Sometimes performance is really good, sometimes it’s not.
The mistake a lot of leaders make, is to focus too much on the poor performance, in the effort to avoid it in the future. It’s human nature, our default position, to focus on what is not working and think of ways to avoid it in the future.
It may seem like a good idea to look at what isn’t working, to focus on the low-quality performance and implement procedures, policies, checklist and manuals to aim for better future performance. In fact, on the surface, it seems crazy not to put such procedures in place.
As a leader, I am sure you can think of many times where your role was to focus on problems that needed to be solved. A problem is identified that stunts performance, it is then scrutinised, then solutions are created to ensure it doesn’t happen again and procedures are implemented. Problem solved.
Certainly, there is merit in this approach. The benefit of such policies and procedures, is that of course it does help to eliminate or at least reduce previous mistakes and sub-standard performances in the future. However, leaders who are striving for high performance teams, need to consider the limitations of implementing such procedures, as they can far outweigh the benefits.
Processes and procedures can squash excellence
The drawback is we also tend to limit the top performances as it has a tendency to squash performance closer to the protocol. If the focus is to tick off the boxes to avoid low performance, you may have set the bar too low and set limitations on the potential performance of your team.
In some instances, achieving high or excellent performance is no longer actively encouraged. There is simply no space for it when you are following a manual. What do you think this does to the energy and motivation of the team?
By focusing on the negative and striving for average, people can become unmotivated, lacking in energy and disengaged. They can lose focus on the big picture and have nothing to push them towards excellence. This doesn’t make for a workplace where innovation thrives.
Embrace the positive, shift your approach to appreciative inquiry
Appreciative inquiry flips this approach on it’s head. Instead of focusing on how to avoid poor performance by implementing checklists and procedures, it focuses on having leaders analyse the top performances and inquiring with open curiosity on how top performance was achieved.
This approach of cherry picking the things that were done well in the past, encourages future performance to be well above the average. The focus moves away from what doesn’t work, to what does work.
It encourages leaders to imagine how great the performance can be in the future and be more open to possibilities to change and be innovative. It creates space and creative license for individuals to do better than they did before, to own their work and to do it their way.
Lead people in a way that gives them the opportunity to shine
You can see how this bold, positive approach helps to instill excellence and push the team towards high performance.
It’s a technique that requires positive conversation. It’s a much more enlightened experience for leaders and staff alike, to focus on the positive and strive or excellence rather than take the bottom-feeding approach that results in simply aiming for an above-average performance.
Under this approach, we highlight people’s success stories and achievements, which is hugely motivating and a great foundation for engagement and commitment.
A shared experience
People love to talk, share their experiences and feel valued. By gathering the team together to talk about achievements and successes you will instill confidence that they are responsible for their successes because their own approach to work, not because they followed protocols and procedures.
Appreciative inquiry is a glass half-full approach that focuses on people’s strengths and opportunities to shine. It can help your team stay focused on the big picture and move towards a shared vision for the future by being engaged in strategic innovation.
By creating a bright and positive picture of what the future could look like, you will be generating positive behavior right now.
Appreciative inquiry is not just an approach to improve performance; it is a leadership philosophy. Make a commitment to try it yourself and encourage your team to reach for the stars.
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.