How to get your people to want to perform better

Hands up all who cut their grass this weekend or got mighty close to doing so?  The middle of March and it’s the time of year when real men are scared to open the back door in case they hear the sound of lawn mowers.  Or to be more accurate, their partners hear that distinctive hum of a motor running somewhere in the neighbourhood.

And those immortal words “darling, everyone else is cutting their grass – don’t you think you should be?”

I get caught out every year with the neighbours starting their engines before me.  But this year I decided to get the job done before Claire said anything.  As soon as I heard those spluttering engines, I raced outside and started on the lawn.

You see, when involved in any kind of work performance – selling, coaching, managing, customer care…when we see or hear of our peers doing well or performing healthily, it motivates us to want to achieve as well.

It’s built into the inner core of many of us.

I’m involved in coaching professional people who have been unlucky enough to be made redundant.  As a coach, I help them to determine their future direction, provide motivation and help them be more effective at job searching.  It’s really fulfilling and I’m part of a great team doing this.

Last week, the organiser of the team, sent through an Excel Spreadsheet, showing everyone in the team, me included, clearly indicating the numbers we had individually coached and the success of their job searching.  Nothing else was said or mentioned, just the Spreadsheet was attached.

I took one look at this sheet and thought, “ahh.. Bob in Brixton’s done more than me and I’m behind Mary from Mansfield and Tom from Trowbridge.  I better get my finger out and market some more!”

Isn’t it amazing that just publishing performance figures is enough to generate huge motivation from many people and you don’t have to be in sales for this to work. Salespeople definitely work with published figures and results and we’ve known this for years. You might have:

  • customer care staff and the number of satisfied customers
  • a team of workplace coaches and the number of live observations they conducted last week
  • your managers and the average sick days per employee
  • your people’s development action plans could be shown when they’ve completed them
  • your training team and how many evaluation methods they adopt.

You can make the figures very public for the whole company to see, maybe even to your customers, or you can just let the team be aware of the numbers. And you don’t need to say anything if the numbers do the talking.

Do keep in mind the impact that publishing figures, numbers, results for all to see, can have on performance and individual’s motivation, and the oldest aphorism in the book “What gets measured, gets done”.

I did a great job on the lawn considering it was my first cut of the season.  I’d finished, turned to look at the garden, bathed in warm spring sunshine, with a cold beer, I felt rather proud of myself and just then Claire appeared. “Well done darling, but Morris next door’s grass has much straighter lines”