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Values can make or break your team, business or organisation.

How aligned are the values in your team/business or organisation?

Values, Team Values, Performance, Teamwork,

Often when we are managing teams, work groups, businesses or organisations we notice that things are not happening as we want them to.  The first thing that we should do is check that our expectations are realistic, sometimes the bar can be set so high that it is unattainable.  The second thing people do is to ensure that their instructions or guidance is clear and understood.  Where people get stuck is when the expectations are realistic AND the instructions and guidance are clear/understood.  What else could be causing the issues?  Aside from individual performance issues that I have covered within a separate blog there is one area that people often overlook.  That area is people’s values.

What have peoples values got to do with it you ask?  Simply put, our values are at the core of our behaviour and if the values of your people are out of line with yours, then dysfunctional performance can arise.  This can take the form of:

  • Performance spikes and troughs.
  • Surprise results and feedback.
  • Disagreement between colleagues.
  • Paralysis of the team or business
  • Poor sickness records
  • Dissatisfied customers or clients.
  • Under performance.

What can be done?

First of all, it is necessary to identify if there are any differences in business/team/corporate values between you and your people.  The Corporate Values Audit can help you with this.

The instructions are simple:

  1. Ask yourself what is important to you about the team, business or company?  This will give you your values.  If you have written more than five, just pick the top five that you feel are the most important to you.
  2. Ask one or two others within the team, business or company that same question and write down their top five.
  3. Compare and contrast.

When you see where the differences are, it is then necessary to investigate how these differences have arisen.  Alternatively, get in touch with us and we can deliver a Team/Business/Organisational Values Alignment Program.  This will identify not only how the differences have arisen but working with individuals we will help match their values to yours.  As well as this we will also make recommendations on how to ensure the values do not diverge in future.

When we have worked with you, you can rest assured that dysfunctional performance as a result of misaligned values will be a thing of the past.

Contact us today to ensure success for your team, business or organisation!


Deal with underperformance.

Over the years I was a supervisor and manager in a large public sector organisation I observed ( and may well have been guilty of ), failure to deal with underperformance.  However, I can also confidently state that I have successfully dealt with individuals that have not delivered or failed to comply with direction.

Underperformance can mean many things, tardiness, untidy appearance, failure to meet deadlines, delivering poor quality service, the list of potential issues is vast and I cannot cover them all in this blog.  Needless to say, I know you get the idea.

What happens if you fail to deal with underperformance?

There are many reasons that you must deal with people that are not performing, below are two very pertinent examples:

  • Firstly, it undermines your authority as a manager in the eyes of your peers and your own boss.  “How can we expect X to manage a department or team when they cannot manage individual Y?”  The fact that you are having difficulty in managing an individual’s performance when everything else is running smoothly in your area of business can provide a distorted view of your ability as a manager.  You may know it is just one individual that you are having difficulty with, but this may not be the view of others!
  • Secondly, the other members of the team that work with the underperformer will lose faith in you whilst resentment builds against the individual that is underperforming.  This resentment is caused by the fact that those that are working hard and are meeting or exceeding expectations can see the individual doing less work, performing less well, or just plain being lazy, is getting away with it.

As can bee seen, if you do not deal with underperformance it can not only undermine your authority in both the eyes of your peers or your supervisor, but it can lead to loss of faith in you by your people.  The latter can also lead to others feeling that they can underperform, after all why should they work hard when others fail to do so?  In essence, if you do not deal with underperformance, can spread like an infection.

How to deal with underperformance

In my experience, the best way to deal with underperformance is by being both firm and fair.  It is essential that you are firm with the issue at hand as this will send a message to the individual concerned as well as those around you.  It is also critical for various reasons that you ensure you are fair.  Following internal organisational policy and complying with relevant legislation ensure no legal or paralegal challenges can be made to your actions but it is equally important to be fair for the sake of the future working relationship!

I have dealt with individuals both formally and informally for work related performance issues and on all occasions have maintained a professional but cordial working relationship after the matter has been dealt with.

This successful management of underperformance issues is as a result of ensuring the individual is dealt with fairly.  I cannot stress this enough.  If you deal with underperformance in a fair manner then you are less likely to create further problems for yourself and organisation.

This topic also gives me the opportunity to reintroduce values based leadership, as how you deal with the matter at hand may have a wealth of options associated with it.  Using the most appropriate method of dealing with the matter will involve making a decision.  You can read further about the values based leadership and associated decision making model here.

Decision Making

Sometimes it can be useful to discuss the issue and your proposed outcome with any staff association that you may be dealing with.  This, of course, must be done confidentially and anonymously.  The benefits of this discussion are that you can be forearmed with any views that the staff association have on the subject and this may assist you in deciding which course of action to take.

Once you have selected the method with which you will deal with the issue you must then bite the bullet and speak with the individual concerned.  I would never ambush an individual that you are managing for underperformance, this is unfair and immediately could lead to the individual becoming very defensive and entrenched.  Be open! Let the person know why they are coming to see you and even let them know it is OK to bring a friend if they want to.  Remember, if you have already consulted the staff association you will know their position.

When you meet up, I have always found it beneficial to follow a standard format after introductions (where needed):

  1. Explain the area of underperformance and set the context (is it repeat behaviour)
  2. Explain why it is unacceptable.
  3. Provide the evidence.
  4. Investigate causes (after all there may be welfare issues that you were unaware of)
  5. Propose course of action (which may be modified as information at 4 may lead you to change your view)
  6. Set review date.

The course of action could be selected from internal disciplinary procedures or may be of an informal nature, but the critical aspect of the decision you take is that you do the right thing based on your organisation’s values.

Sometimes you are dealing with repeat offenders and on other occasions you are dealing with people that have perhaps failed to meet standards for the first time.  For this latter group it is especially important that you set the context of the matter.  It is vital that the individual knows what they have done is not acceptable but it is also equally important that they know that you appreciate all of the times that they have met or even exceeded expectations.  It is this acknowledgement that allows people to accept that they have had to meet with you.  The individual will know that whilst normally they perform extremely well, on this occasion they have failed to meet the required standards.  This is a key factor in maintaining a good working relationship.

A common result of dealing with underperformance is the development plan and I shall discuss these in depth in a future blog post.  But for now, remember that the development plan has to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed.  It is also important to remember that you and the organisation have a responsibility to help the individual succeed and not sabotage them.  Any development plan should also include how you are going to help the individual succeed.  Herriot Watt University have a useful pdf file explaining how to write a SMART action plan.  This can be viewed HERE.

If you follow the above as a suggested model for dealing with underperformance then you should be able to improve performance, increase confidence and maintain good working relationships with all.

Performance Works can provide training and coaching in many areas of leadership.  If you wish to view our training capability then please view it here.




Performance management fails the very people it was supposed to help.

Having just watched the Channel 4 evening news, I felt compelled to stand on the old soap box and once again plead for leaders and managers to listen to what is happening around them.  It is alleged that a dysfunctional performance management culture led to victims of rape being persuaded to not proceed with cases.

This is the second time within a month that there have been damming reports on performance culture within the public sector.  Please do not think I am ignorant enough to know that unhealthy performance cultures don’t exist in the private sector, but they do not make the headlines as often.

Deborah Glass, Deputy Chair, IPCC stated on TV that “…it was a sorry indictment of the impact of the performance culture, you know, can have upon the way people carry out their… their… duties”.

The above is very much a mirror of the findings of the report into the Midstaffs NHS trust.  Performance targets being met at the expense of the people the organisations were meant to help.

My views were clear then, and are clear now.  If you have a performance measure then it must be a measure that does not drive dysfunctional performance.  There is a need to measure, I understand that, but let us not forget, that often, whats measured gets done (often at the expense of all else!).

The lesson here as last time is:  make sure you set your targets wisely.  Try them out first, speak to your people and customers, find out what they want measured and how.  By openly discussing measures with staff and customers alike you may find that people are open and will tell you what they will do to achieve the target and at what cost.  Your customers will also have a wealth of information in relation to what should be measured.

For a review of your performance measures contact us now.


People development; Leadership skills, know your people.

Having worked for managers and leaders both good and bad, and having been a leader and manager myself, there is one thing that I can sincerely recommend.  That one thing is; know your people.  Leadership skills are important but knowing your people is just as important if not more so.

I have time and time again seen hard working individuals become demotivated and disillusioned as a result of being alienated or undervalued by managers/leaders.  This has often not been an intentional outcome but more of an  unfortunate side effect of a managers lack of people skills or a side effect of a dysfunctional performance culture.  However, the outcome is still the same, individuals become disengaged, unproductive, have higher absence rates, clock watch more and potentially end up leaving, causing staff turnover and increasing costs.

So what can we do as enlightened leaders of people?

Learn what it is about the job your people enjoy.

If you know what it is about the job that the individual enjoys then you can improve their time at work enhancing this particular area where possible.  Some people enjoy particular aspects of work more than others and where possible work can be allocated accordingly.  This will assist in the individual’s enjoyment of work and there will be ‘flow’.  Many of us achieve ‘flow’ in our work; this is when time flies at work, you feel productive, good about yourself and your contribution and go home at the end of the day with a feeling of satisfaction.

Discover the individuals preferred method of recognition.

People are different, we all know that, but do you know how your different people prefer to be recognised for their achievements in the workplace?  Some of your people will appreciate a formal award or certificate, some will appreciate the awards evenings and seeing their name on the employee of the month honor role.  Other members of your teams would prefer a less public appreciation of their contribution, such as a personal thank you from the boss, an email or letter of thanks.

Whilst you may think you are doing a good thing for your people by setting up an awards evening and calling people up to receive certificates, you may well be actually causing your people embarrassment.  Similarly if you give a letter thanks to someone who prefers the limelight then you may well be seen to be not appreciating their achievement.

The above are only two of the ways that a good leader can keep employees engaged and positively contributing to the goals of the company through getting to know their people.


People development; It’s all about the people

I was watching television this morning.  I know, I should be doing something better than this but I just happened to catch David Coulthard on Saturday Morning Kitchen.  He and James Martin were talking about improvement and success in Formula One (which I happen to be a huge fan of).  He placed a lot of stock in the importance of people development.

David said “… You can’t rest on your laurels …. The name Ferrari, the name McLaren, er, doesn’t guarantee success going forward. It’s all about people. And that’s the thing I love about Formula One.  You know,  it’s a technology business, but that technology doesn’t develop itself. ”

He further talks about talent and motivation which again are great points.

The sentiments above could not be any closer to my own philosophy, in that, it truly is the people that count.  Technology, processes, products and services all depend on people.  Without people that are motivated, able and given opportunity, then performance is eroded.

When looking at people’s performance there is a well known formula:

Performance = Motivation x Ability x Opportunity

Basically if any of the factors on the right are zero, then performance is zero.  Similarly if motivation is only half of what it could be, then you are getting half the performance.  For an individual or team to perform at their best, you need to have motivated individuals, with the skills and abilities and give them the opportunity to deliver for you.

Because your employees are the ones that deliver your front line services, people development is so important, along with providing  motivation and the opportunity to deliver.

Performance Works provide training to ensure your people have the ability to deliver.  We also use Belbin Team Roles to develop high performing individuals and teams.

Contact us now or request a callback to discover more and how Performance Works can help you.


Performance management at its worst, Performance before service!

I have not had time to read, let alone digest the full report published yesterday into the circumstances prevailing at the NHS Mid Staffordshire Trust.  The executive summary of the report by Robert Francis QC paints (in my opinion only) a very bleak view on the performance management that existed.

The full report can be found here.

In his letter to the Secretary of State for Health, he also points out several areas of concern around culture.

It appears that the culture that prevailed was one that was ready to accept the positive feedback, but was less willing to accept developmental feedback.

He states that “Standards and methods of measuring compliance which did not focus on the effect of a service on patients”.  In my view this means that the performance measures were more focused on organisational outcome than that of the patient.

The letter goes on to say that there was “A failure to appreciate until recently the risk of disruptive loss of corporate memory and focus resulting from repeated, multi-level reorganisation.”  I dread to think how many other large organisations both public and private have experienced similar.  This is why being an intelligent business is vital, organisational memory is so, so important!

Hear the bad news today to make the good news of tomorrow (be a better leader)

The recommendations are, in my view, sensible and in fact signs of good leadership.  After all, a good leader wishes to be open to feedback.  Don’t they?

Leaders must be willing to encourage and hear what is being said, even when they would rather not be hearing it.  It is also important that leaders are gracious when accepting this feedback, as the person giving it is often just trying to help!

It is critical that action or communication follows the feedback.  If nothing is done or no communication comes back down ‘from the top’ then it is very unlikely that people will be bothered to speak out again in future.

What I will say to end this is:

There are good and bad leaders in every organisation, just as there are good and bad employees. One thing to remember is, humility as a leader goes a long way.  No one is perfect, no one is beyond improvement, no system is perfect and sometimes you have to hear the bad news today to make the good news of tomorrow!

If you think your company would benefit from our organisational development services, don’t hesitate to get in touch – we would love to help.


Performance Measures, “keep it real”

Having worked within a large public sector organisation of over 12,000 individuals and had the pleasure of moving departments several times, I have seen a plethora of performance measures.

Some of these have been good and some of these have been bad, but all of them have been the ‘priority’.  I have been tasked to deliver against at least 6 ‘priorities’ at one time.   Now, call me a cynic but last time I checked the Collins Online Dictionary priority meant :

If something is a priority, it is the most important thing you have to achieve or deal with before everything else. (  accessed 30/01/2013)

So having to deal with 6 priorities I was finding it a little frustrating and confusing.  Where was I supposed to start?  What was the most important of the 6 priorities? How was I to prioritise if the senior managers didn’t or couldn’t want to be bothered?

Thankfully I have experience, knowledge and a keen grasp of the english language.  The reality was that there was no actual priority, but rather a set of desireable outcomes calling themselves priorities.  What I decided to do was look at what these outcomes were all building towards and create my own priority.  Then using various tools examine which of these outcomes would contribute most to the priority.  The outcome was that I could communicate the priority to the team, and the outcomes that we needed to achieve to realise this priority.  No longer was I stressing over meeting all six priorities at one time and my teams were able to get on with their work without worrying about everything being the one thing they had to do.

Performance Management Hint

A priority is a singular item, the one overarching goal of the organisation,  in a private company it is more often than not to make money.  How do they make money?  Setting desired outcomes (customer service, quality of product etc etc).  To those in a customer service role, their priority may be to provide excellent service as judged by feedback, this is achieved through setting outcomes (answering calls within X seconds, resolving customer queries at source etc etc).

As you can see, you can have a set of outcomes that your people need to achieve, but please, they are not all priorities!  You would not believe the stress that is caused by setting people multiple priorities.  Remember, keep it real.

Performance works can assist you with performance management and frameworks.




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