senior managers do express a desire to be more people oriented, knowing all to well how valuable people development is, but simply don’t have the skill-set to be equally people oriented as they are task, process, and systems oriented, nor are their companies prepared yet to invest heavily in an area (their people) that cannot be justified using traditional ROI models.

As a result of this, many companies adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to developing their talent by simply offering a laundry list of trainings, often leaving employees to carving out their own development path. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review shared 7 Ways to Improve Employee Development Programs with driving manager support as the first point showing how critical the role of the manager is in driving the development of their people. However, Dr. Edie Goldberg from Goldberg and Associates says that managers today still have not fully realized the critical role they play in the development of their people simply because they, themselves, or so inundated with day to day tasks.

Leaving people to their own resources when carving out their development may work for some people who are independent learning, but not for others. An independent learner might interpret the freedom as autonomy, as where someone else who might need more direction may interpret that space as abandonment.

For every manager, being involved in their people’s learning and development is essential in retaining, building, and inspiring staff and should therefore not only be the purview of learning and development professionals. The effectiveness of a learning and development department is only as successful as the support from the manager.

Luckily, supporting staff in their development does not have to be too time consuming. With a little planning and a small investment in time and energy managers can build a strong development system within their departments that will not only support the effectiveness of the Learning and Development departments, but will also drive engagement and productivity to unprecedented heights.

To better help my executives manage the learning and development of their people, with or without the presence of a learning and development manager, I have developed the 4 P’s of People Development.

The 4 P’s of People Development is a 4-stage model that a manager can use for themselves, but also for each of their staff members to help guide them through their development from the day they start to the day they leave.

I would like to share this model with you today with the hope it may help you support the development of your people.

A serious challenge that many business managers struggle with is how to develop such a strong team.

The 4-Stage Strategy

The 4 P’s of People Development is a 4-stage strategy that will help you mould your team members into the self-reliant leaders you need them to be to ensure they are able to inspire greatness in each other and other staff members for years to come. The way to do this, is to develop different leadership and management styles for each level of the 4-stage model so it appeals to each one of your staff members as they develop. This is often referred to as “Situational-Leadership”,

Stage 1: Procedure-Based Management:

High Programming – No Autonomy

Starting at the bottom of this development ladder is “Procedure-Based Management”. Procedure-Based Management is suitable for employees with no experience or employees with experience by who might be new on your team.

Research shows that at this level, employees tend to be quite happy being told what to do and how to do it until they become comfortable with the procedures. A Stage 1 employees are 100% supervised, all of the time, until they demonstrate sufficient levels of mastery, after which greater levels of autonomy can be given.

With regards to people development, at this level, employees will more likely appreciate undergo mandatory training and learning as well as on-the-job guidance from a mentor.

Stage 1 employees often lack the experience, skills, or confidence to “figure things out” and too much autonomy could be perceived as a sign of abandonment. Instead, having a conversation with them about how they prefer to be managed through this first stage will help you develop a relationship of trust with this person. From there, they will need a lot of guidance being lead in the right direction of their development. The time and energy this takes is a very worthy investment as it create that foundation of trust necessary for their long-term growth and productivity.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for Stage 1 Employees to progress to Stage 2 (Productivity-Based) should be based on HOW they perform, and report, their daily duties. This level focuses on work quality not quantity.

Stage 2: Production-Based Management:

Moderate Programming – Minimal Autonomy

Moving up one level, a Stage 2 employee has mastered their daily functions and has now earned a minimal amount of autonomy. With this level employee, the leadership style shifts from a more authoritative, “do as I suggest”, to a more subtle, coaching approach: “show me what you can do”

This approach is more participative. For example, instead of just issuing instructions, you also explain the reasons behind the instructions and support them while they are performing these tasks.

To use this style successfully, communicate the reasons why your team must follow your instructions. For instance, explain rules, so that members of your team understand the reasons behind them. When they understand why certain rules or procedures are in place, they’re more likely to follow them. This in turn helps set very healthy boundaries so staff members will inherently know what behaviors are acceptable and which are not.

As your team is working, practice a leadership style called: Coaching Leadership by being present and accessible, so that you’re available to answer questions and provide them with advice and feedback when needed. This visibility and support will help you keep your staff on track and show them that you’re there when they need you.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for Stage 2 Employees to progress to Stage 3 (Performance) should not be based on how they perform their duties, but on WHAT they are doing on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. This stage focuses on quality work at a desired quantity.

Stage 3: Performance-Based Management:

Minimal Programming – Moderate Autonomy

Now that your team has proven to you that they can perform the quality work at the desired quantity, your business will already be performing at an acceptable level. A Stage-3 employee has mastered the previous levels and is showing a great deal of mastery in how he/she performs.

Once this level has been reached, leadership initiatives must be put into place to drive business performance levels beyond acceptable levels and transcend into exceptional levels. At this level, the focus of the Stage-3 employee must shift from their own personal performance and productivity and must move into a direction of team, or departmental, performance

A Stage-3 employee will be the perfect candidate to begin to function as a mentor, or role-model for future employees so he/she can begin to learn how to lead, manage, coach, and inspire future staff members, which will enable you to develop a steady talent development stream in the future.

The leadership style to achieve this is known as the “Democratic Leadership” style, where a moderate amount of autonomy is given to enable the team to develop initiatives, under consultation of the manager, to drive revenue and performance. Management activities such as, brain-storming and team-building are the types of initiatives that may be employed at this level. Rather than using language such as “This is how I want you to do it” (level 1), or “Show me what you’re doing” (level 2), the language is more around “what do you think you should do and what can I (the manager) do to help you achieve it”.

As your team is working on new initiatives that they are developing, practice democratic leadership by being involved in the project from a supportive, cheerleader aspect and begin to give more autonomy as they progress. Gradually, begin to wean them off of your presence by gradually removing yourself from the work-floor. At this level, your absence will likely be seen as a sign of trust from you and too much presence could be interpreted as a sign of mistrust.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for Stage-3 employees to progress to Stage-4 (Permission) should be based on team performance and not on personal productivity anymore.

Stage 4: Permission-Based Management:

No Programming – High Autonomy

The pinnacle of growth for every employee is Stage-4. At this level, your employee has become a true master of running your business and is fully engaged in all revenue building and creative activities.

This is your model employee that others look up to and is a perfect example of an excellent people leader, as well as manager. At this level, your Stage-4 employee is not only able to fully run your business without you being present, but is able to build and manage multiple teams as your General Manager and knows everything there is to know to build a successful empire on your behalf.

The leadership style required for a Stage-4 Maturity employee is known as consensus (permission), or Laissez-Faire where all autonomy is given to the employee. A Stage-4 employee with complete autonomy will tell you how he/she is running your business and will gladly take full responsibility for your company or business unit’s performance.

Key Performance Indicators at this level are slightly different. The Stage-4 employee will gladly develop his or her own KPI’s for the business for your staff, and for him/herself leaving you with plenty of opportunity to work on the vision of your business rather than constantly be engulfed within the processes that make up your business.

As a manager, if you ensure you can provide each of your people, no matter their job function, with the opportunities to grow and develop according to this model, you will begin to see a return of investment in employee retention, engagement, innovation, productivity, and yes, in your company’s bottom line.