Willis Langford,HR Director at Avnet & Author

Willis Langford, HR Director at Avnet & Author
With 25 years of robust experience in Human Resources, Willis Langford is a seasoned professional specializing in leadership programs and cultivating the potential of emerging leaders. Renowned for his expertise in Talent Engagement, Organization Development, and Strategic Planning, he spearheaded HR at Avnet India for 23 years, earning accolades for innovative employee engagement and well-being practices.
Currently serving as the Director of Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Avnet in the Americas, Willis is also an accomplished author with his motivational book, “SPECTRUMS OF LIFE, 100 ways to become ‘eggstraordinary’!” As a leadership coach and learning architect, he has conducted numerous engaging sessions for frontline leaders, contributing to their personal and professional growth. Recognized as one of the ‘Top Indian CHROs to Follow’ on LinkedIn in 2020 and honored with the ‘Global HR Excellence Award’ in 2019, Willis continues to share his insights through various platforms and was acknowledged by White Page International and Forbes as one of ‘India’s 50 Best HR Leaders’ in 2021.Beyond his professional achievements. Willis enjoys coaching leaders and youth, occasionally playing the acoustic guitar, and sharing articles on life skills and career advancement. His warm and enthusiastic approach reflects his positive outlook each day.

In this Interview, Mr. Langford shares his take on current Performance Management practices:

How do you handle situations where employees consistently fail to meet their performance goals, and what support do you offer to help them improve?

a) It is important to be that safety lanyard wherein the employee believes that the Manager is watching them perform
from close quarters and are present just in case they fail or falter along the way. This very thought will help the employee to improve.
b) Persist by explaining the bigger picture. Showing the employee not just their part but also the entire project. By doing this, the employee gets to know how important their job is and also they get to understand the impact that their job has on the overall job, task or project.
c) Help them identify and support their purpose. Help them to connect the dots. This will help them in their personal life and in their career as well.
d) When employees consistently fall short of their goals, a personalized approach is needed. This means that, like in Marslow’s Hierarchy Needs theory, the physiological needs need to be taken care of before any other needs. Sometimes performances dip just because of ego clashes at work and not due to ignorance of the job at hand.
e) Listening with intent and not listening to respond, can help. Open and transparent conversations to understand challenges may be followed by the manager to identify reasons for below-par performances.
f) Lastly, providing additional training or resources can help the situation further.
The key is being there for the employee either by a mentor, coach or just there as a human being can have positive ripple effects on their performances.

How do you balance the need for formal performance assessments with informal, day-to-day feedback and coaching?

There’s nothing wrong in having assessments completed but I always say that periodic check-ins, purposeful feedback and timely recognition can help their performances. Let’s start with
Feedback needs to satisfy three characteristics namely:
Specific – Feedback given should be for a specific task.
Timely – Feedback has to be shared immediately after the event without any delay.
Balanced – Feedback needs to address first what went well and then also include what can be done better.
Coaching needs to be adopted because in coaching an emotional bond develops. Helping the employee find the right answers just by pointing them in the right direction is so important because the self-esteem of the employee is maintained and they feel that they are working on their own steam to better their performances.

According to you, what role does feedback play in managing performance failure, and how do you provide constructive feedback that helps employees improve their performance?

Feedback is to be given in two parts always. The first part being on what went well and the second part on what could be done better. So in times of failure it is all the more important to address the developmental part of the experience by helping with feedback that is constructive.
Giving constructive feedback is a delicate exercise and caution. Were to be exercised while doing so to avoid any clashes of ego between the parties.
Here are a few key steps while providing constructive feedback:
a. Practice unconditional listening.
b. Have regular check-ins and open conversations. This will reduce the issue from snow-balling into a gig problem.
c. Ask coaching types of questions that can help the performance discussion.
d. Encourage stretch goals
e. Be empathetic during performance management discussions and support the well-being of the team member.

What are the strategies you implement to keep track of employees’ performances on a continuous basis?

This is a very common aspect in performance management. Every performance needs to be tracked with timely feedback given to employees. Hence it is very important that the manager conveys the right feedback too. At the same time, the team member should also accurately understand what is expected of them. The best way to keep track of the employee’s progress is to keep them motivated. I find that ongoing discussions, timely feedback, appropriate rewards and recognition can be a great way to motivate employees to stay on track with their performances. I also applied the CPF method where we all know about the ‘critical performance factors’ that need to be fulfilled by the employee. But I also want to share my version of CPF, where C stands for Competency, which means that the employee has to demonstrate the respective competencies pertaining to their job. This will help the manager to identify that the job is being fulfilled and the right competencies, skills and behaviors are being used to achieve the goals.
P stands for proficiency and this means competence. This is a reality check on whether the relevant competencies are demonstrated well. What level are they at? Whether it is a high or low proficiency, etc that is being demonstrated or that is required for the task at hand.
Lastly, F stands for Frequency. This is a check on how often the employee use their competencies for effective strategies in Performance Management.