Meet the Speaker – Jeff Lindeman, WD-40

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Interview with Jeff Lindeman, HR Director EIMEA, The WD-40 Company

Before we get started, can you tell us a bit more about your personal journey in HR? How did you end up as the HR Director of EIMEA at The WD-40 Company?

My first full-time professional role was in the U.S. leading a sales team for a retail company.  In 2.5 years, we doubled the business, increased employee retention, improved employee attendance and raised productivity.  All of this was the result of treating employees professionally.  Not coincidentally, they performed professionally.  I thrived on getting business results through people and was fortunate enough that my employer, at that time, had a role in HR for a start-up venture.  I agreed to relocate to the new business in an HR generalist role.

I am selective about where I work, I will only work for an organization where there is a values alignment with my own.  The added bonus for me with the role here at the WD-40 Company is that I have HR responsibility for EIMEA (Europe, India, Middle East and Africa).  I appreciate the opportunity to gain international experience and develop a more global mindset by living and working outside of the USA.

The WD-40 Company is famous for being a place where people just love to work. What is it like for you to be part of the WD-40 Tribe? What is it about the company that appeals to you the most?

Every day at the WD40 Company, I am able to do interesting work with people I respect and admire.  Just as importantly, I am encouraged to make a difference in the work I do.  These things inspire me every day.  I try hard to remain worthy of being a member of the tribe alongside the impressive people we employ around the world.

Performance evaluation, in general, is not a glamorous topic, and certainly not a favourite for employers and employees alike. How do you see this changing in the future, if at all?

Effective performance management practices are the second most important value add to a business by the HR function, second only to hiring the right people.  Performance management, done effectively, is the way that an organization operationalizes its business strategy.  Shifting our focus away from evaluating those we lead and toward supporting the success of our people is the most important element in effective performance management.  Today, far too much time is spent in most companies at the end of a year trying to make sure we don’t award too many A ratings rather than applying ourselves throughout the entire year at helping everybody earn an A.

As a leader, what has been your personal experience in evaluating your team’s performance throughout your career?

First, there has to be alignment and shared accountability; I must be accountable for what my team members are accountable for.  When being transparent about accountability, ...even admitting when we personally fail to achieve a goal, our leadership credibility increases! Click To Tweet

Initially, when I launched this premise with my team, I had a giant whiteboard immediately outside of my office with all of my goals on the board.  All team members had visibility to the Board as they entered and exited the HR department.  Every team member could see that their goals were on the board as my goals. I was accountable for what they were accountable for.  If we missed a target for a quarter, my goal was graded as needs improvement on the board and in my evaluation, which was the same score the respective team member earned.

Ultimately, it became an „us” goal that inspired all to deliver our best.

What do you think are the most common reasons for failed performance management in an organization?

Failure to rigorously performance plan is a critical misstep.  Robust conversations at the beginning of a year as to what we will agree to and by when, detailing exactly what success looks like, are foundational to success.  One of the key characteristics of a high performing team is clarity of goal.  For instance, if growth is our goal, then we should all focus on that.  However, does growth mean increased revenue, gross margin, or EBITA?  If we are clear on exactly what we are committed to growing then the rest of the year becomes about conversations on, and collaboration about, how to achieve progress rather than grading the past results.  As leaders, we must realize our role is to inspire performance, behaving like the coach of a professional sports team on the sidelines calling out ideas for execution and cheering on success in real-time, rather than the owner who sits in the skybox and critiques each game once it’s over.

You will be presenting a case study in the Performance Management module at the HR Congress in Brussels. Could you give us a few examples as to the key takeaways for those who will be attending your session?

What might I do now to lower the audience’s expectations?  😉

At the moment, we are in the midst of closing out our fiscal year and getting ready to launch another ambitious new fiscal year at the WD-40 Company.  This means that, in EIMEA, we are all thinking about our learnings from the past year and applying them to performance plans and goals for the coming year.  Using a quick methodology for goal setting, at workshops of about 20-25 minutes in duration, WD-40 Company tribe members throughout EIMEA will develop goals for fiscal year 18 to propose to their leader.

This is the exercise that we’ll do at the HR Congress.  Simple rule number 3 in Helping People Win at Work:  it all starts with performance planning.

The HR Congress Team warmly welcomes Jeff to our Speaker Faculty, and looking forward to hearing his speech in the Performance Management module at 11:05 AM on 28 November 2017.

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