I’ve previously written about why WE do what we do, however when it comes to leading people, how do we get them to do what we NEED for our business? How do we improve employee performance? This topic is known as Performance or Behavioural Management.

Having spent considerable time and energy developing a practical understanding of behavioural management (I’ve trained with it, coached with it, studied it, have a Post Grad degree in it, and have trained leaders in how to use it), I’ll often refer to articles or books I’ve read previously when I get stuck with an issue, and sometimes to just refresh my thinking.

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Two of my ‘go-to’ books are: Marcus Buckingham’s book ‘First, Break All the Rules’, and Aubrey C Daniels ‘Bringing out the Best in People.’ They are both a great approach to helping you to improve employee performance; however they take almost an opposite approach to the HOW of employee performance management!

Firstly we’ve got the Aubrey C Daniels approach, which I’ve used considerably, which utilises behavioural management techniques. When I first went through a 2 day certification program, I was really excited because I find people’s behaviour in the workplace fascinating, and this gave scientifically based approaches to getting the best from people in a positive way.

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The book provides an insight into people’s motivators and the resulting behavioural drive.  It was a catalyst for my interest into why people do what they do in the workplace. Coupled with behavioural tools (aka personality tests/psychometric testing) I found myself being able to coach leaders to build connections with their people in a more genuine way, whilst improving overall team performance.

On the opposite end of the behavioural management scale I find myself looking to the approach of Marcus Buckingham. Unlike the Daniels approach, he has no detailed processes to follow, no formalised training program or documentation, no 2 day workshop to understand your staff motivators. From Buckingham’s research, I discovered that great managers do some simple things to get the most from their people.

I’d encourage you to find a copy of “First Break all the Rules” for yourself. It’s an insightful read, and you can skim chapters or read it from cover to cover in a few days. The key concept I came away with when thinking Performance Management, is in getting your people to keep track of their performance. Marcus provides a framework, questions rather than processes and systems, in which you let your people tell you about how they are performing.

One of the things I like about Buckingham is his concept of making your people partners in their own performance appraisals and making the meetings focused on the employee, rather than the business. What are their strengths? What could they do better? What have they learned over the last period? These are some of the questions in the performance appraisal and you’ll see it is a great way to get your people involved in their own performance improvement.

Despite this, I’m still left thinking about the opposite approaches. Detailed, behaviourally based scientific approaches to improving performance (Daniels), vs a few questions and a bit of thinking about your people and getting them to makes some notes about their performance (Buckingham).

I’m thinking there is room for both. To have the foundation of a behavioural understanding of why people do what they do is really helpful as a leader.

When it comes to ‘problem’ performers and thoughts of dismissals then you may need to have a more structured approach – such as formalised goal setting, agreement on consequences, and so forth. However there is something to be said for making about 30 mins a month with each of your people to have them present back to you their performance. Letting your people provide as much or as little detail as THEY need. Getting your people involved in their own development and progress, and helping them to take ownership for their performance is a great way to build your work community.

I think there is room for both approaches, and maybe something that sits somewhere in the middle.

*note there has been no payment nor is there any affiliation agreement for the mentions of the above books. They are books I have personally used as a consultant to small business, and in my own practices.

Geoff Snowden, Business Development Manager