7 Steps to Performance – A Case Study
It’s a very common story really, an organisation with high staff sickness really low morale that leads of course to low productivity and (for some businesses) more cost for their bottom line.
In the day-to-day work output staff are very busy getting ‘things’ done which in many cases are largely in-effective (the main purpose of their work is forgotten!). It really comes down to a lack of clarity, it’s something we see a lot and we’ve got a really strong prescribed process for it.
The first thing we do is go and meet the team, ask questions and talk to them about what they see as the main issue’s and why they think they are where they are.
Often there are differences in thought and opinion between senior management and their teams. Differing views of the situation and somewhere in the middle may be a closer reality. It is not perfect but we can’t go and fix it until we know where we currently are and that’s the really important first part of it.
In this case, the big issue was that everyone was too busy so they were ‘fighting fires’ the whole time. This actually came out of the fact that there was no clarity from the top down or from the bottom up. Without any clarity people just fill their time thinking they are doing the right thing where in fact, in many cases, they are just doing stuff!
Special Forces to Local Government…
At this juncture, it is relevant to mention the performance of Special Forces teams working in high-pressure environments. What does this military stuff have to do with public sector organisations and indeed corporate companies? Quite a bit actually…
The central message of Mission Leadership and performance for the Special Forces is clarity around the mission (insert purpose for the business world). With this clarity people on all levels are encouraged to exercise disciplined initiative, working towards the mission task.
This was very much the case when working with a local government organisation. The challenges mentioned were having a significant affect on the organisation, its output, its engagement with stakeholders and the performance and wellbeing (integrally linked!) of its personnel.
Process and results…
To get results we instigated a series of individual and team coaching sessions, we also conducted transformational team meetings and a range of leadership workshops. The focus throughout was towards taking ACTION (but in the right areas!)
This would take them getting clarity on their purpose – Why are we here as a team? What is our primary purpose? Etc.
We began by establishing what the current work situation actually was (this process involved challenging perceptions so we could really get to the core issues – beneath the surface of appearances). Specifically, this included establishing what their current challenges were, what their relationship was like with their teams and what impact they were having as a leader in the organisation.
The question really then became about how they could develop cohesion in their teams through building mutual trust. The measures identified to work towards achieving this (drawn from the group, which is much more powerful than simply telling them what to do!) were inherently simple.
Simple but something many organisations get so wrong! It was really about human interaction. People want to come in to work and be able to be themselves, to have a ‘safe-space’ where they don’t work in an atmosphere of ‘one-upmanship’ and where the boss is not coming from an angle of looking for fault or ‘what they haven’t done’ or ‘what mistakes they have made/are making’.
This is not to say issues don’t need to be addressed but when they are addressed from a positive perspective of – how do we work together and work with/around the challenges we are faced with, then real change can happen.
The learning points in this case were very typical of simple measures that, when taken, have a big impact on performance and employee wellbeing. They included:
- Team meetings – these would now become not purely driven by process with no room for team interaction but a place where team members were able to constructively express their views and talk to each other to build relationships!
- Leadership on all levels – inclusion, acceptance, support, trust and the mindset change to realise that team members may have valuable input and differing skill sets.
- Real conversations – the group had a ‘shift’ in understanding that things left unsaid often create unconscious behaviours and attitudes (with a massive impact on performance and team morale). They were avoiding challenging conversations for FEAR of conflict.
- Clarity of purpose – the leadership team would need to convey a clearer message about organisational and team goals. This was something they would need to keep coming back to, to ensure they were still on track.
- Initiative – once clarity of purpose was established the team leaders could then encourage disciplined initiative on all levels, empowering people with responsibility.
- Vulnerability – vulnerability would help make them authentic as leaders and break down existing barriers. This again would take a shift in mindset to realise that showing vulnerability could be viewed as strength rather than a weakness. Nobody is perfect!
- Action plan – Where does the rubber meet the road! After, in many cases, some deep soul searching during the programme the next stages were all about confirming actionable steps to move forward.
Summary – small changes big results…
In a wider context, the programme allowed the organisation to focus on strategy and core values and once these critical elements were established we could help them create a clearer vision for the future.
In this case (as with most people) fixed beliefs and current ways of working were deeply entrenched. Stepping back and creating awareness highlighted where things were falling down and being largely ineffective.
When asked on things such as the learning points above most people will immediately respond that they are doing all these things (like a model leader!). Our experience however shows that this is not always what is taking place and crucially it is not something staff actually feel.
In this case this really was the major change. Team leaders were now encouraged to engage their teams on a different level. At first this was counter-intuitive to their way of working but when fixed mindsets were challenged, tangible results were seen as the picture became clearer.
Performance is driven by engaged individuals who are given the freedom to exercise initiative. Problems are seen as challenges and this positive mindset brings real changes to the workplace and output.
With this new understanding the organisation could crucially adopt these new practices over the long term…
“Working with 3RG has helped transform our organisation, increase our performance and raise levels of staff morale. Their no-nonsense approach to understanding our challenges and experience of achieving high performance really helped shape the way forward. Unlike other programs we have commissioned this process allowed us to implement lasting changes we are working with today.”
James Douglas – Operations manager, Nottingham Community Protection Service