Category Archives: Developing managers

Purpose statements revisited: how they matter and how to make them work


By Elisabeth Goodman, 2nd December 2019

How purpose statements matter

I’ve written before about the importance of purpose as a motivator for employees (see ‘Why clarity of purpose is so important for both effective leadership and management)

Sally Blount and Paul Leinwand sum it up nicely in “Why are we here?” in the Nov-Dec 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review:

“Many people, not just Millennials – want to work for organisation’s whose missions and business philosophies resonate with them intellectually and emotionally.”

Purpose - HBR Nov-Dec 2019

Illustration from Why are we here? Harvard Business Review, November – December 2019, pp. 132-139.

According to these authors, an effective and indeed powerful purpose statement achieves two things:

  • It articulates strategic goals focused on your customers
  • It motivates your employees.

Paul Leinwand is a global manager at Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business. Their recent survey of 540 employees worldwide revealed many ways in which purpose statements matter.

For instance:

  • Employees consider purpose to be more than twice as important, on average as other motivators such as compensation and career advancement
  • At companies that have clearly defined and communicated purpose related statements, 63% of employees say they are motivated vs. 31% in other companies

How to make purpose statements work

1. Don’t worry too much about the distinctions between mission, vision and purpose.

Many companies use these interchangeably, and what you will find on different websites varies enormously.  The important thing, as the HBR authors assert, is that whatever form of statement you use it should clearly articulate:

  • Why your organisation exists, in relation to the products or services it delivers to customers. What difference it makes to your customers’ lives or business.
  • What makes your organisation unique. What gap it would leave if it ceased to function.
  • How your organisation does business including any guiding principles that influence interactions with customers, suppliers and employees themselves

2. Be clear about what key talent you need to attract to deliver on your purpose

Rather than trying to attract the best talent for every aspect of your business, which may not be possible or sustainable, home in on the key areas that are vital to your business.

You can always support other areas through high-quality outsourcing.

3. Structure and invest in your organisation so that people can effectively work together to achieve your purpose

Many organisations create cross-functional teams to break down silos and enable the creativity, innovation and development necessary to deliver on their purpose.(This is certainly true of most of the companies with which RiverRhee works.)

In fact, given that working this way is often key to the success of an organisation, cross-functional teams need to receive adequate time, funding and attention. Is this the case in your organisation? If not, how could the focus of attention be shifted to make it so?

4. Make sure your leaders are acting as role models for your purpose.

The HBR authors put it perfectly:

“Strong leaders personify their organisation’s purpose every day through their words and actions, whether that involves communicating priorities to the workforce or visibly spending time with employees and customers.”

5. Challenge your board to ask you tough questions about your purpose

Your board is well placed to keep you focused. The HBR authors suggest some questions they could ask, or indeed that you could ask yourself:

  • Would your employees be able to tell your purpose statement apart from a competitor’s?
  • How many of your employees could cite your purpose?
  • Do your employees have the resources that they need to deliver on your purpose?

NOTES

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

The manager as coach: practising situational coaching


By Elisabeth Goodman, 23rd November 2019

What is situational coaching and when to use it?

One of Sir John Whitmore‘s legacies was the GROW coaching model, an apparently simple yet highly effective tool to help managers and coaches: “unlock people’s potential to maximise their own performance.”

GROW coaching model

Illustration of GROW coaching model as used in RiverRhee’s courses for managers

[I’ve written about the GROW model elsewhere, see for example Coaching applied to Project Management.]

One of the common challenges for those involved in coaching is knowing when to provide the answers, as opposed to encouraging people to find the solutions for themselves.  Herminia Ibarra and Anne Scoular, in the November-December 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review, would seem to have the answer. (See “The leader as coach”, pages 111 – 119.)

Styles of coaching

Styles of coaching. Illustration from Ibarra and Scoular’s article “The leader as coach” in HBR Nov-Dec 2019, pp. 111-119

Ibarra and Scoular’s model describes different styles of coaching based in how much information or advice a manager or coach is sharing vs. the insights and solutions they elicit from the person they are coaching.

The directive approach may work best for more junior or less experienced people.

The ‘laissez-faire’ approach is best used when team members are best left alone because to interfere would be to hamper their productivity.

The non-directive approach is the one involving a manager’s or coach’s best questioning and listening skills to elicit the wisdom, knowledge and creativity of the people being coached.

The situational approach is where the manager or coach has mastered the art of judging and balancing when to impart knowledge vs. helping others to discover it themselves based on the situation involved.

Developing managers’ skills in situational coaching

The HBR authors give examples of  the value of the listening and questioning skills inherent to coaching, such as:

  • Enriching the quality of the “high-value” conversations that managers and leaders will have with people at various times in the year.  These conversations may relate to important issues or the exploration of new ideas.
  • Enhancing the skills of those interfacing with clients to arrive at solutions that the clients have helped to shape.

The authors suggest that the best way to develop skills in situational coaching is to first develop skills in non-directive coaching until it becomes second nature, and then balance it with “helpful” directive coaching.

Practising with the GROW model is an ideal way to start.  Here are a few extra tips from the article:

  • Goal.  Ask what they want to get out of the conversation for instance “What do you want when you walk out of the door that you don’t have now?”
  • Reality. Avoid asking ‘why’ as this may lead to non-productive streams of thought such as self-justification.  Focus instead on what, where, when and who to help them draw out all the factual elements of what is currently happening.
  • Options. If people are struggling to come up with options, and broaden their perspective, you could ask something like “If you had a magic wand what would you do?”
  • Will.  As well as asking people what they will do as a result of their reflection, you could ask them how likely they would be, “on a scale of one to 10” to act upon their decision. If their commitment is less than eight it might be worth going through the GROW model again.

Finally, the HRB authors give examples of how leaders can help build coaching capabilities and a culture of learning in organisations by:

  • Giving examples of the benefits of coaching (the “why”), as in the high-value examples cited above
  • Role modelling from the top, as the latest CEO at Microsoft, Satya Nadella has done by soliciting ideas from everyone in a supportive and non-judgemental way
  • Providing opportunities for the development of coaching skills (through workshops, learning programmes and tools)
  • Removing barriers to learning, such as organisational or individual reviews that instil fear rather than a climate of open exchange and reflection.

Notes

Sir John Whitmore and his colleagues at Performance Consultants International, suggest that adopting a coaching approach in organisations will give greater purpose and meaning to the people who work there. (See “Coaching for Performance.  The principles and practice of coaching and leadership” for more on this and on the GROW coaching model.)

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

RiverRhee

RiverRhee delivers training, workshops and one-to-one coaching in range of management and team member skills

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

The manager as coach: addressing the consequences of limiting self-beliefs


By Elisabeth Goodman, 6th November 2019

helping team members deal with limiting self-beliefs

There are a number of ways in which a manager can help their team members be at their best.  Some of these approaches hover on the border between coaching (where a manager can intervene) and counselling (where it would be best to seek more qualified support).  Limiting self-beliefs is one of these borderline areas.

As a manager, you may be able to help your direct report become more aware of limiting beliefs that are getting in their way.   You may also have more scope to help them address some of the consequences than either you or they think.

However, your direct reports may want to get more specialised counselling to address some of the causes of those limiting beliefs.

This blog explores three examples of the consequences (or symptoms) of limiting beliefs, some potential limiting beliefs, and some approaches that a manager might choose to apply as a coach.

The reflections on limiting beliefs and approaches to address them are based on what I have learnt so far from my NLP Practitioner training, from “The Coach’s Casebook” by Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan, and from “The Chimp Paradox” by Prof Steve Peters.

I have already referred elsewhere to some other very good resources relating to procrastination and productivity. The Mind Gym’s “Give me time” also has some useful insights on limiting beliefs and approaches for dealing with procrastination.

Three consequences of limiting self-beliefs

These three examples (consequences) are amongst the most common that we encounter when working with delegates on RiverRhee’s courses for individual team members, managers and leaders.

1. Feeling nervous about giving a presentation.  As Watts and Morgan point out, 75% of us suffer from some form of ‘performance anxiety’.  It can bring on the various physiological characteristics (sweating, faster heart beat, breathlessness etc.) prompted by our ‘flight, fright or freeze’ responses to perceived danger. The severity of these responses and our direct reports’ ability to deal with them will vary from one person to another.

2. Procrastination is something that many of us will be aware of.  What’s interesting with this is that we do have the option to choose to procrastinate, especially if it results in scheduling a task to a time when we will be more productive.  Or we can be a victim of our own internal productivity sabotaging beliefs and suffer lots of associated stress and anxiety.  Establishing which kind of procrastination behaviour your direct report is demonstrating would be useful to know.

3. Finding it difficult to say no can result in a direct report taking on more than they can manage with further consequences for the quality of their work and their own well-being.

Some limiting beliefs and their potential causes

1.  It’s just the way I am.  Whilst our genetic make-up will have some influence on our behaviour, we have more scope to change it than we sometimes think.  Our beliefs are often shaped by something that’s happened to us, something someone has said to us, or something that we (continue to) tell ourselves.

2. I messed this up last time, so I will mess it up again.  There is of course no pre-determined outcome of our actions.  Our self-talk is getting in the way of recognising that we can learn to do something differently and get a different result.

3. It’s too difficult for me to learn.  It may be something that is too difficult to learn.  But what are we assuming about our ability to learn? We might be able to do more than we think with the right learning approach and enough time and practice.

4. People won’t like me if I don’t do this. This belief seems to rest on another assumption: that people liking us depends on what we do or don’t do, rather than on who we are: our general attitude or behaviour.

5. Something terrible will be happen if I get this wrong or don’t do this. Many of us go through life with a mindset (enforced by the educational system) that we have to get things right and that not to do so is to fail. Prof Steve Peters suggests a different mind-set, which is that: “I will do my best and can deal with the consequences”.  The result, he suggests, is greater self-confidence and reduced anxiety.

Approaches a manager could use as a coach

So a manager could help their team members as a coach by discovering any limiting self-beliefs that might be influencing their mindsets, and helping them towards addressing them.

Approaches could include:

1. Listening, observing, playing back what you notice, asking a clean or critical question. (See Nancy Kline’s “Time to Think” for how to ask critical questions.)

2. Helping your direct report identify and adopt an opposite / positive self-belief. (More about this too in Nancy Kline’s book – she stresses that it will be most effective if the individual comes up with this new belief.)

3. Sharing some calming approaches – such as breathing techniques, anchoring, or mindfulness  (See this lovely video from Pam Cottman on how to build confidence like a superhero).

4. Encouraging a mindset of learning rather than failing – something that will be most influenced by how the manager agrees and reviews tasks and outcomes with the individual.

Conclusion

There is a certainly a lot more to be explored on this topic.  I hope you find these reflections helpful.  I am sure they will trigger more reflections of your own.

Do feel free to add comments to this post, or please get in touch to discuss anything further.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Looking after your well-being in Project Management


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th October 2019

The Autumn issue of Project, the APM’s (Association for Project Management) quarterly publication, carries a couple of articles on the very important theme of well-being.

Illustration from “Under Pressure” by Emma De Vita, in Project, issue 300, Autumn 2019, pp. 40-45

Working on life science projects can be a high stress activity

The APM commissioned some research by the University of Manchester, led by Dr Clara Cheung, amongst 184 global APM members.  The results, summarised in “Under Pressure” by Emma de Vita, in the Autumn issue of Project (pp. 40-45), indicated that the areas of “highest psychological stress are resources and communication, balanced workload, work relationship and job conditions”.

Working on projects can be extremely demanding and stressful in the Life Sciences sector that we work with at RiverRhee.

Our clients are often working on high stakes projects: ones that their clients expect them to deliver within very defined timelines and budgets.  Yet the nature of the science can make the outcomes (let along the timelines and budgetary requirements) very uncertain.  Added to this, it’s very common for a company’s client to change their mind about the nature or scope of their requirements – which again will have implications that may need to be negotiated.

In addition to this, most of the companies that we work with operate a matrix structure.  Whilst this will have many benefits in terms of flexible use of resources and expertise, it can lead to added levels of stress in terms of resource availability when crises occur, and lack of recovery time for the people involved.

Potential ways to look after your well-being in project management

The article by Emma De Vita, and another in the same issue of Project, by Mike Clayton (“Resilience means reaching for your oxygen mask first”, p.15) have the following suggestions:

1. Monitor your well-being and pay attention to the warning signs

Work stress can make itself felt in terms of both our physical and mental health through such signs as tiredness, headaches, stomach upsets, depression and anxiety.  We don’t have to be stoical about these, and acknowledging and choosing to do something about them is not a sign of weakness.

We can either do something ourselves to alleviate these through such things as:

  • planning and managing our work differently
  • ensuring we get enough rest, exercise, a healthy diet

or we can reach out to others to help us address the underlying causes.

2. Develop and use your support network at work and at home

We don’t have to deal with work pressures on our own.

Mike Clayton suggests spending time on tending our relationships outside work as a vital support network.

Project leaders can also develop their teams so that, in a high performance team everyone:

  • Is invested in the success of the project
  • Plays to their strengths
  • Puts as much emphasis on building relationship within the team as on getting the job done
  • Provides support for each other

Beyond that, as Emma De Vita suggests, your line manager, HR or GP are potentially there to help.

3. Set ground-rules for yourself and for your project team

A project leader’s approach will set the expectations and culture for how a team will operate.

Considerations for looking after each other’s well-being could include such things as:

  • Limiting e-mails to working hours
  • Using a flexible approach to meeting times to allow for travel times and home commitments
  • Thinking about how the project team can use technology to enhance its productivity

If you are a project team member, rather than the project leader, you may or may not have the scope to influence your team’s ground-rules.  But you may have more scope than you think.

4. Learning and development

Project and time management training might be available to you to address some of the other underlying causes of stress described at the start of this blog.

If you don’t have the option of going on a course for these, then consider getting hold of a book, or an online resource.

You might find some of my other blogs on these subjects useful too…

See for example:

NOTES

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Using smarter criteria than experience for selecting the right candidates?


By Elisabeth Goodman, 24th October 2019

Delegates at a recent RiverRhee course for local companies

The area where RiverRhee works, in Cambridgeshire UK, is a real magnet for talent in the Life Science and IT sectors in particular.  Many of the companies are growing rapidly and there is also fierce competition between the companies.

We all know that the recruitment process can be time-consuming and costly.

Companies will also want to make sure that they are getting a good return on investment on their recruitment cost, and time and money invested in development their staff.  They will also want to keep their turn-over low.

It goes without saying, that the smarter a company’s approach to the selection process, the better their return on investment will be…

A weak correlation between prior experience and future performance

Professor Chad H. Van Iddekinge and his colleagues at Florida State University have some great insights to share with us (Harvard Business Review, Sept-Oct 2019, pp. 34-35) from their review of 81 studies exploring the relationship between prior experience and performance in a new organisation.

They found that there was a very weak correlation between training or on-the-job experience in prior roles, and people’s performance in a new organisation. The performance was measured in various ways, such as annual reviews or sales-based performance.

They also found no correlation between this prior experience and the likelihood that people would stay in their new organisation.

The studies covered 15 out of 23 ‘job families’ in the US – mainly in protective services (police, firefighters) and sales and customer services.  None of the roles were senior executive ones.

So, previous experience is not a good predictor of future performance or retention.

What could be smarter predictors for hiring the right candidates?

Professor Van Iddekinge suggests that the key thing is evidence of the quality or significance of past experience.

Better predictors of future performance could therefore be:

  1. More detailed information about the nature of pre-hire performance
  2. Indications of what candidates have learned from their prior experience
  3. Recognising that experience in one organisation might not be a good match with the culture in another organisation
RiverRhee

RiverRhee delivers training, workshops and one-to-one coaching in range of management and team member skills – see our website for details of our course on Recruitment and Interview Skills

Ways to gain this information and insight include:

  1. Identifying and focusing on the knowledge, skills and traits that are important for the role that you are recruiting into, rather than just someone’s experiences or their education.
  2. Widening the pool of candidates that you consider, based on these areas of knowledge, skills and traits.
  3. Asking competency-based questions in the interview itself such as “Tell me about a specific situation where you did [relevant task / situation]?  What did you do?  What was the outcome?  How might you deal with this [task / situation] in the future?”
  4. Recognising that experience might still be more important for newer hires and for some very specific tasks:
    • For newer hires experience could indicate that they are used to employment or to working in an organisation.
    • For some very specific technical tasks, then the number of hours’ experience of that task could still be a good predictor of performance

Conclusion

Readers can draw their own conclusions as to whether these findings and insights can be extrapolated to their areas of work.

Competency-based interviewing, and finding creative ways to widen the pool of candidates would certainly seem to be paying dividends for the companies that we work with locally.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

The manager as coach: creating an environment that is conducive to thinking


By Elisabeth Goodman, 6th October 2019

According to Nancy Kline, author of “Time to Think”, thinking for ourselves and thinking well, is what enables us to be effective in anything that we do. And yet many things mitigate against us being able to think as frequently or as well as we could.

Barriers to thinking include:

  • The hectic pace of life and work
  • The frequent, often unspoken, expectation for people to fit in and conform
  • The belief that those more senior or more expert than us know best

Nancy Kline has researched and tested barriers to and approaches for effective thinking over many years and consolidated her findings in this and later books.

Here are just a few ideas, inspired by my reading of “Time to Think” that a manager could begin to implement in a coaching capacity with their direct reports.

1. Create an expectation that people will think for themselves, rather than defer to their manager and others more senior or experienced than themselves when dealing with problems, or otherwise coming up with ideas.

2. Make time to listen to direct reports, encouraging them to talk by asking open questions and not interrupting them until they have completely finished what they have to say. This may include allowing silence as direct reports continue to think something through.

3. Extend this practice of uninterrupted listening to wider team interactions, for instance in meetings. Encourage everyone to have their turn at speaking and being listened to.

4. Make sure there are quiet or communal areas (depending on people’s needs) in the workplace where people can go to help with their thinking, and support them with finding gaps in their schedules to be able to do so.

A place to think. View from one of the 4 castles at Lastours, Languedoc, France

5. Allow people to express their feelings, including anger or sorrow, as a healthy way to release emotions that can otherwise get in the way of thinking. (If the anger is violent then get out of their way and agree a time and place when the conversation can be resumed safely.)

6. Encourage a culture of mutual respect, where people value diversity and express appreciation for what each of their colleagues contributes to the team through their thinking.

Conclusion

Nancy Kline’s book has a lot more to offer for those interested in helping individuals and teams think more effectively.

As she says:

“Team effectiveness depends on the calibre of thinking the team can do.”

and

“Managers of high-performing teams have to be masters of the oxymoron: securing change, committing to uncertainty and requiring autonomy. Formulae and habit won’t do: only thinking will.”

Hopefully you will find the ideas in this blog a useful start. I would certainly recommend you read the whole book to find out more.

Notes

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Are your performance measures driving the right behaviours?


By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th September 2019

We are entering that time of year when many companies carry out their performance reviews and appraisals. It can be quite a stressful exercise for individual team members, and for line managers.

This article from the latest issue of Harvard Business Review provides some interesting insights that could be relevant at the level of individual objectives, as well as at the level of team and organisational objectives.


Michael Harris and Bill Tayler. Don’t let metrics undermine your business. Harvard Business Review, September- October 2019, pp. 62-69

Performance measures operate on at least three levels in any organisation

We encourage delegates on RiverRhee’s management and Performance Review and Development courses to consider this three-tier cascade when setting their own and their direct reports’ objectives.

Illustration from RiverRhee’s training on performance management / reviews

Ideally, the cascade works both downwards and upwards.

The process begins with clarity on the organisation’s current goals or objectives, and also with the individual’s ideas for work-related and personal- or career- development objectives.

The team or middle management objectives sit in the middle: they translate the organisation’s objectives into what the team and its members will do to make these happen. They also act as a reality check on if and how individual team members’ objectives will help to deliver the company goals.

All three levels of objectives should ideally have performance measures to match. And the purpose of such measures should be at least three-fold:

  • To monitor and encourage any adjustments to behaviours and activities throughout the year
  • To provide feedback on performance to internal and external stakeholders at agreed times
  • To enable reflection, capture and sharing of learnings and inform forward plans for the next year.

“Surrogation” can drive the wrong behaviours

Surrogation, as defined by Harris and Tayler, is “the tendency to confuse what’s being measured with the metric being used”.

To give an example: a service company has an objective to improve customer satisfaction by 20%. They use a customer satisfaction survey in which they ask customers to score how satisfied they are with the service provided on a scale where 1 is low and 10 is high. Last year their average result was 8 out of 10, so they are looking for straight 10 ratings this year!

In a surrogation scenario, the staff responsible for the collecting the feedback can be so focused on only receiving scores of 10 that they will ask customers to provide this rating, and even email or call them to ask them to reassess if they have not done so. I know this is true as I have experienced this after putting my car in for a service!

Surrogation can drive the wrong behaviours, and also cause unnecessary stress for the individuals involved.

So how can performance measures be used to drive the right behaviours?

The correct behaviour in the example above would be for the service staff to get feedback on the quality of the customer’s experience: what they were happy with, what could have been done even better, and to reflect that back into a continuous improvement scenario. This way, the quantitative metrics are really just a snapshot to summarise the feedback.

Harris and Tayler suggest three ways in which surrogation could be avoided at the organisational levels. This also translates at the team and individual level:

  1. Involve managers (or team members) in shaping the goals or objectives. This way they understand and are engaged with what the goals are seeking to achieve, rather than just being focused on the metrics.
  2. Keep a clear separation between metrics and financial rewards. Tying the two together makes the metric more visible than the underlying objective, thereby risking the kind of behaviour described in the example. People get frightened or anxious, rather than being open to learning and exploring positive alternatives to their actions and behaviours. We know that many companies have decided against using individual performance ratings for this reason.
  3. Use multiple metrics for measuring performance. The authors suggest that if people have to bear multiple metrics in mind, they are less likely to surrogate on each one.

How could you translate this approach into the approach for objectives and performance metrics in your organisation?

Here are a couple of suggestions based on what we see happening in Life Science organisations.

If the company objectives are very broad or vague e.g. make X amount of sales this year, think about what individual teams might do to deliver that outcome. It might involve innovation or continuous improvement around products, services, processes, customer relations, employee development.

If individuals or their managers are overly focused on whether or not people have met or exceeded the numeric targets in their objectives, reflect instead on what new knowledge has been gained, what tangible outcomes have been achieved, and the resultant impact on the business.

NOTES

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.