Leaders would inspire higher performance if they would spend less time evaluating others and more time crafting the checklists that identify the ingredients or steps necessary for performance success.
When carefully constructed, checklists help to establish the standards necessary for high performance and communicate them in a succinct and practical format. For leaders, a great checklist is a timesaver that allows others to know what is critically important with just a glance. Pound-for-pound, checklists are unequaled as a leadership device for improving performance. Yet, most leaders don’t create or use them.
Perhaps, something so obvious and easy is suspicious to experienced leaders. Or, maybe they believe checklists will be used mechanically as a check-the-box approach by those who receive them. Valid concerns. While checklists can get in the way of in-depth feedback conversations, in the hands of exceptional leaders, checklists offer a unique way of having others internalize their own feedback.
Once a quality checklist exists, clever leaders ask team members to grade themselves against the steps or attributes defining high performance. Because the standards don’t change very often, the checklist promotes an ongoing self-evaluation of how team members are doing.
When followed by a conversation with the leader exploring how team members graded themselves, checklists align leaders and their reports quickly, noting exactly where more work needs to be done.
Through self-evaluation using a checklist, team members define their own path forward and often come prepared to discuss the action steps they have designed to improve their performance. After team members judge themselves against a solid checklist, a leader’s job is more a matter of emphasis than it is a debate about why performance is lackluster.
The time is ripe to create checklists for performance. Once established, a leader can offer some simple instructions: “Here’s the checklist. Go grade yourself and then we’ll talk.”
Would anyone be willing to provide an example of this kind of checklist?