I am a new CEO who’s inherited a staff of mediocre performers. To succeed I’ve got to raise the bar, and I’d like to do it without having to fire people. Any suggestions?
As an incoming leader you’ll be invited to share your goals and expectations with the membership, the board, and the staff. Take every opportunity; most will need to hear them more than once. When you articulate your vision for the organization, include your standards for performance—for staff and yourself.
Your board almost certainly expects you to define your initial goals and goals for your first year. You are entitled to similar milestones from your direct reports. Negotiate goals with your senior team that directly support the annual business plan; then invite them to develop plans for themselves and their departments. They should include personal goals, the department’s goals, means of achieving them, timelines, and the indicators by which success will be measured.
Once you and your staff have agreed on plans, use them as guidelines for monthly or quarterly progress checks. Talking about what staff is expected to produce gives you room to reinforce the behavior you want to see and to coach staff where performance is weak. It will soon be evident who belongs on the team.
Document your meetings so you’ll have a record of performance against the agreed-upon plan. If you have to terminate someone, do it as soon as you recognize the need. One of the most frequent regret CEOs report is failure to act quickly with poor performers.
Published in Associations Now, January 2007