We’ve Cracked the Code on Top Team Performance

By Guest blogger - May. 2, 2013
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Editors Note:
 This is a guest post written by Trudy MacDonald – Managing Director of Talent Code. Her opinions are her own.


Imagine where my business would be today (and what my life would be like) if I got this right 10 years ago!

This was this statement from a customer that really got me thinking about the broader impact of getting the people side of business right.

Increased profits? More time to work on the business? More time with my family? More time for me?

Now I was starting to see the picture.

We all know people are our most important asset but we also know that people are the most difficult part of business to run. Whilst there is certainly no silver bullet to fix all, there are a few practical secrets to maximising the performance of your people that can really make a difference to business performance and to the lives of business leaders.

Fact: If we can improve the engagement of our people, we are much more likely to get discretionary effort (that’s your magic 10-20% more) and our people are more likely to stay with the business.

Secret #1: Define ‘Great

This starts at the top with a clearly articulated vision for your business.

Paint a picture of the future that your people can get excited about. Then we get to the important bit – work with your teams to define what “Great” looks like for every person in your business.

This includes:

  • Defining the 4-6 key areas of responsibility that will make a difference (not all the tasks that take up a large portion of people’s time);
  • Identifying the measures of success;
  • Making your company values meaningful to each individual (of course ‘integrity’ will have a different meaning to a sales rep than it will to a forklift driver; and
  • Identifying the professional skills required to do the job well

If you can effectively engage your people with this concept you have an effective “blue print” for all other people initiatives that will serve to maximise the performance of your people.

Secret #2: Measure ‘Great

Now that you have defined ‘Great’ you can start to hold your people accountable for being great at their jobs. This is where your performance review and feedback mechanisms are critical.

A few key considerations to make this work well (and not a “tick box” exercise) are:

  • Combine performance and development discussions that engage your staff with an exciting future;
  • Two formal discussions a year are much more effective than one. Quarterly discussions are even better; and
  • Ensure your managers are trained to have difficult conversations when needed and that they know how to motivate and inspire performance.

Secret #3: Reward ‘Great

Whether you have a bonus scheme or not, the way you financially reward your people must be aligned to your definition of “Great” if you want a return on investment from your people costs.

Some important design tips that will make a measurable difference are:

  • Your people need to know what they need to do to obtain a bonus and receive a base salary increase. If your employees are relying on “hope” they will not be focused on being “Great”.
  • Perceived fairness of rewards is critical to maximising engagement and performance. If your people feel that they are rewarded unfairly relative to the market or others in your business doing a similar role, they will not be performing at their best.

Secret #4: Develop ‘Great

Many of your people will be highly engaged by the prospect of developing their current skills or the skills needed to progress their careers.

However, in an attempt to meet this need many businesses will send their staff to generic leadership or management courses. If you have done this, ask yourself: what has changed since your people attended this course? Have you received a measurable return on investment? I have seen the best results from adopting the following approach:

  • Start with a gap analysis – identify the development needs of your people relative to what “Great” looks like for their role or for roles they may hold in the future.
  • Partner with a specialist business to target the specific development needs of your people. There will be some common needs across the group however there will also be individual needs.
  • Hold your people accountable for behavioural change and results (both individually and as a group) following your investment.

Secret #5: Recognise ‘Great

It is critical that we recognise and reinforce “Great” when we see it. This has as much to do with the behaviours people exhibit as the results that they achieve. Consider tweaking the following approaches to suit the motivators of people in your business:

  • Regular “gatherings” to share and acknowledge successes can be a powerful reinforcement of your culture
  • Acknowledge both teams and individuals
  • Allow your people to catch each other doing “Great” things and articulate the impact this has on the business.

Many HR departments are perceived as cost centres, focused predominately on compliance and employee relations. With the right strategic focus, HR can be transformed into a profit driver through mobilising your people to maximise their performance (and have a great time while doing it).


Trudy Macdonald is the Managing Director and Founder of Talent Code Pty Ltd, helping businesses become “Great” by improving the quality and performance of their people.


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