What do you do if your team is Warm and Fuzzy but Under-performing?

Sales chart going downYou don’t want to be the next Genghis Khan as a leader but now is the time to stop the rot and turn things around. So how do you turn around an under-performing team, especially if it has a direct impact on your  income generation? First you must find the underlying causes, otherwise your attempts at halting the malaise may be misguided.

So you have a workplace culture you’re proud of. As the saying goes, “Happy people mean a productive workplace.” Yours is not just happy, it has evolved from happy to warm and fuzzy. You are recognised as an employer of choice with brand values in the community that others covet. But something isn’t quite right. You are not achieving the results you expect and deserve, given your high level of positive customer advocacy. So what do you do?

I’ll let you in on a secret. I have seen it before and while there are no quick fixes, with carefully planned, deliberate action you can turn it around.

And while falling sales is one of the obvious symptoms of performance malaise, it is not the only indicator because it is also possible to measure and predict from a cultural point of view, what are the underlying factors impacting on your people. Some time ago I undertook a study of the motivating drivers that were underpinning the thinking of a group of business development executives working with high nett worth clients. First we conducted qualitative questioning with the top performers of the group as well as their managers, followed by quantitative testing.

Given this team was part of a wider culture that was revered for its people-centric policies and practices, there were no surprises when it was discovered that three of the major driving patterns of motivation for every one of the individuals of the team were “Focus on People” (mentoring and developing others), “Group Environment” (social interaction and involvement), and “Shared Responsibility” (team decision making and accountability).

But here is where it got interesting. What we also uncovered during our profiling of the individuals of the team and their leaders, was that none of the performance-related unconscious motivational drivers you would expect to see in a sales-driven culture were among the top quartile of each executive’s patterns. In fact, even more concerning was the fact that performance-related patterns of motivation, such as “Achievement” (personal desire to be recognised for one’s achievements), “Goal Orientation” (focused on setting and achieving goals or targets), and “Focus on Money” (keeping score financially), were all rated by every member of the team and their leaders as low or very low on their motivational radars.

Red Arrow Down on GraphHere was a ‘red flag’ that deserved the immediate attention of the organisation’s leaders because these were strong lead indicators of potential under-performance issues spread right across the team of business development executives. The downward direction on the sales graph merely confirmed what these indicators were telling us, but now we had evidence as to ‘why.’

And herein lies the problem. How often do business leaders see the downward trends on their sales graphs and react immediately to the symptoms and not the causes? Like clutching at the proverbial straws, they try things like re-structuring, replacing the leaders or blaming poor economic times when often the answers lie with a more systemic approach. All of the quick fixes may or may not achieve the result you are looking for, but if the issue is not attacked from a more systemic point of view then the results will be short lived and often the wrong people are burned in the process while others manage to slip under the radar.

A more systemic approach requires you to look more deeply into what are the driving motivators behind the actions and behaviours of your people to see if these are aligned to your objectives and if not, address the underlying motivators rather than the lack of results. Put simply – address the causes not the symptoms. That is why we measure the inputs (the motivation) that drive the outputs (the behaviour) for organisations.

This may not be the quick fix you are wanting to hear, but rest assured it is far more likely to be the sure fix, because it deals with people and how they are motivated to perform both as individuals and as a group rather than treating them as if they are machines with simple on-off buttons.

First you need to address whether your culture has attracted this level and scope of under-performance or whether the under-performers have influenced the culture – i.e. which came first – ‘the chicken or the egg.’ Regardless of which it is that is driving under-performance, the strategies and actions you take will need to take these factors into account.

In my next blog I will address the strategies and actions that you need to put in place in order to turn an under-performing team culture around.

Here is a list of the issues that I will be addressing:–

  • Leadership from the Top
  • Creating an Urgency for Change
  • Re-Aligning the Focus
  • Setting the Scene – Training and Education
  • Ongoing Support Development – Mentoring, Coaching and Managing
  • Performance Measurement – Appropriate and Accurate KPIs
  • Reward and Recognition – Team and Individual
  • Performance Management
  • Capability – Individual and Organisational

I think you can see from the above list that solving the problem of team under-performance and achieving lasting and sustainable change for the better does not come with a quick fix approach.

What are your own thoughts and experiences regarding team under-performance? I would love to hear what you think on the subject.

If you would like to talk with me further on how to turn around performance malaise, email me at  brian@precisionprofiling.com.au . A quick conversation  might be all it takes to point you in a more effective and sustainable direction.

Until next time… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less.  Have a great week – Brian

Precision ProfilingWhat Makes You Tick?  Through ‘Motivational Fingerprinting’ we uncover what you do, how you do it and why you do it, and most importantly, the hidden patterns that lead to your success, and that of your staff.


About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here


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