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Make it more likely you improve performance

3 min read: Many of the poor performance issues we see in business are the result of a lack of understanding as to what really drives human behaviour. We employ people to do behaviours that deliver results. We employ supervisors, managers and leaders to create a work environment that supports the necessary behaviours required to deliver those results.

Many of those who become supervisors, managers or leaders were promoted to a leadership position because they were really good at the job they were doing.

For example, a person who is good with customers could be put in charge of the customer service team, or an engineer good at designing road layouts could be put in charge of the design team.

This is the way that the world of work rewards good performance, but in these examples the people are no longer using their customer service or design skills and instead are expected to learn the new skills of leading others.

Some people will be lucky to get formal management training but more often they are left to fend for themselves, and in order to survive in these new roles they end up mimicking management styles from the behaviours they observe around them, both good and bad. We often find that leaders are getting results despitetheir management style, rather than because of it and they are at times often unaware of how their behaviour impacts on others.

As a result businesses are rife with management practices that have little impact on performance or are actually making it worse. Because these practices are the norm and socially validated, we get frustrated and blame the performer rather than considering that the work environment that has been unintentionally designed is perpetuating the issue.

New instructions, verbal warnings and more training are often what organisations participate in, in an attempt to improve performance, because it feels as though that must help and doing something feels more rewarding than doing nothing.

There is another way. I’ve seen thousands of leaders at all levels of organisations learn behavioural science and the single most rewarding aspect is when those enlightened folk transition from blaming the performer. They learn how to analyse what it is about the environment that supports the current behaviour and then implement solutions that are more likely to work, making required changes to the environment that lead to typical improvements in performance of over 100%

Last week I heard the moment that the penny dropped with one supervisor, who said “Yep, I think I may actually be the problem here!”, when he realised that his over the top reaction to issues made everyone hide mistakes, which were then only discovered when it was too late to do anything to remediate them.

When leaders, managers and supervisors have an understanding of behavioural science they know where to spend their time to really impact behaviour rather than wasting it doing the things that just feel like they should lead to improvements.

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