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How to encourage sustainable excellence. #27: 2011

Posted in on a + note by Admin on August 15, 2011

I have been wondering how to keep staff working at their best, or if you prefer, how to encourage sustainable excellence. It is an interesting dilemma for any supervisor, but in library land, I think it is particularly crucial. As 99% of library workers interact with the public at one point or another, anything short of excellence is simply unacceptable. How do we encourage sustainable excellence? Is it by setting the bar so low anyone can attain it? Is it making performance goals so generic anyone can succeed? Obviously not, but understanding what supports excellent performance over time is a good place to start. Interestingly, a practical definition of “sustainable performance excellence” is tricky. As a supervisor, you need to clearly understand:

  1. What is the desired performance goal?
  2. How can employees consistently stay at this level?
  3. How can you measure the desired performance?

Often, we rationalize a performance challenge and the factors that lead to less-than-desired results by explaining to the boss that:

  • The program failed, so we created another one.
  • The technology didn’t work, so we recommend changing the software.  
  • The service was not instantly popular, so we recommend cancelling it.
  • The staff members don’t agree with the policy/procedure, so they ignore it.

It makes more sense to specify the performance you want, both in terms of results and how those results can be achieved by the employee. This includes considering the employee’s:

  • Ability. Does the employee have the skills necessary to perform at this level?
  • Mindset. Does the employee have the motivation and confidence to succeed?
  • Passion.  Does the employee have a desire to excel?

The employee’s ability, mindset, and passion are important, but great performance over the long haul also requires opportunity. Building on the employee’s ability, mindset, and passion, successful supervisors responsibly create the opportunities for employees to excel. Opportunity is the fourth piece of the sustainable performance puzzle. You can’t excel if you don’t have the opportunity to do so.

Kitty Pope                                                                                                     #24 July 2011                                                                                                                    kpope@library.guelph.on.ca

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