We recently came across this very interesting 2014 paper by Richard Murphy and Felix Weinhardt, “Top of the class: the importance of ordinal rank”. Murphy and Weinhardt looked at the long-term impact of ordinal ranking in junior schools, finding marked correlation with later scholastic achievement. They concluded the most likely mechanism leading to this effect was the improvement in associated non-cognitive skills, such as the development of confidence.
Where this research becomes particularly interesting for us is the effect on adult workplace productivity and achievement in the context of staff appraisals. Classic staff appraisals often involve ranking against peers, sometimes within a smaller local team, sometimes against the organisation as a whole, or sometimes against other teams or geographies.
Murphy and Weinhardt posit that the increased confidence arising from a high ordinal ranking lowers the cost of effort, leading to increased productivity in the ranked tasks.
So, a team member who receives a high ordinal ranking receives a boost in non-cognitive skills, invests more time in the relevant tasks and becomes more skilled at them, becomes more productive, and has a headstart along the path to success.
What about a team member who receives a lower ordinal ranking?
Murphy and Weinhardt say: “To improve productivity it would be optimal for managers … to highlight an individual’s local rank position if that individual had a high local rank. If an individual is in a high-performing peer group and therefore may have a low local rank but a high global rank a manager should make the global rank more salient.
“For individuals who have low global and local ranks, managers should focus on absolute attainment, or focus on other tasks where the individual has higher ranks.”
Murphy and Weinhardt cite a study showing that the release of ranking information increases productivity as employees strive to achieve a high ranking; they suggest, however, that “This is explained by workers becoming concerned about their rank position, as the impact occurred after the feedback policy was announced but before the information was released.”
We find this a fascinating new perspective on staff appraisal. What do you think – should you tailor your team member’s feedback to emphasise their strengths, and would this increase productivity in your organisation?
This week wecontinue our leadership series with aninterviewwithPhil Cox. Phil currently holds Directorships at the Hunter Valley Training Company, the Lake Macquarie Foundation and the Honeysuckle Community Group. Prior to this, Phil was the Director of Hunter TAFE, where heused staff development to achieve significant cultural changein his organisation.We asked Phil to talk to us about this.
Phil Cox – achieving cultural change through leadership development
Phil told us that when he was appointed as Institute Director (a position equivalent to CEO at an institution with around 60,000 enrolments), he found a workplace culture which suited the previous incumbent but did not suit his personal leadership style. He found the culture rather hierarchical, where successors were identified more on their seniority than through a structured succession plan. He also found senior people in roles that he felt they were not best suited to, so he commenced the change process using restructuring. While some people chose to move on, others found a new and more appropriate role within the organisation.
Phil’s next step was to create a Developing Leaders Program, with the focus placed firmly on emerging leaders, rather than the existing leadership team. A consultant was brought in to help develop the program and to collect extensive data on the participants. Phil emphasised that the support and involvement of the Deputy Institute Director was integral to the ongoing success of the program.
It was a full-year program, run over 5 years, with up to 45 participants a year. While some program elements will sound familiar, others will not:
The program commenced with a process of research, assessment of current leadership culture and staff consultation to identify 10 leadership effectiveness behaviours.
The program was open to everyone. All staff were encouraged to apply, whether they were permanent or temporary, full-time or part-time; and from all levels of the organisation.
Phil launched the program personally, using emails, podcasts and visits to most of the 15 campuses to promote it.
Applications were assessed against the 10-point behaviour plan, which ensured the focus was on potential rather than past achievement.
Despite his demanding role, Phil personally interviewed all short listed applicants and devoted 3 days, 3 times a year to the program. He was involved in both the initial interview and in robust follow-up discussions on the participants’ development plans, ideas and innovation.
Tools including the Birkman Method and Leadership Effectiveness Analysis 360 degree evaluations were used, and repeated during the year to assess progress.
Development Action Plans were established for each participant in consultation with the consultant. All participants discussed these Action Plans withthe Executive Strategy Group – comprising the CEO, the CEO of a partner institution and a member of the Institute’s Advisory Committee, ensuring an external focus on the interests of clients.
The consultant was available as a ‘help line’ for participants and discussed emerging issues with Phil regularly. The consultant also provided 1:1 coaching to all participants.
Participants were given projects to undertake which allowed them to experience new roles and experiment with new ideas.
Participants were also given opportunities to act in other positions, based on their career Action Plans rather than on seniority, and were supported in these roles.
Clearly, this was a program designed to implement major cultural change, with the CEO at the centre of the experience.
We asked about the outcomes. Phil said that the majority of the participants are now in leadership roles, either within the organisation or elsewhere. People who wanted a career change were encouraged to try new roles. Phil gave the examples of a part-time security guard who now works in a specialist support role; and two IT technical specialists, one of whom moved into marketing and the other into a faculty leadership role in Tourism and Hospitality.
The participants were highly motivated and were empowered to become change agents. Phil said he saw positive changes every week, as the desired new behaviours were increasingly adopted throughout the Institute.
The final benefit was for Phil, himself. Phil told us he found the enthusiasm of the participants infectious. For Phil, the program was exciting and motivating and it was very clear that this Leadership Program was one of the most rewarding aspects of his work at Hunter TAFE.
Recently I met up with a senior colleague who is a truly exceptional manager: great at leading, great at delegating and outstanding at bringing out the best in their staff.
Speaking with someone with such highly developed skills reminded me of the importance of delegating well. You can see that this is an issue we have written about frequently before, including in our series on effective delegation.
Our discussion came around to the messages you are sending when you don’t delegate. The first is that you simply don’t trust your staff to do their jobs.
My colleague gave the interesting example of a second level manager intervening unnecessarily between their direct report – the first level manager – and the first level manager’s own team. When senior managers do this, they tell both the first level manager and the team that they don’t trust the first level manager to do the job well. What a terrible message to send!
The second message you send by not delegating, is that you don’t think your staff are worth the investment of your time. To delegate effectively means supporting people as they learn to do their jobs, helping them grow as technical staff, managers and leaders. This takes time – delegating isn’t only about lightening your own workload. You need to dedicate the time, and be prepared for the fact that, in the early stages, delegating will actually slow down workflow and increase your workload. The payoff comes later in the form of a skilled, motivated team.
As well as sending messages about your staff, you also send messages about yourself. When you do the work of the people who report to you, you are saying that you can’t manage them and their performance effectively. If you are in a management role, you need to be a manager.
The fourth message you send about yourself is potentially the most destructive to your career. You are saying that you are not comfortable working at your own level but only at the level of your reports.
If you send this message, your own manager has every right to wonder why you have been promoted to management when you are not working at that level.
An executive coach can help you work on strategies for good delegation. In the meantime, you will find some suggestions to explore in our posts on scaffolding and helping your team rise to the challenge.
My husband has been an avid cyclist since his childhood. He remembers sitting in the Scout Hall in the late 60’s to watch 8 millimetre movies on the Tour and the Giro that the “lucky old hands” had shot during their trips to Europe – by sea (which also tells you how old he is!). He never thought that he would be fortunate enough to go and see these races live, nor that cycling would become such a followed sport in Australia (he used to get teased about his shaved legs…often), or that we would end up having a Tour de France winner or our very our own cycling team. And of course he never thought he would marry an Italian who knows nothing about cycling.
So last Sunday, when he organised to go and watch the Orica GreenEdge Movie “All For One” with his cycling group I could not refuse, also because I am an incredibly supporting wife – most of the time that is …
The amazing thing was that not only did I enjoy the movie, I also found some great reminders on how to build and maintain successful teams – so here they are – apologies to all of those cycling enthusiasts in advance as this is more a focus on team building and the things that I found inspiring than on cycling itself.
Allow people to be themselves, have fun … and celebrate being human
One of the things Orica GreenEdge did was start shooting small videos that they would then upload on YouTube called “Backstage Pass“. In these not only did they advertise their team, they also showed the riders as people and how they could have an amazing fun time despite the pressure and fatigue. The “human” side comes out often in the interviews and how their “humanity” has helped them through the tough times as well as the successes. These videos allow us a glimpse exactly into that, which of course includes disappointments, frustrations and …successes. If you haven’t seen the videos go and take a look because even for non-cyclists like myself they are great fun. So how do we allow individuals to express themselves and shine through adversity? Adding fun and allowing people to be themselves seems like a good start.
Invest in your “Talent” and believe in them as individuals…
The best interviews throughout the movie are with someone who looks like a little kid. His name is Esteban Chavez, he is from Colombia and his story is amazing. When he was contacted by Orica GreenEdge he had had a life changing accident that had left him in a coma and subsequently nerve damage to his shoulder that was not healing. The team saw the potential in him, had him join the team and invested in him, until he proved himself with an astounding 2nd stage victory at the Vuelta de Espana in 2015. The interviews with him and his parents are the most touching throughout the movie. When you believe in the Talent of your team members amazing things happen, and what happened to Mathew Hayman another member of the team is perhaps even more incredible. Cycling is a sport for people who like pain, or at least that can deal with pain over long periods of time. Paris-Roubaix is one of those classics that show you the pain even when you are watching it from home. Mathew Hayman (37 years old and team support rider) had ridden in it 15 times before. Six weeks before the 2016 edition he broke his arm in another race. Six weeks later he won this race, the toughest race on the cycling calendar – despite all odds (including the fact that he had been dropped during it which in this race means you can’t catch up). So believe in all of your team because in times such as this, hard work and determination breed success, especially against the odds, even team members that have always been “supporters” (or “domestiques” to use a cycling term) and may be close to the end of their career. And what a difference doe their success make to the rest of your team!
Share successes…at a higher and deeper level
We all talk about sharing success – however, what Simon Gerrans did in the 2013 Tour de France gives it an even deeper meaning. Simon was the lead man – team captain – for the Orica GreenEdge team and in 2013 he, along with the team won the time trial and consequently the Yellow Jersey as leader of the Tour de France. Again, I do not know much about cycling but even I know that it is a BIG deal. The attention is all on you – you feel like you are on top of the world and everyone thinks you are. Cyclists that get the Yellow Jersey try and keep it for as long as they can, even though they know they may not win the Tour. So what did Simon do? He walks in the tour bus after this exhilarating experience and tells his team mate Daryl Impey “tomorrow you get to win the Yellow Jersey”. And that is exactly what happened. They worked to make sure that the next day Impey was the one in Yellow. This takes the sharing of success to a much deeper lever – it means allowing your team mates to have their own victories even when you could be the victorious one. Personally I have not had the opportunity to experience this type of generosity often – but I can just imagine what this can feel like both for the giver as well as the receiver and the type of emotions this would create in the team. This is taking celebrating success to an all-new level.
All of these things created a truly inspiring team that achieved unbelievable goals, permitted individuals to shine by believing in them and at the same time allowed them to be themselves while having a good time. Now, who wouldn’t want to be part of this team?