Improving performance – where do you start?

What is the hardest part of your day job? At a guess, it is probably dealing with people. And yet people are also the major factor in business success; improving performance depends on the performance of your people.

Whole industries have been built to design structures, systems and process around humans, measuring output, behaviours and consequences. They ask questions such as:

  1. Are people getting meaningful feedback, or interference whilst trying to do their work?
  2. Are there strong negative or positive consequences,
  3. Is their equipment and materials available,
  4. Are they suitably trained?

Whilst this is important stuff, it can feel as if you treat humans like another resource, which is not going to deliver improved performance.

People’s performance is impacted by the system and structure in which they operate, but it is also impacted by how they feel: the culture and relationships around them.

People are a complex mix of emotions, beliefs, perceptions and opinions. When you treat people as ‘performance units’ and expect them to perform like machines, you devalue them and yourself, and it can lead to an unsustainable, negative organisational culture.

As our world becomes ever more complex and uncertain, as the workplace and home become more interlinked, as stress levels rise and wellbeing plummets, and as people reconsider their priorities in the Great Resignation, so our organisational culture becomes even more important than ever in improving performance.

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast,’ said the original management guru Peter Drucker back in the 70’s. How much more true is that today?

Positive work cultures are more productive, as well as being nicer places to be. There are benefits to wellbeing, engagement, loyalty, safety and innovation, which lead ultimately to performance and productivity.

Each of us are shaped by the interactions we have with people around us. These interactions play a large part in shaping our organisational culture. Each of us therefore has a part to play in creating a positive organisational culture.

If you want to make your life easier, and get more out of the people around you, it starts with you.

Picture your organisation as a tree, with the fruits being growth, performance and wellbeing. The tasks, structure and systems are visible parts of the tree, which are more easily measured and changed. These are nourished by the invisible roots, the social connection and emotional stability of the organisation – the deep rooted culture.

The three core roots are Care, Trust and Inclusion, be strong in these and it will give you the foundation and energy source that you need to sustain the consistent fruits.

So if you want to help your people perform more effectively, if you want to make your life easier, focus not just on the structure and systems around your people, but also on whether you are demonstrating care, trust and inclusion in all that you do.

Demonstrating care, building trust and inclusion is the purpose of soft skills.

Soft skills are at the core of leadership, the heart of teamwork and form the basis of your culture.

Improving performance starts with you.

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