Technology Reinventing Performance Management – JoAnn Corley [Interview]
About JoAnn Corley
Joann Corley is the founder of Manage Global. She has a rich experience of 22 years, in helping employees learn to be effective in a measurable way. She helps mold leaders in such a way that they bring a positive impact in all aspects of a business. A well-renowned keynote speaker, and an author at Daily Telegraph, and HuffPost.
We have the pleasure of welcoming JoAnn Corley today to our interview series. I’m Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. Let’s begin with just a quick intro of PeopleHum – peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Welcome, JoAnn. We’re thrilled to have you.
Thank you. It’s awesome and an honor to be with you today.
It’s our pleasure, JoAnn. So moving on to the first question I had for you.
You had quite a journey in this particular field. Can you tell us a little bit about your interesting work as a leadership coach?
Sure, this is such a fun interview because it talks about all my experience. So, it’s gonna tell you, everybody, how old I am, but that’s okay. It’s been an interesting journey because I’ve been able to work with leaders literally, all over the globe. And I found some key themes that are true of most leaders. And that is they have a hard time connecting practical human behavior to getting better business outcomes. So I call it people acumen.
“It’s been an interesting journey because I’ve been able to work with leaders literally, all over the globe. And I found some key themes that are true of most leaders. And that is they have a hard time connecting practical human behavior to getting better business outcomes. So I call it people acumen.”
So sometimes they end up becoming their own worst enemy because they work against themselves because of this lack of knowledge. So my goal is to help them connect the people to the process of the profits so that they can make a better leadership impact, provide more value, and to do that in a very practical and pragmatic way so that they could even measure the financial impact of their leadership because not every leader is effective and sometimes they don’t know their organization well enough. They’re blindsided and they have blind spots, and that’s usually around people and people management.
That’s a great answer. And when we talk about business results and financial rewards within an organization, it’s mostly as a result of a more engaged team.
And how would you go about measuring the benefit? And what sort of for direct ascribable benefit should an organization expect when implementing programs for employee engagement?
Well, that’s a twofold question about measuring and benefits. So, I see measuring from a very practical way. In fact, I wrote an executive briefing called ‘Show Me the Money,’ which actually is a description of fundamentally how to measure, because that’s another challenge. You know, the phrase, ‘you can’t measure soft skills?’ Well, yeah, you can if you know how and some simple areas of measurement are something like time and their ability to get time productivity, their ability to contribute and their impact, what I like to call ripple effect and retention. That’s just four measurements right there and then literally, you could measure those.
“Well, yeah, you can if you know how and some simple areas of measurement are something like time and their ability to get time productivity, their ability to contribute and their impact, what I like to call ripple effect and retention. That’s just four measurements right there and then literally, you could measure those.”
For example, if you boosted employee productivity by one hour per team member, imagine how much money that would be in a year. So I call that overall measurement. R.O.C, Which is returned on compensation because every dollar is an investment in getting something as a return in your business.
So as it relates to employee engagement, I see employee engagement as an applied focus that is productive to get a required outcome. And I honestly think, sometimes we complicate that. I mean, it’s not mysterious. And if you have employees that are connected to their work, they’re focused. They know they’re contributing outcomes. They’re gonna feel higher levels of work, satisfaction. And what is that gonna do? It is gonna increase retention.
So that’s a benefit. So they’re more satisfied. You get to retain folks and anything that’s a benefit on that level, which we call the intangibles. Feeling good, doing good work can also be measured by money and finances. It’s all a ripple effect. The human quotient is all a ripple effect into Does it make your company more profitable and it doesn’t help a company get the outcomes.
So I see every aspect of who we are holistically as a human resource. Our minds, our hearts, our spirits are willing to apply and give our talent. That is the human resource and all those things contribute financially to outcomes. We tied the human resource to a job description. We, partner, to get results that everybody feels good about, companies are profitable, the stock values are good. And then it’s as Covey says, a win-win for everybody.
Yeah, that’s a great answer. And also, I was watching a few videos of your speeches that you were very keen on explaining about creativity and how important innovation is, for the growth of it. So, any enterprise is only as good as how innovative they are.
So how would you go about an organization gives, say a slot for all employees called The thinking slot, where employees can think about. So how do you think organizations should go about giving them time to think and be creative for the good if it?
Yeah, it’s really interesting cause I wrote about it in one of my blog posts, ‘11 reasons why every company should have a creativity workshop at least once a year.’ And one of the things that’s interesting is that most people don’t. I would say a lot of people, don’t understand what creativity is.
So, for example, I did my creativity workshop across North America for several years, and my first question is, How many of you believe that you’re creative? Would you believe that the majority of people in the room, gently speaking, did not raise their hand except for when I was in Seattle and everybody was there from Microsoft. But so here’s what’s interesting there is a misunderstanding about creativity and leaders think that innovation is something separate. Well, it’s not. Creativity is an act of the brain, and it’s not for the arts. It is the way the brain works to slove problem is the way the brain works to imagine, and you have to imagine something new to get something new.
“But so here’s what’s interesting there is a misunderstanding about creativity and leaders think that innovation is something separate. Well, it’s not. Creativity is an act of the brain, and it’s not for the arts. It is the way the brain works to slove problem is the way the brain works to imagine, and you have to imagine something new to get something new.”
So in order to be able to do that, you have to have spaces and places in the workplace for people to take a break. It’s very difficult to become creative under stress, negative stress. Places to activate their imagination, you know, I help some companies even set up will areas for paper and crayons and things to play with and becoming childlike because it really activates the imagination. And companies really need just set up places for people to take a break and daydream.
Daydreaming is positive. You could be daydreaming and just tell your boss I’m working because it’s all about letting your brain rest and being able to activate your imagination to evoke your conscious of your subconscious mind to problem solve. And taking in new information, sleeping on it, and that activates new ideas. We call it ideation. So it is an integral part.
In fact, I wrote it, I think for ASTD some years ago, an article on Innovation and employee engagement is the power couple, because if you’re innovating, you’re very engaged. Your heart, your mind, your spirit is very connected to creating something to get an outcome, and so creativity is and innovation is directly related to employee engagement, even easier management and better problem solving and agility.
“Innovation and employee engagement is the power couple, because if you’re innovating, you’re very engaged. Your heart, your mind, your spirit is very connected to creating something to get an outcome, and so creativity is and innovation is directly related to employee engagement, even easier management and better problem solving and agility.”
You know, responding more, being more responsive to the marketplace, it’s all tied together. If leaders understand that, allow it. And the champion, that’s really the goal.
And now that’s a challenge. A lot of leaders don’t believe they’re creative. They don’t understand it. So, and one more comment on that several years ago, IBM Institute for Leadership surveyed leaders. I think it was 1500 leaders about what they believe is the next new leadership competency. Believe it or not, it was being creative.
Yeah, so it is that running theme that people believe should be in place, but it may not practically know how to execute it and to make it a reality in their businesses.
Yeah, I think that is the important part we miss out. We know that we need creativity but how to implement it on a large scale or even on the small scale, with small organizations, we miss out on that place, right?
Yeah, And one more point about that, too, is that it also makes it much easier for diversity and inclusion. Because, in fact, the more diverse a group is, the more creative they will be. Yeah, the more diverse a group is, the better generation of ideas or diverse ideas that are going to help a company grow and meet the needs of the marketplace. So it really diversity, creativity and innovation and growth go hand in hand.
Yeah, that’s a wonderful answer.
And What is your opinion on? I mean, how do effective managers get in sync on the reasons for pursuing a goal? And what is the best way to do it?
Well, this is a great question, and that really reflects the need for effective executive leadership. And in my area of focus, I helped leaders become effective. And the key to that is time strategy to time, time strategy to communication.
I can tell you the number of management workshops I’ve conducted throughout the years, and the first thing I ask is what is your number one challenge? Almost every answer every time is communication, and I go, What does that mean to you? out of the loop. My leadership is ABC, always be communicating, over-communicate, just when you think you’ve communicated. Some communicate more because people don’t always hear things right away.
So circling back to your question of effective executive communication it is. We have a strategy and we have outcomes. Every manager is tied to that, and they know that. And they also know what their other colleagues are tied to. So it becomes a collaborative effort in a collaborative sense of group accountability.
So in my executive leadership model is three-tier leadership. It’s not managing, and it’s really based on a theme of Peter Drucker. It’s not managing from the top. It’s leading executive leadership throughout. If you’re not leading throughout, if not every person in your organization is very clear. What you intend, what the plan is as an executive leader. Then there’s gonna be drips in your organization where talent and money and communication are going to drip out of your organization called Seeping.
“If you’re not leading throughout, if not every person in your organization is very clear. What you intend, what the plan is as an executive leader. Then there’s gonna be drips in your organization where talent and money and communication are going to drip out of your organization called Seeping.”
That’s also where executive blind spots occur and where executives get blindsided because they’re not leading throughout, they’re only leading from the top. So every manager needs to understand their role and their team’s role is exactly what needs to happen and how they fit into the big puzzle of successful outcomes.
Now that’s the theory behind it. Practically, I’ve done that for my clients through a blueprint. I have an effective executive management blueprint where literally it is a dashboard of things to ask to make sure all managers are on track, and every manager has that blueprint, and every manager functions from it.
So the sinking becomes not only knowing what their expected outcomes are, where they fit in the big picture puzzle, but also everybody’s functioning and using the same road map to get from point A to point B. So the sinking is in the methodology and in the theory and also in the pragmatic practical approach. How are we going to drive to the new destination?
People just love this blueprint because anything visual, by the way, is helpful for busy people, it’s just they can know where was I? will just look at my blueprint or, if you want to do weekly update with your managers. Okay, So where are we on this? Where are we in this? And they see a blueprint right there and they can see the numbers, they can see Key people indicators. And how’re the people? How’s morale? Have you paused for the cause? Are you taking a break to celebrate and to show appreciation?
That’s all built into the blueprint so that everybody can keep operations working in the same rhythm and in the same format to get the best outcomes.
Yeah, that’s a wonderful answer and there is a lot of information in that one answer alone. And we were talking about leadership and communication so we can’t go without talking about performance management.
So how do you think performance management has evolved over the years? And how do you think the future of performance management is going to be?
This is one of my almost pet peeve subjects I gotta say because it’s interesting to see how it has evolved. It’s gone from what I called natural to almost overly invasive. That was really a little bit of an introduction into two things. In my view, it was the introduction of technology and software. It was also the kind of management that started rating people. For example, Jack Welch was very popular for rating people, ABC. So when you started rating employee performance that started going down.
Initially, I think, a useful way of assessing. Okay, where is my employee performance? But honestly, I think it’s gone way off the deep end because when you start rating people based on things that are not tangible. When you start rating people on things that are perception versus a tangible outcome, you can say in sales, Hey, did you get X Y Z goal? an easy rating. Hey, you’re not being nice enough. You’re not communicating enough. You’re not being a team player enough. Well, that’s perception.
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And then the manager has to say what area they need to improve, and how they need to improve it. A lot of managers, we’re not keen on human behavior insights. They don’t know how to describe the person on how to improve. So I think it’s really you know, it’s heartbreaking when an employee thinks they’re doing good. And the manager thinks they’re doing terrible.
And I was at a speaking at Sherman Vent several years ago and Marcus Buckingham talked about how perception misperceptions are really undermining performance management. So we’ve gone from not just more natural, and this is my era was. I worked for two Inc 500 companies. One was number one on the Inc 500 list. There was no such thing as former performance Management.
You may have had a chat with your Boss and got a raise, but it wasn’t like it is today. And then we moved into once a year performance appraisals. Many companies did, and then you tell people all the things they did good or bad over a year ago. Well, how useful is that when they can’t change it and the raise is based on it.
So I think in our community we have sort of like been there, done that with performance management, the less productive form. There have been many companies where I was the MC for a talent management group. We did. It was all the CTOs, chief talent officers for several companies around the country, and there were very innovative approaches to talent performance management that were more what I call now organic.
And that’s what I advocate with my clients is organic performance management. It’s embedded, It’s natural, it’s informal and then you may have some software that can help support that point of where is it now. I think it’s gonna come back to the middle. Here’s what I think. I think that once people understand, it’s gonna go down two paths.
One path is going to be totally tech-driven where the technology drives it without the people using the technology, understanding the underlying human behavior principles. And then there’ll be a group and to the good of technology. Technology helps to create habits and rhythms of effective management and effective performance management. So I see the value of technology in that it’s not an end in and of itself. It is a tool to create behaviors that get better outcomes.
Then there’s gonna be the path of I’m not using technology at all. I’m just gonna do purely organic management. Go back to the old school and I think there’s a happy medium. I think there is value in technology. However, We should not be enslaved to technology. Technology should not run us. We should run technology. It should serve out outcomes, not be the outcome.
“We should not be enslaved to technology. Technology should not run us. We should run technology. It should serve out outcomes, not be the outcome.”
So I think there is a happy medium. I’m up for organic, natural, Let’s have a conversation. I’m trying to get out of consulting, speak, trying to get out of management speak. I’m trying to talk like a normal human being, and we just have conversations and we all work together to get results, and we contract that. And we could measure that in constructive, positive ways and enable talent to grow as the company grows. And that’s the happy middle.
Yeah, So talking about performance management, I have a favorite question that I like to ask, All the gurus that I meet one on one because I get a lot of different opinions on that particular question.
And the question is, how much recognition is too much recognition? I mean, how can you draw the line where you recognize and just prevent your employees from underperforming?
Yeah, so this is a great situation where managers need to know their staff because, in the work that I do and most folks in our field, we talk about personality differences, and that’s our thing. And there are people who like different kinds of recognition. Some like it publicly. Some don’t. and in fact, I wrote a blog post that really differentiates a difference between recognition, appreciation, acknowledgment. There are differences there.
So it’s a really worthy post to look at because it is more than just recognition. It’s about trust, connection, rewards, which is different than recognition. For example, one of the recommendations I made in the post is to survey your team, even do it on a dollar amount 0 to $25, 25 to 100 big-ticket items. What matters to you, If you were going to get some sort of reward and when one of my clients did that, you know what the number one on 0 to 25 was? The time of becoming late.
So they got to earn, like these coming late cards, which is really fun, or get off early cards because those were intangible, valuable things that really managed them. So when you survey a team and get intrinsic motivators, things that really matter to them, that’s very different than employee of the month. Or you win tickets to a theater, which was, you know, that’s not that bad either.
That Inc 500 company that I worked for that was number one. Our boss just had a massage therapist come in one day and just say we’ve been working really hard. We’re working on some deadlines. He said, Okay, everybody gets a 15-minute massage. Shoulder neck. How cool is that
So I think it’s more about understanding each individual person on your team, serving them, and then seeing what matters most. Hey send me a Starbucks card at any time. I love Starbucks. You know that the little things that matter, And by the way, I think recognition is about little things.
There is actually a really cool story. So I used to do these creativity day camps for leaders and one of the segments is about Employee motivation, employee recognition. So one of the people in my class was from a very small town. She had zero budget for any kind of special stuff for her team. So in the spirit of creativity and thinking outside the box, so to speak. So she was sitting on her front porch one day and she was looking out at her driveway and she saw these rocks in her driveway.
She thought, You know, my team. They really rock. So she gathered up some rocks. And she took some posted notes before her team came in on every desk, She took a posted note, took a rock, set up something specific about their contribution and then said You rock. And that took zero money.
And yet you know what? I have never forgotten that story and I think I heard it 20 years ago, and I guarantee you, the employees have never forgotten it either because it was really not so much about the reward. It was about the heart behind the acknowledgment in the recognition.
Yeah, I think It’s a lot about personalizing the recognition and doing it for your employees. Like the story you just said. It’s the same as your primary school teacher who gave you chocolates on the last day of school. It’s about the motivation and the push that we get, Hey! You’re doing good. So that is an amusing story.
And to that point, there’s still a little kid and so each one of us. That’s why people love the creativity workshops. They get to play. I mean, can I get a star on my paper, you know? Yeah, some kind of happy face Gonna get a sticker. I know it sounds elementary, but sometimes we can surprise ourselves with the simplest, heartfelt things that can go miles to connect, impact, build, trust, respect, and really honor our humanness and our humanity.
That’s wonderful. And you’re like, we can shift our focus to a different area right now. And with the increase in the millennial workforce, we have the gig economy gaining a lot of momentum. So we have the gig workers for all sorts of jobs. Like right from the lowermost jobs, too. Well, the white-collar jobs, we have people in a contract.
So how do you think this is going to fit in the organizational setup that they have right now? And there is an inevitable financial crisis coming up. So do you think the gig economy is here to stay?
I absolutely think that the gig economy is here to stay. Because in executive leadership, the one thing we function on a lot is uncertainty. Yeah, and so uncertainty drives decision making. And by the way, under uncertainty is really the underlying emotion is fear. So and with this uncertain economy, fear of spending. I call it FOS, Fear Of Spending, which creates fog in terms of fear, obligation, guilt in terms of what? How you make decisions? So yes, to gig economy is here to stay. So what does that mean for company cultures? Because what it calls for actually is better effective? Is effective leadership and management. And this is a little nuance, because sometimes executive leaders think that executive leadership is executive leadership only. They don’t understand that it’s executive leadership and management. That, and that goes back to Drucker’s leading throughout. You gotta know at every tier of your company what’s going on.
“So yes, to gig economy is here to stay. So what does that mean for company cultures? Because what it calls for actually is better effective? Is effective leadership and management. And this is a little nuance, because sometimes executive leaders think that executive leadership is executive leadership only. They don’t understand that it’s executive leadership and management. That, and that goes back to Drucker’s leading throughout. You gotta know at every tier of your company what’s going on.”
So in executive management, the definition of managers to handle a direct with the degree of skill. You gotta handle the business by knowing how to connect and build trust. Because trust is really the core element, it is the thread of every activity and business’s trust. You have to thread and create a fabric within your company, no matter how smaller, large, the fabric of trust and respect, no matter the title or responsibility or employees status and it’s gonna be so seamless, and that fabric has got to be so brilliantly and tightly woven, that from one to the next, you can’t tell whether it’s a gig worker or whether that’s a permanent employee.
That is a reflection of the kind of culture or kind of relation interaction, a collaboration that is built really by each manager and each team. But it’s driven by and led by and demonstrated by the executive leadership. So typically in a larger organization, the breakdown is from senior leadership to middle leader middle management to what I call Extended Management Team, which is second or third-tier management. That’s usually where the breakdown occurs.
So effective leadership at the senior team level is making sure that every tier, a manager is effective and building and they’re affecting the threading, their effective at building the fabric of their team to be. We use the word engaged and also I want to use the word connected, not individually engaged and collectively connected are the two elements could you have.
You could have a very engaged individual, but not necessarily have an engaged team or a connected team. And if a team was dysfunctional, that’s going to impact individual engagement. So you gotta have a manager that has the capabilities that have the knowledge and know-how to thread and build a beautifully woven fabric of a team that feels collective responsibility, collective accountability to each other, which is going to heighten the individual and team engagement.
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And you’re gonna increase retention, regardless of whether that person is a gig, employee or not. Now, you know, if you’ve got folks that are remote, which is now more than ever, please know the principles of connecting a team are the same. The skills of a manager to do that other saying You just have to use technology as one of the tools to be able to achieve that same outcome.
I mean, certainly, it’s not gonna be, us sitting on the couch having a chat, but it’s going to still be somewhat reasonably possible for technology to connect people, for people to feel good. I mean, if you’re an uber driver and you get a text from your team manager, Hey have a great day today. You got any problems? Make sure to text me right away. I’ve got your back. I mean, come on, just a simple text like that on a regular basis. A phone call? Hey, how was your day? Just wouldn’t leave a voicemail message. I’m thinking about you. I know, It’s weird out there. You maybe don’t have as many rider ships today. But hang in there, buddy. It’s the human touch that is gonna make a difference in this economy.
That’s a wonderful answer. I think it’s about the heart when a lot of humans are involved. These were all amazing answers JoAnn and thank you so much for that.
And just to kind of wrap up the interview, if you have any important soundbites that you would like to leave our audience?
You know my heart is that well, it’s really about the heart. But here’s the thing. When I do leadership training. I actually physically have a chart of human being, and I say now it’s your goal to get to process your goal strategy through this person to get these business outcomes, and every single thing about this outcome has to do with the human experience that they have with you and your management team to get the outcomes, their human experience because it’s going to impact their behaviors, what we say, what we do is what is what’s gonna produce the result. So usually an executive leader will say, Hey, we’re not meeting goals from not doing this. What is our process? What kind of policies do we need to change? The first I would recommend is look at the people. It’s the human experience that’s gonna produce what you want first. Because the people drive the process, the people will implement the policies and its people power that creates profit power. And really, that’s where we need to start.
“So usually an executive leader will say, Hey, we’re not meeting goals from not doing this. What is our process? What kind of policies do we need to change? The first I would recommend is look at the people. It’s the human experience that’s gonna produce what you want first. Because the people drive the process, the people will implement the policies and its people power that creates profit power. And really, that’s where we need to start.”
And that’s where the people acumen in executive leadership needs to really be bolstered so that we can then say, OK, practically what does this mean and how we can actually improve the business so that everybody feels good about it? Let’s all work together, and it’s about mind, heart and spirit, and physical health that actually produces the outcomes for a company.
That’s wonderful. You speak a lot about human emotions and how human we should be at work and everywhere. That’s beautiful. I mean that’s what the world needs right now in this crisis and all of it. So thank you so much for that. And I had a wonderful experience talking with you. You know, the past 30-35 minutes has been truly enriching for me. fast.
So I’m very sure our audience is going to love this interview also. Thank you so much for that. I mean, we have so much to talk about. I think we should definitely have a second part to this interview. So thank you so much for your time and have a healthy and safe, safe time ahead of you.
Thank you so much Sumitha.
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