Is It Performance or Behavior?

I’m always amazed when the last puzzle piece falls into place.  Ah ha, the satisfaction. 30+ years in business and navigating now 40 employees and yet very excited about this puzzle piece that fell into place recently.

I’m a student of Patrick Lencioni since around 2012 (a book review on that to come later). I have methodically worked to implement his concepts in our business because they make sense to me.  He advocates an approach to the mission, vision, values that connects with me. So, around 2014 we created our core values based on his approach. In 2017, the latest iteration of our core values was rolled out. 

Both Lencioni and Greg Crabtree and other HR professionals alike, suggest that all personnel documents should tie into those core values.  We haven’t yet reached that state. I’ve been struggling on the exact specifics of what that looked like. It just hadn’t all come together yet. 

Currently, we have one discipline system.  Verbal, written, termination. Standard 3 strikes system. Any and all issues use this one system.  We’ve used it. Its worked OK. There’s been sometimes where it just kinda felt like it fell short. But I couldn’t tell you why specifically.

While our current system and process was working, I knew there was something that was incomplete.  I had worked hard to get our HR systems to grow from the mom and pop atmosphere to one of standard processes.  We have departmental managers in place working on developing their teams. Yet, at the heart, there was still some subjective decisions, ineffective hiring, and incomplete employee development.  

In July we transitioned away from our previous PEO to our new one, Insperity. Insperity brings a more established HR approach and systems to our business.  And low and behold, there it was right in front of my face.

The HR system should include two processes.  One for conduct issues and one for job performance issues.   AH HA! The missing piece.

Let me break it down.

Is It Performance or Behavior?

Behavior problems are usually within the employee’s control, e.g., when an employee is chronically late, tells off-color jokes or spreads hurtful gossip. Other examples of unacceptable behavior include: not following rules or procedures, being untruthful, failing to follow instructions and so on.  Core values most generally align with behaviors and attitudes.  

Performance problems are different from behavior problems because they are not always within the employee’s control. Performance problems, such as poor productivity, usually occur due to a lack of training, awareness or understanding about requirements, and so on.

Ok — so more specifically.  These two types of employee problems require two different methods to address and hopefully correct.

Behavior problems are classified as misconduct and a company can tie their established core values into the behavior category.  Thus effectively giving a means to gauge an employee based on how well an employee aligns to the company culture. Addressing behavior problems, aka misconduct, uses a counseling approach.  The progressive employee discipline –the standard 3 strikes process.

Performance problems however should not use a 3 strikes process but rather a results based metric about achieving the desired performance on a consistent basis. The purpose of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is to define areas of concern, reiterate performance expectations, and to allow you the opportunity to demonstrate improvement and commitment. The strategies, actions or tasks to achieve the performance expectations should be clear, realistic and measurable.  

Are you seeing the unique differences between these two employee issues taking shape? Let me know show one other huge difference.

Unemployment benefits.

Qualifying for unemployment benefits is different based on these two distinctions as well.

If termination was strictly for performance reasons and no behavior problems were involved, unemployment benefits most likely will be approved. Performing to the best of one’s ability but not having the necessary skills or experiences for success in the position is an allowable reason for unemployment.  

On the other hand, behavior problems, aka misconduct, are a reason for denying unemployment.  

Management accountability.

I can now see using this to better hold the correct teams accountable for our turnover metrics. Tracking trends in order to improve employee engagement and reduce turnover.  Understanding these two components of a successful employee will ultimately help in choosing employees who will achieve and succeed in your business.

It all makes so much sense and seems so simple now.  How did I miss this last piece of the puzzle? It just goes to show that we don’t know what we don’t know and there’s always more to learn.  Heck, this probably isn’t actually the last piece – but it definitely is a completion of sorts — like finding all the edge pieces.

Keep following your curiosities, keep asking questions, keep implementing new ideas.

Achieving is a balancing act  

If you are struggling making progress on your goals, ask if you tend to focus on one — learning or doing — rather than both.  Do you drift easier towards one side of the scale verses the other? The the side you tip to is your procrastination zone.


The Learner:

Too much learning and not enough doing means you aren’t applying what you’re learning and you aren’t working on the tasks that will get you where you want to go. You instead are avoiding. Put down the book, cancel that seminar.  Now go make that phone call, design that prototype, write that press release, crunch those numbers. Put into practice what you’ve been learning. Try. If this is hard then you are dealing with our old friend fear. Fear that you will look silly or mess up or not do it perfect, or worst still… FAIL. Lower your expectations of perfection and try anyway. As you DO that self-talk of self-doubt will start to change to self-confidence. Trust yourself to use the skills you’ve been learning. Psych yourself up. You can DO it! Go forth and get something DONE.

The Doer:

Too much doing and not enough learning means you might be spinning your wheels and not getting where you really want to go. Allow yourself to see the big picture and formulate a road map. As you stop and reflect, you will realize there are questions you have and those questions are scary. How will you ever find the answers. Doing for the sake of doing is another way to avoid what you don’t know. No need to be embarrassed. There are no stupid questions. Start by writing down the questions that arise while you are still and quiet and NOT DOING. Just write them all down. No judgement. Now refer back to your road map. One of those questions will stir more stress than another. Focus on that one first. Now google that question. Read, research, LEARN. Make notes. Keep reading and seeking until you feel good about what you have learned. Until you realize your question is answered. This answered question will most likely create more questions and that is the idea. Keep on keeping on.

The Summation:

Learners don’t get going and Doers don’t know where they’re going.

The Fix:

Doers — allow yourself pauses and time to reflect.
Learners — allow yourself a chance to get something done.

Get out of the comfort zone you tend to hang out in and find that balance of learning and doing.  Results will not be far behind. 

Balance is allowing time and space to be both a learner and a doer. We need to have both to reach our destinations. We must learn the things we don’t know; and, yet, do the what needs to get done.

Only then can we call ourselves Achievers!