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Why we cheer at the football, and what’s that got to do with business?

When you’re at a footy match and someone kicks a goal, you scream and yell. Would you ever think of sitting back and saying “That’s what you’re paid for”?


So in business, when someone does something great, why do leaders say “That’s what you’re paid for”? Shouldn’t they be cheering and clapping?

Workplace motivation is often unrelated to bonuses and incentives. It’s about truly connecting with staff by acknowledging them for great performance – and if this is done publicly and loudly, even better.

Conversely, creating a great workplace culture is also about letting people know when their efforts are below par, so that they can work towards kicking goals.

Constructive feedback to correct behaviour is one of the most difficult skills that leaders have to master because people like to be liked. The trick is to give feedback regularly and systematically to try to prevent behaviour problems from emerging.

Susan Scott was a Chair in The Executive Connection in the US for over ten years. She wrote a book called Fierce Conversations, which contained a brilliant method for performance management.

Her seven-step process allows you to prepare for difficult conversations, and to get your point across in a controlled and unaggressive manger.

The result can often be quite disarming and can create open, productive communication that leads to rapid conflict resolution. The seven steps are:

  1. State the issue.
  2. Provide examples of where the behaviour has occurred.
  3. Describe your emotion around the issue – how has their behaviour made you feel?
  4. State your contribution to the issue – where are you accountable?
  5. Clarify why resolution is important and what is at stake.
  6. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue and explain your desired outcome.
  7. Ask them to respond.

It’s best if you write your statements out first, and candidly let your team member know that this is the process that you’ll be using, that you may need to read from the page, and if they hear you out they will be invited to respond at the end. Tell them up front that it will only take three or four minutes, so they are not wondering how long it will be before they can respond.

Once you’ve used this approach a few times, people will come to expect it. A good CEO or manager will also train key people in the same process so that a culture of feedback and conflict resolution becomes the norm.

I have been assisting leaders with this process for many years. No one has ever come back and said “He went ballistic”. Instead, people report calm discussions instead of angry, defensive encounters.

Make sure you stay tuned for my next two editions which will be about taking care of the team terrorist, as well as effective delegation and strategic planning.

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Harvey Martin

Harvey Martin

Harvey Martin is Regional Chair of Victoria for The Executive Connection (TEC), a peer-to-peer mentoring organisation that aims to create better management and leadership practices amongst its members. Harvey has held a number of CEO roles throughout his career, and consults in marketing and strategic management for a wide range of organisations including the agricultural, manufacturing, IT and service industries. Harvey can be contacted via email: Harvey@tec.com.au

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