VisionLink Blog

June 21, 2018

To Improve Employee Performance, Focus on Line of Sight

Why is employee performance almost never at the level we think it should be?  In answering that question, most business leaders put the blame on their employees.  As a result, employee performance never improves--because the finger of responsibility is pointed in the wrong direction.  The fault lies with leadership, not with the individual members of the workforce.  Confused?  Ready to argue?  Let me explain.

Improved employee performance comes from improved line of sight.

Sometime in the near future, try this exercise.  Meet individually with 5-10 members of your workforce.  Draw one or two from senior leadership and the others from some combination of management and the rank and file.  Ask each person all of these questions, and write down their responses.

  • What is the vision of this organization? How do we want the company to be different in the future and how do we expect to grow?
  • What is the purpose of this business? Why do we exist?
  • What is the business model of this company? How do we drive and perpetuate revenue; and what will need to change or improve if we are going to fulfill our vision?
  • What is our business strategy? How do we compete in the marketplace with our business model; and how does it need to change or improve if we are going to fulfill our vision?
  • What is your role in the vision, purpose, business model and business strategy of the company? What is your strategic impact on each of those things?
  • What is expected of you in that role? For what outcomes do you have stewardship?
  • How are you rewarded for fulfilling those expectations? How does the company’s compensation plan ensure you share in the value you help create when you achieve the outcomes associated with your role?

After reading that list of questions, perhaps you feel a little nervous about performing this simple study.  You have probably already determined that your employees will have a hard time answering those questions, at least in any meaningful way.  You are likely also starting to figure out why your employees don’t perform at the level you expect—and that the problem may not lie with them.  It may actually lie with…well, let’s not worry about naming exactly who is at fault for perpetuating poor performance. 

PerformanceManagementReportCTA (3)

The level at which your people produce becomes diluted when the line of sight in your organization has become diluted.  Line of sight exists when employees can easily answer all of those questions—and when those answers are consistent from employee to employee.  They must also be consistent with what you want those answers to be. 

Stated another way, if your people are struggling to respond to that list of queries, then you have not yet achieved line of sight.  If so,  regardless of how or how much you pay them, they will not perform at a high level.  (Yes, a handful of people with a high work ethic will work hard regardless, but that is not the same things as performing.  Performing means the employee is producing an outcome you need him or her to produce—and doing so consistently.)

Why Line of Sight is the Key to Improved Employee Performance

So let’s talk about the line of sight components inherent in the survey questions just listed--and why they are key to helping your employees perform in an advanced way. 

Vision.  You will never get someone who works for you to improve their performance if they are not compelled by your vision.  And employees will never be enthusiastic about the future of your company unless you have placed them in that future.  You need to be able to paint a picture for them about why they are critical to what you are building and that it is not likely to be realized if they are not in the role they are in. 

Purpose. Once upon a time, people saw their jobs as just that—a place to work for an income.  No longer.  People want to be involved in something meaningful—where they are contributing to the achievement of something they consider important.  Sometimes the impact is grandiose and global but just as often, it something simple.  Purpose binds a culture together in a way that profit doesn’t.  But if profit is not just an end to itself, but is serving a higher aim, then employees are more likely to be its protectors and promoters.

Business Model.  Growth comes when a company is able to leverage its business model.  It has to do with knowing where there is room to accelerate virtuous cycles or create new ones.  Usually, this requires strategic leadership from individuals who feel motivated to see the company succeed on a  higher plane and have the skill set to make it happen.  Unfortunately, such players will find it difficult to muster the energy to do that if they are not compelled by the company’s vision and purpose.

Business Strategy.  People need clarity about strategic priorities.  They need to know whether it’s more important to finish a new product design or to get previous product improvements out the door and implemented.  They need to know if it is more important to pursue global opportunities or to leverage domestic ones.  People who don’t understand which priorities will have the biggest impact on growth have no idea what success looks like.  As a result, their performance suffers, but not because they don’t care about doing a good job.

Roles and Expectations.  Employees will never act fully accountability if they believe they are just filling a position.  Instead, they will simply focus on carrying out the “duties” of their job.  Accountability that leads to higher performance comes when individuals feel like that have role to fulfill.  If their role is clearly defined in terms of outcomes for which they are responsible, a sense of stewardship sets in—and high performance follows.  When people start “owning” the results their role exists to produce, then their performance will naturally and organically improve.

Financial Rewards.  Looked at in the context just presented, the compensation offer a company makes is the way it frames the financial partnership it wants to have with its employees.  It shows its people that leadership doesn’t just view them as workers.  It sees them as growth partners. When someone feels this sense of partnership in their work, they view themselves as responsible for value creation; and the pay they receive is considered sharing in the value they helped produce.  If they can then tie those rewards to the fulfillment of outcomes that leverage the business model and strategy of the company, thereby enabling it to better achieve its purpose, then pay becomes a motivator and performance improves.

 As a result, if you want to improve employee performance, focus on improving line of sight. 

Free Live Webinar What is Phantom Stock & Why Do I Keep Hearing About It? July  25, 2018 Register Now! Space is Limited!

Topics: high performance culture, employee performance, performance management, pay's impact on performance management

Blog Comments:

Leave a comment or question on this VisionLink blog topic!

Subscribe to our Blog

Search Blog

Recent Posts


"VisionLink has helped us successfully navigate a number of complex issues regarding our rewards programs. It has dealt with all facets of these varied issues with a high degree of competence, integrity, and straight forward advice. VisionLink's experienced team has consistently delivered first class results in a timely, professional manner and has become a valued Storm partner."

Thomas K. Grzywacz
Storm Industries, Inc.

"VisionLink has helped us successfully engineer a long-term incentive plan that has empowered our company to reward and retain key talent while increasing shareholder value. The knowledge, patience and deep experience of its team members helped us navigate a road that was unfamiliar to us. Ultimately, VisionLink designed a plan that met the high standards of both stockholders and key management employees. We have further engaged VisionLink to address our business succession and transition planning needs."

Reggie Dupre'
Dupre Logistics

"Over the past several years, National Technical Systems has engaged VisionLink to provide insight and direction on a number of executive compensation issues, as well as a performance evaluation of our 401(k) plan. Under its direction, NTS completely revamped executive level rewards to align with our business growth objectives and the strategic plan of the company. VisionLink's insight and direction have been invaluable. NTS has achieved its growth objectives and our executives feel appropriately rewarded for their performance."

Bill McGinnis
National Technical Systems

"VisionLink arrived on the scene just in time for us. We needed a new framework for our short-term and long-term incentive plans. VisionLink's modeling and forecasting process broadened our horizons and expanded our view of how to use a good incentive system to build, retain and strengthen our senior management team. We remain impressed by their expertise, professionalism and great service."

James Keng
Jimway, Inc.

"Our firm has had a long-term incentive plan for over eight years but we never quite felt like it was firing on all cylinders. We hired VisionLink to re-energize our plan, and they did it! We now have a cohesive awards strategy that's fair to shareholders and valued by our employees. VisionLink's team is technically skilled and very creative. We're happy to recommend VisionLink to firms looking to upgrade their management incentive programs."

John M
FTO Inc.

"Our company was like VisionLink's typical clients. We were great at sales and haphazard at how we compensated our people. VisionLink's process brings great clarity and confidence to our growth planning - and makes compensation a great growth capability."

Dan Sullivan
Strategic Coach ©

"The team at VisionLink helped our company structure a long-term incentive plan that parallels the company's strategy for continued growth as a global market leader within our industry. Their approach resulted in a program that our corporate team and executives embraced on both a professional and personal basis. Through VisionLink's guidance and execution, we were able to create both a motivational tool for current team members and a recruiting device to attract future executive level associates. Well done!"

Mark Rhoades
Fluidmaster, Inc.

"As a leading direct seller of scrapbook photo albums and supplies, Creative Memories has independent consultants across the country. And for over six years now, VisionLink has helped us to stay connected and administer a voluntary 409A non-qualified plan for them. VisionLink has provided support for all aspects of our plan from notification of eligibility through registration and distribution. The VisionLink support team has offered suggestions for improving processes and provided us with outstanding service year after year."

Guy Walker
Creative Memories North America