Re-Thinking Performance: Using science and technology to improve people performance

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The Situation:

You've assembled the A-team. They have the best tools and tech to succeed... But there is still something missing. Performance has not improved. Why not? Getting the best results is not solely about tools and tech. It is about people. Helping people to perform at their best every day. How do you do this? In my view, it is the about little things - habits, behaviours and attitudes. What you do when no-one is watching you, culture. The difficult things.   

Redefining your approach...

So how do we re-think performance? In the recent Potentialife breakfast seminar, Angus Ridgway (CEO, Potentialife) made two assertions. The first assertion is that we need to adopt the right behaviours to achieve individual and team peak performance, the SHARP model.

The second assertion is that we need to change the corporate 'training model' approach to developing people's ability to perform at their best and lead teams. The focus of the session was on this second assertion – how to change the approach to have real impact.

The world has changed, a new paradigm is needed

In the new world of work, it is increasingly difficult to separate out your 'work' self and your 'home' self - a new holistic approach is needed, recognition that the real you will bring greater impact. The incumbent model of event-based journeys and workshops will only get you so far - inspirational speakers and great content will impart knowledge, and enable people to learn about what needs to change... but that is not enough to enable change itself. To improve performance, action is needed. Practice, refine, repeat. Develop habits over time. A process is required. Effort is required. And above all, time is required. There is no 'aha' moment, no 'quick win solution'. The real secret is that, over time, the small changes will probably go unnoticed. But, and here is the key, these small changes will compound up to produce real impact. Sir David Brailsford's approach to “victory by marginal gains” resonates strongly.

So what does that mean for you?

Challenge the model. Classrooms, workshops or online content libraries can impart learning. Knowledge. But you can't think your way to success... What you need is action: behavioural change. Impact.

Be brave, take a different approach. Break the mould. Feel free to adopt these six core principles that will enable your people to flourish in the new world of work:

1.    Adopt a whole-person approach & make it personal

2.    Drive people’s actions

3.    Do it all ‘in context’

4.    Compound up small, regular changes

5.    Deploy a process that leads to new habit formation

6.    Scale impact throughout the organization


What did our audience think?

The audience discussion that followed was full of brave voices, exploring some of the issues faced within their own businesses when trying to bring about meaningful change. I have summarised some of the key discussion points including feedback that people submitted after the event (an engaged audience, wonderful!)  as takeaways for your reflection, and would welcome any further thoughts –  feel free to comment either directly to me: or join the conversation here on LinkedIn

Some key takeaways or observations made within the audience discussion:

1.    Role model from the top

·      Leadership buy-in is critical to bringing about meaningful change

·      Senior leadership in the business need to set the tone, create alignment and behave authentically.

·      The reality is that people bring hierarchy with them: so if junior colleagues have an idea, a small change, that are difficult to execute, will it be effective without senior buy-in? In particular environments, change recommended by a senior person will be more likely adopted, whether it is positive or not.

2.    Forming Habits to sustain the change:

·      Define a process to create habits, otherwise you won't sustain change

·      Habits require 12 behaviours to be changed to fully be embedded

3.    Accommodate different learning styles

·      There is a need to find a better way to engage different learning styles, classroom training was quoted as monolithic, no longer relevant, and an alternative approach is needed - context is crucial, so true 'on-the-job' development is required: 70-20-10 model is applicable

·      Need to balance this with the need to bring people together to share success, collaborate, learn, motivate. All as part of the journey.

4.    Rapid pace of change needs a different mindset to succeed

·      I particularly like the Google soundbite that was shared: "today is the slowest day of your life"

·      So what? Slow and steady progress Gant charts are not the way forward; sprints (Agile methodology) is the new norm, and to survive, you need to build in recovery - re-frame downtime so it is not viewed as laziness but mandatory

5.    Drive to Action

·      There is a negative connotation associated with "failing fast" so perhaps it is time we re-frame this positively as: driving to action (don't procrastinate), this action inspires reflection, increases motivation, which in turns enables people to adjust, and refine action to achieve a better result

6.    Create clarity in ambiguity

·      Need to take people with you on any transformation journey = winning hearts and minds are key so giving people Ownership is key when dealing with ambiguity - clear ownership and accountability is most effective in psychologically safe teams

·      However, Google are also known for defining specifically ambiguous briefs in order to create ownership, drive creativity, and getting a better result by allowing some 'wiggle room' in the outcome

·      And for balance, an anecdote from Apple: They have a sign up in their London HQ which says simplify, simplify, simplify with the last two ‘simplifies’ crossed out. The reason? Any idiot can add complexity but it takes a genius to simplify

7.    Connections: Building Strong relationships

·      Success is often derived from bringing the right experts in at the right time. There is too much hubris in organisations (for a great read on this, I recommend a book by Matt Nixon, Pariahs: Hubris, Reputation and Organisational Crises (available on Amazon!) – does your organisation expect you to know all the answers?

·      Create connections and networks, don't expect everyone to be an expert – mention of Google initiatives for connecting people (G2G = Googlers2Googlers, or through the induction process for ‘Nooglers’) – sound great. What does your company do?

8.    Framing what success looks like

·      Need to frame the context for success effectively, businesses with decades-long life cycles make it difficult for employees to understand the need for change; so break it down and contextualise success

·      The person conducting the review of success is also key – what is their agenda?

9.    Markers of momentum

·      People want to work for true leaders. There is a natural affinity for these people, difficult to measure, but intuitively we know it is true => a marker of success.

·      What are the others in your business?

10. Impact: Identify “10X” leaders who will drive change in your business

·      This is not about the identifying ‘average’, those leaders who achieve 80% positive scores on engagement surveys

·      “10X leaders” are ‘spiky’ by definition – they play to their strengths, but are aware of their shortcomings, strive for personal excellence and expect it in their own teams (see our blog on the Pygmalion effect). They build teams with complementary strengths, create positive tension, and expect people to challenge the status quo.

·      So how do you identify these “10X leaders”? The smaller group of "10X leaders" who role model, lead the way, challenge the norm and take people with them on the journey. More importantly, how do you develop them?

·      Can you also identify those who can be nurtured to achieve this "10X" status?

11. The Impact of Company Lifecycle Stage

·      Significant to understand what stage of growth a company is in: if large older organisations are in flux or decline, the problems are so complex that unless there is an existential threat or a unique and clear market advantage it’s very difficult to focus on the right change. 

·      Even in younger and mid-size companies, it really is about identifying the need and getting the business to lead.  So does HR achieve this? Not in isolation, I would suggest – with the business driving the solution


Have you experienced other issues? What are your thoughts? Join the discussion on LinkedIn