Friday, August 9th, 2019

My client has worked hard to put systemisation in place.

His managers now have clear targets.  He runs a monthly management meeting with all of them where performance is reviewed.  He is spending his time in these meetings questioning, listening and coaching, not talking and telling.

And yet…at our last meeting he told me that he is unhappy because his managers are not doing the things that he has asked them to do.  “They nod and say yes – but then don’t do what we agreed.”

His immediate thought was that it is something to do with incentivisation.  They have a simple bonus structure that is uncapped but adds 20% to base salary if targets are hit.  When we discussed this it transpired that most don’t hit, and none exceed, target.  I explained that money doesn’t motivate but that the reward system seemed fair and achievable so was unlikely to be demotivating people.

His next line of thought was that he needed to be more of a disciplinarian.  Whilst it is true that leaders need to be prepared to take firm action on sustained poor performance it didn’t seem likeley that this would address the cause of all the managers failing to deliver.

We discussed why someone might agree to do something in a meeting and then not do it and I introduced Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team”.  I suggested that working on the trust layer of this really useful model would be a good place to start.

To remind you, trust in this context doesn’t mean you are pretty confident they won’t steal the silver service.  It means that the members of the team honestly and openly express their feelings, doubts and opinions without fear of this causing resentment, defensiveness or aggression in the other members.  Where this is not the case, in dysfunctional teams, people nod agreement without meaning it, don’t feel encouraged to give their opinion and so have no commitment to whatever is agreed.

As the leader, you have to start this trust process, and not just with fine words.  I suggested that, at their next meeting, my client explain his feelings and concerns to the managers and initiate a conversation that encouraged his managers to explain how they felt about these unfulfilled actions and the way they were prioritised and agreed in meetings.

I look forward to it dawning on my client just how little he has always got from his managers – and just how much he can get from them in future.


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