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Business Performance- 99 Percent Vs. 99 Percent Plus

Early in my career, I was assigned to work with an outside business consultant hired by my employer to reduce the work force and labor costs.  After about one year, the consultant evaluated my performance and told me if I wanted to reach my goal to be a refinery plant manager, I Had to raise my performance from 90 percent to 99 percent plus.  I thought that was un-realistic.  Afterall, I had graduated from one of the best engineering schools in the US with a 3.2 GPA which put me in the upper 10 percent of my class.  Later in my career as a refinery plant manager I realized the consultant was right.  My corporate boss expected 99 percent plus every time.

Business performance is different for an individual business professional or a manager of a business profit center unit.  Business professional performance is similar to what we all learned in college.  Early on in each course you identified your professor’s priorities, goals and expectations for you as measured by tests.  You then focused your time, attention, energy and capability on meeting those expectations.  Likewise, as a business professional, you should identify your manager’s priorities, goals, and expectations for you as measured by the manager’s subjective assessment of your performance.  If your manager doesn’t schedule a priorities, goals and expectations meeting with you early on, request one.  After the meeting, make a written list of the priorities, goals and expectations you discussed and agreed upon and refer to it as needed over time.  Repeat the process at least annually.

The difference between 90% performance and 99 % plus performance is in the assignment details.  To reach 99% plus, you must be at 99% plus in all important details of the assignment.  That takes great focus and dedication.

When you become a manager of a profit center business unit, you are judged both on your personal performance and on the performance of your business unit.  Your personal performance is limited by what one person can accomplish in one day. However, if you have 50 plus subordinates and manage them well, you can multiply your personal performance by 50 plus times.

Have a priorities, goals and expectations session with your manager as discussed previously.  First, choose your subordinates carefully whether from inside the company or from outside hires. However, remember there are no perfect candidates or workers.  All humans have strengths and weaknesses.  Your job as a manager is to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses by the assignments you give them.  Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and choose subordinates whose strengths offset your weaknesses.  When you choose a new subordinate, have a priorities, goals and expectations session with them as discussed previously.

When you give a subordinate an assignment, state your expected outcome clearly including completion deadline.  If the subordinate is experienced, don’t tell them how to perform the assignment.  The freedom to choose how to perform the assignment is a powerful motivator and source of satisfaction when the assignment is completed.  However, if you have information about the assignment the subordinate doesn’t have, tell them.  If the subordinate is inexperienced, coach them on how to perform the assignment.  Monitor the subordinate’s progress on the assignment but don’t intervene if progress meets your expectation.  If not, intervene.  Identify the problem and coach the subordinate back on course.  If you don’t monitor progress, your subordinate will assume it’s not a priority and it will never get done.  Some of your subordinates won’t be capable of 99% plus performance.  You, as manager will have to make up the difference.

Expect loyalty from your subordinates but realize loyalty is a two-way process.  Give them your loyalty when they need it.  Likewise, be loyal to your manager.  It’s your job to cover your manager’s back side and make them look good in all situations.


Realize that a business’ customers and share holders are the ultimate expectation setters for the business.  Managers pass those expectations through to their employees.

Ralph Coker

Bio:  Ralph Coker is a retired petroleum refinery plant manager.  He writes on business, economic military and political topics