Double Play – Effective Leadership and Performance Optimization, Part 1: Getting Your Team to Own Their Performance

Jan 13, 2011

When things wind down past mid-season in baseball, separating the teams in the pennant race from other teams is not a difficult task. It seems year after year the same teams are vying for the top and showing strong performances, as many others are struggling to remain competitive.

With hopes long gone of any chance of a winning season, what happens to the team’s morale? How frustrating for the owners who spend millions on key talent, for team managers who spend countless hours coaching, and for players who have given the game their heart and soul. Do they continue with a great attitude, knowing their ultimate goal will not be achieved, or do they accept the situation and go through the motions of playing out another average season of effort and performance?

The real question is what do the successful team managers do that give them more wins consistently while many managers struggle to keep their teams alive with mediocre results year after year? Can’t we ask the same of our industry? Why do some offices see recruiting performance success and enjoy strong growth and profitability on a consistent basis year after year while others just struggle to survive in any economy? Like a professional baseball team that can never get the right formula to consistently be in the pennant race in the middle of the season let alone the end of the season — the problem ultimately lies in ownership and accountability.

Who owns the responsibility for performance in your office? Is it you, the owner? Is it your team manager? Is it time for a change-up? How is performance measured? Are you positioned for a perfect game or to get shut out?

Recruitment performance is not measured just in the size of an office or solely in the number of annual placements made. Bigger is not always better. Many owners have taken small teams and built them into large ones, only to scale them down again due to the lack of performance and profitability. Recruiting performance is based specifically on the ‘batting average,’ or efficiency, of the individuals within a recruiting office. There are many ways to measure this, but the simple way is to use a simple metric called PDA (Per Desk Average). PDA is determined by taking the total annual revenue and dividing it by the number of producers. (Producers are the individuals who are involved in revenue production, those doing business development, recruiting/sourcing or research). Like a major league hitter who bats over .300, a $300,000 PDA ranks in the top 10% of our industry. In baseball, a batter averaging .100 may see limited time in the majors, however the $100K PDA is considered to be on the low end of recruitment performance.

So how do we hit a grand slam? The answer is simple — increase our PDA. What’s the game plan to score a winning season? Get everyone to be personally responsible, accountable, and committed to their individual performance and a strategy to helping them attain their own goals and objectives.

Easier said than done, however. Optimizing performance is tied directly to accountability, and that leads us back to who is managing the team.

Who in your office truly owns recruiting performance and is accountable for it on a monthly basis? If you are having a bad month and your team leaves the office at 5pm on the dot while you are still at your desk making calls — who is responsible? The answer is you. As an owner or manager, “you” are the one who owns performance. Are you tired of being the relief pitcher month after month? Wouldn’t it be nice if the line-up was changed?

What if your key players, the producers in your office, had complete accountability and commitment to achieving their individual and team performance goals on a monthly basis — with or without your help? It is no easy task to get an individual to accept personal accountability and commitment to hitting their own performance goals consistently. A strong team manager can often use the stats to enhance skills and encourage an increase in production, but the team themselves still ultimately drive performance.

It is leadership that makes a difference. Leaders instill owner- ship in the employees and get them committed to achieving their goals and objectives. Leaders are not focused on man- aging; they set minimum levels of expectations and establish performance goals based on the individual’s own goals and objectives.

Determine the Base Line — Setting Minimum Levels of Expectation

To initiate this transformation, it starts from the beginning with an employee. Prior to any individual joining your organization, it is critical that you know the key metrics for your organization and industry and set the minimum levels for performance based on what will yield the desired results for the year. This is very important because your expectations for your players may be different than others. These must be shared with all potential new employees in advance with the understanding that the mini- mum levels of performance are a key expectation of the job and must be met.

Results- and Activity- Based Minimum Levels of Expectation

Results expectations are the minimum performance outcomes expected on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. These often include the number of placements and the total dollars billed. A leader shares with their employees minimum expectations because that is the minimum amount an employee is expected to produce to remain a profitable part of the organization. And profitability is the key. Offices can no longer afford to have unproductive players in the dugout.

A conversation may sound like this, “In our organization, we set a minimum level of performance in the number of placements per month. We do this because we need to remain a viable business and we know what it takes for our office to be profitable. Every individual has a cost and is responsible for covering that cost in production. At our organization that means that you need to commit to producing a minimum of one placement a month after your initial 90 days. We under- stand that is below your person- al goal that you have set however this is the number that will pay for your cost as an employee. If you choose not to perform at that level, you are choosing not to be part of our team.”

Activity expectations are the minimum activities needed to achieve the desired results. These would include everything from send outs to quality candidates to presentations to the number of calls made on a daily and weekly basis. Since activities lead to results, leading and man- aging by the activities is the single most important management duty in recruiting.

Activities are the key ingredient to success in recruiting. If you do the right activities and you do enough of them, your chances of success increase exponentially. In order to establish the mini- mum activity levels, an office must have a system in place for tracking metrics and ratios for performance. You have to know how many presentations it takes to get a send out, how many send outs it takes to get a placement, and so on. Ultimately these will be based on the individual skills of your players, but in establishing minimum levels, you must use your office averages.

Your conversation with a new employee may be, “We expect you to make 80 calls per day. 80 calls per day will lead to 15 candidate presentations a day which will lead to three quality candidates to be submitted to our clients on a daily basis. If you do not hit 80 calls per day, we don’t achieve 15 presentations and will not have three quality candidates. If you choose not to make the 80 calls per day, the bottom line is that you are choosing not to achieve your three quality candidates per day.”

By using the statement “If you choose not to…” It creates a clear understanding that the employee is responsible and has a choice in their success or failure in the business. They have choices to make every day. They can make good choices, they can choose to plan, they can choose to make the calls or they can make bad choices and fall short of achieving their goals. It is important that the employee fully understands the batting order and who owns their personal performance.

RBI’s — Setting Personal Goals and Team Goals

Often, individuals and teams struggle to get behind a winning game plan because they don’t feel it is theirs. It is a random number that management assigns and says “play ball!” People do not go to work to achieve the goals of the organization or to create wealth for the owner, they go to work to achieve their own personal goals. If an employee sees value from the organization in helping them to achieve their goals, they typically stay and perform. When they stop seeing value, they leave. The more an employer can help the employee to achieve their personal objectives, no matter what they are, the more value they bring to the employee.

Personal Goals

It is so important to completely understand an employee’s personal goals. This could include career goals, financial goals, “thing” goals, and other personal objectives. The more that you know, the more you can help them achieve their life dreams. By helping them to achieve their dreams, you will get more performance and ownership from each of them. Using an annual Personal Scorecard for each employee will give you the opportunity to get to know what is important to them. Have them share it with you and discuss what it will take based on their batting average to make it hap- pen. Business goals can then be correlated to personal goals and when they are connected… It’s a Home Run! For a copy of a Personal Scorecard form go to and go to the library section.

Team Goals

A winning season involves more than knowing the stats for the players and individual goals. It is just as important to set team goals. Again, this can not be a management directive. It has to involve the team. The exciting thing about team-created goals is that they tend to be theirs, meaning they get behind each other and work as a team to achieve the desired result. If the team is committed to a goal, they are often self-managing. Like a veteran who takes it upon himself to talk to a rookie about the right way to behave on and off the field, the team itself addresses and manages poor performance. And if a player is not performing up to his expectations, the other players step in to eliminate the shortcoming.

It is no secret why some teams consistently outperform others year after year. Isn’t it time you started playing hardball in creating a winning culture in personal ownership and performance? As a leader it is your responsibility to develop commitment and accountability in your team. Determine acceptable PDA numbers, set minimum levels of expectations in performance, and correlate business goals to personal and team goals. You will see your batting averages hit record highs and you may even move your team to the major league.

Coming next week – Part 2: Effective Leadership & Performance Optimization — Developing a Culture of Performance.

this article is from the September 2010 print Fordyce Letter. To subscribe and receive a monthly print issue, please go to our Subscription Services page.

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