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How does your flower bed look?

A different look at performance management

Ahhh…spring has sprung, which means I can get back into the garden again. This is one of my favourite places to be – there is nothing quite like spending the time and effort in preparing, sowing and nurturing vegetable patches and flower beds (oh, and cutting the grass).

While I was pottering away in my borders last weekend my mind was idly wandering (as it tends to do) and I was thinking about some exciting teambuilding projects that I am currently designing for some amazing clients. One client in particular has an issue with performance management – in particular they are struggling to make it an even and fair process across the entire workforce. What the managers in this particular organisation tend to do is concentrate on those that are either performing really well (the easy option) or the ones who are under performing (the difficult conversation scenario). When looking at the underperformers (their words, not mine), they only concentrate on the things not being done as opposed to all the good that are being done. This is a sign of bad leadership and will inevitably lead to a disengaged, inefficient and demoralised workforce.

While looking at the various flowers now starting to come fully to life in my garden it got me thinking! What if we looked at our teams like a flower bed?

Bear with me now…

If you have a flower bed what does it look like? Does it have a few thrusting flowers that are standing out more than any others with beautiful colours shining through? Are some plants wilting or dying? Or perhaps your flower bed look like a sanctuary for weeds – so overgrown you can’t even see what it was supposed to look like in the first place?

Every plant, flower and shrub (and weed) needs certain things to thrive. For example, all plants need water, sun (some prefer more shade) and nutrition from the earth (or extra added goodness fed to them via a keen gardener). As soon as you take away one of these elements the plant will wither and potentially die after a period of time. It is interesting (and at times frustrating for us gardeners) because all plants differ slightly (as I have spent years finding out to my cost), some love constant sun, some need soaking, others hardly any water (succulents for example), some are extremely hardy and can be left on their own for long periods of time and others are an absolute favourite for slugs and snails.

My thinking continued as I pulled out weeds from around my Clematis – people are no different. Every human needs core basic essentials for life (oxygen, water, food etc.) and in order to not only survive but thrive, people need more. Just like plants – those needs are different for every individual.

Now transpose this across to your team and/or business – what does it look like? Are you feeding your thrusting flowers/plants (people) because they look good and seem to be performing well, whilst simultaneously ignoring the weeds in the hope that if you ignore them they will just die off in due course, even though currently they are draining goodness from the flower bed (your team)? What is causing the not so great looking flowers to wilt? The answer could be YOU.

Performance management should be an everyday event for leaders in business and not just a yearly appraisal (the equivalent of doing the garden once in spring because the sun is out and then leaving it for the rest of the year). People need feeding every day, this means feedback, this means praise, this means reward and recognition and a million other motivating things that are different for every single human being. Do not simply just choose to notice the things people aren’t doing (this could actually be your inability to communicate what you want clearly) – see the positive too.

As a leader you are the gardener of your team – you should feed, nurture, inspire, enthuse, coach and help grow every individual in the team, in order for them to be the very best that they can be because you understand that everyone is human and we all have individual motivators that, when tapped in to, make us a much more amazing part of a team.

Ask yourself a few questions next time you look at your team’s performance –

What would I like my flower bed to look like?

Have I lost track of what the original flower bed was supposed to look like?

Am I just feeding the weeds?

Do I know what makes my people grow and thrive?

Am I ignoring the tough conversations because it’s easier to concentrate on the high flyers?

Are you letting external factors (slugs) effect the team?

Happy gardening one and all.

About the author

Dave Dayman

Dave Dayman

I'm passionate about leadership. I believe that thinking is not only the most powerful tool that we own but is also the one thing we have total control over. Sometimes we just need a little help to change the way we in which we choose to think!