The Business Improvement Network

Managing business performance

By John Shenton

BIN - The Business Improvement Network

Every manager at some point in their career will undertake some form of performance management training.

Over the last fifty years, management skills have been formalised and trained in every guise possible.

The art of management this year becomes next year’s new age management techniques.

We constantly re-invent the jargon whilst retaining the core skill functions.

Every year as the world of business becomes more aggressive, senior management is given the task, by the board, to improve performance as a percentage of last year’s figures.

Each year the board attempts to identify a new way to reduce overheads whilst increasing profitability.

Ask any sales manager how he intends to increase his annual bonus and this is the answer you will get.

“Drive the targets harder down the line so that each member of the team increases their individual output by ten percent.”

What happens when the sales team finally realise that they can make more money working for a competitor?

The same answer applies to every part of every organisation. There comes a point when investment is the only way forward.

When I mention the word investment, every finance director takes a deep breath. Not more money!! – where is the profit going to come from – where is the ROI?

Chicken and egg comes to mind and sometimes you just have to be prepared to break some eggs.

If I suggest breaking eggs – most people will assume that I mean that increased budgets must be the solution if linked directly to profits - the return on investment.

What if the resource that increases performance is enjoyment?

What if the very people who increase the profit can benefit directly from that increase in profit through enjoyment?

To answer this question, you are going to have to seriously re look all of your learning about how to manage people.
If you are one of the lucky few who have already understood this and now have a team working at full output, and having fun doing it, then you can stop reading, sit back and open a bottle of champagne If that is what you enjoy.

If you are still prepared to assess the value of other people’s success and to add this to your own – keep reading.

People who enjoy their work and feel truly valued will be the same people who offer you a resource for nothing in business terms.

What are the keys to enjoyment in a work environment?

Herein lies the biggest challenge because so many managers who took the “Motivating your Employees” course were given the wrong information.

There were many and several motivators according to the likes of Hertzberg(*1) and others, Names we all knew and respected. Learning these fundamentals meant as managers we could apply one of more to a given situation and expect a return for giving and employee a bonus or a salary increase at the end to of the year.

Motivation is NOT one for all and all for one. Motivation is NOT a static solution that lasts for a year or more. Motivation is not the same for you and me.


If this is true it is no wonder we fail at motivating most employees for more than a week at a time.

If as a result we demotivate one employee – the effect is a build-up of negativity in a team resulting in a downturn in performance.

Money will not solve this challenge. It might fill a small hole for a week but we need an ongoing solution that will grow in success terms.

Is there one simple answer to all the above?

If the answer was simple would we all not be applying it to our business?

The answer is really simple – it is going to require everyone to rethink the way we do business between ourselves.

Once you understand me, and I understand you, and we both understand our business, where it needs to be in a given time frame and how we can help to get it there, what’s in it for us once we get there, then we will have solved the problem.(*2)

We really need a couple of simple tools and tricks of the trade to bring this to life given that we can create a process that we have constructed ourselves so that we all agree with the direction we are heading.

Top down management is going to be turned upside down. The board of directors is going to become a part of the solution, part of the team driven by the people on the front line.

Middle management is going to become the hub of communication empowering everyone to become part of the solution.

Everyone down to the newest employee is going to become an integral part of the solution taking part because they want to, because the business is THEIR BUSINESS.

Very little needs to change – the biggest challenge is ATTITUDE ADAPTION and we really can achieve this together if we have the right leader with the right tools to do the job.

(*2) Mayo - Hawthorne Effect

Elton Mayo did not accept that money was the only motivator and he carried out the Hawthorne Experiments at a plant in Chicago to try to discover what really drove people. His Relay Assembly Test proved that workers were inspired by directing their own work, working in teams and having a good relationship with management. He concluded that the main reason his subjects' work rate increased was because they were being studied. Having someone show an interest in you is, in itself, a motivating factor.

He also found that people were driven when working in teams. People are also influenced by their own aspirations and by friendship groups, and managers can use these to assist in motivation. What Mayo called the psychological contract refers to the unwritten understanding between the employer and the employee - each knows what is expected of them. This can be built on to ensure that the workers and the business are reaching their potential.

About the author

John Shenton has been involved in the business of increasing performance using a range of methods and tools, including one that has been developed by John specifically for this purpose for 40 years and has been a DiSC based profiler for over twenty years.

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"Many thanks for yesterday's Performance Measurement workshop. I have clearer thoughts on the downward cascade from Strategy into the processes, something we have not got sorted yet. Thanks for a very useful day"

Jim Hathaway, Quality Manager, Beiersdorf UK