Dairy Excel: Encourage top employee performance

Imagine working at a job where you were never encouraged, the work environment was negative and you hated what you were doing. I’ve experienced this and I can tell you it is not fun.

This work environment creates a lot of negatives, including turnover, poor attitudes and poor performance.

So, how do you get high performance out of people? An “old school” approach might be to beat it out of them in a reign of terror. Maybe you know of a business that when the owner or corporate management visits, everyone is so afraid something will not be right, they know heads will roll. It is difficult to encourage top performance when people are walking around scared.

Building the best. Another approach to maximizing employee performance is through more enlightened leadership. Here are seven essential steps to encouraging and rewarding people to achieve top performance.

Set clear standards and goals. It is important to establish behaviors you desire and set the appropriate goals to be rewarded.

Expect the best. If standards and expectations are set high, yet achievable, people will strive to meet those expectations. If you set expectations low, people will meet the level of performance, too. As a leader, it’s your choice.

Pay attention. It’s easy to catch people doing things wrong, but it’s more important to catch people doing things right and reward them for it – immediately! A simple “Thank you for…” or “You did a nice job on…” is all it takes. People want attention and like being told exactly what they are doing well.

Make your rewards meaningful to each individual receiving them.

Personalize the recognition and rewards. What motivates a teenage employee and what motivates a Baby Boomer are not the same. Different things are important to different people, and that changes as we move through life.

Make your rewards meaningful to each individual receiving them.

How do you know what motivates your employees? Ask them.

Tell the story of success. Communicate good examples by turning them into good stories. Share these stories with other employees and your off-farm friends. People enjoy hearing good stories about themselves.

Celebrate. With all the demands of a farm, it is easy to put this off until later, but publicly rewarding and recognizing employees can be a great way to encourage top performance. Host pizza ordered in, or lunch or dinner at a local restaurant and invite agri-service folks in to hear you boast about your employees.

Celebrate even small team successes or goal accomplishments in some way.

Set the example. Walk the talk. Make recognition part of your job, don’t delegate it to someone else.

Or worse, don’t just assume people know their efforts are appreciated.

If you’re positive, upbeat and appreciative others will be also.

Managing people isn’t easy, but the good news is that most people don’t expect perfection from their manager.

If you are not doing all seven steps, don’t think you need to start doing them all this afternoon. Start by making a conscious effort to focus and work on just one or two of them. I think you will find that it will make a positive difference.

If you are following most or all of the seven steps, congratulations and keep up the good work.

(Adapted from an article by David Grusenmeyer, senior extension associate, Cornell University).

(The author is an agricultural extension agent in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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