Helping People Win At Work

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, still remembers the first time he heard Ken Blanchard talk about how as a college professor he would hand out the final exam on the first day of class and then he would teach everybody the answers throughout the course of the year.

It made Ridge ask himself, “Why don’t we do that in business?”

Ridge turned the idea over in his mind and eventually partnered up with Blanchard to write the 2009 best-selling business book, Helping People Win at Work: A Business Philosophy Called “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A”

In addition to writing about the subject, Ridge put the concepts into practice. Similar to what Ken Blanchard had done as a college professor, Ridge set out to do the same with the employees at his company, WD-40. He would give each employee a copy of the final exam at the beginning of the year—in the form of annual goals—and then have managers and supervisors partner with their employees to help them get an “A”

As Ridge explains, “In most organizations, after goals are set, managers file the goals away and don’t think much about the people’s performance until they realize they have to do their annual performance reviews. The only other time they think about their people’s performance is when something goes wrong. These managers tend to manage by exception. When a red flag goes up, they go to work and start managing.”

At WD-40 Company, the agreed-on final exam is just the beginning. Now comes the key step: the leader has to keep up his or her end of the partnership relationship on a day-to-day basis, by helping in coaching and supporting the individual to get an “A.”

Leaders and direct reports get together to analyze the employee’s development level on each of his or her goals and determines the leadership style that is a match. This process helps employees ask for the help they need from their managers as they move toward their “A” in each of their agreed-upon goal areas. It provides the basis for the day-to-day coaching of team members.

“You’ll hear people say, ‘I think I’m getting an “A” here, but I think I’m getting a “B” here.’ And then we want to talk about the B’s. We will ask, ‘What is getting in the way of you doing great work? Is it something within the company? Do we need to get some help? Are things just crappy out there? Do we need to adjust a little bit?’

“And so we have these check-in meetings four times a year. And there are no surprises. You know exactly where you are.”

What’s the focus of performance management in your organization? 

Setting goals and monitoring progress is only part of the story.  Helping people achieve their goals is where the action is really at. 

To learn more about Garry Ridge’s approach to performance management, be sure to check out a complimentary webinar Ridge is conducting on February 17 titled 3 Keys to Effective Performance Management.

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