Why peak performance needs more than painting by numbers

Posted by on Feb 23, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments

Why peak performance requires more than a paint by numbers approach



Employee engagement is all about how employees react to your culture at work. It’s certainly true that the expectations of millenials are high. It’s not enough to provide competitive reward packages, they want work life balance, flexibility, meaningful work and the opportunity to unlock their potential.

But are our leaders able to manage these demands?

Regular transparent communication is the cornerstone of modern performance management. Old fashioned performance review processes with annual and quarterly reviews no longer fit in todays’ world.More than ever there’s a need to talk and get under the surface of motivation and performance.

But the challenge isn’t the process. It’s our ability to energise, relate, empathise, connect, coach and inspire that’s paramount.




Sarah’s a good employee has expectations that she feels aren’t being met in her company. She’s applied for a promotion and has received it but wants more salary.




James is Sarah’s manager. He doesn’t want to lose Sarah but feels his hands are tied. Budget restrictions means Sarah’s expectations won’t be met. More significantly benchmarking and gut feel tell him the salary he’s offering is fair salary given her experience and skills.

But James’ challenge is that he knows she’ll be disappointed, is likely to react vocally amongst the team and may decide to leave. James knows he has to have the conversation but how does he do it without alienating and disengaging Sarah? It’s one of those conversations that on the surface seems easy but intuitively we know can get sticky.  It doesn’t matter what model James uses, the aspects that are likely to derail it are the emotional reactions.  James’ challenge is that he needs to attend to the following …

• manage his own physiology so that he’s in a state of calm clarity
• a leadership stake for the conversation – what really matters
• communicate cleanly and directly without any assumptions
• listen to feedback and not over react emotionally
• handle Sarah’s emotional reactions, rebuttals and projections
• stay in the conversation and ask powerful questions
• help Sarah reach her own conclusions without feeling victimised
• create a win / win perspective

The problem with paint by numbers models for these conversations is that to keep engagement we need to be able to colour outside the lines. It’s the human elements that are the messiest. The tendency is to shut down the conversation and use power as a strategy to control or make excuses to avoid confrontation. This erodes trust and engagement.



  1. Start with getting to know your self protection mechanisms as a leader. How do you react emotionally? Do you freeze, fight or run away? What’s the earliest warning signs in your physiology? Do you feel your heart racing or perhaps you get knots in your stomach or your temperature increases? Do nothing except take some deep breaths to rebalance your nervous system.
  2. Watch out for triangulation. Notice if you’re getting caught in drama either becoming the persecutor, rescuer or victim. Remember it’s not personal and soon as it feels it is, slow down because you’re in reaction.
  3. Keep it real – be assertive with compassion. State the facts clearly, ask for what you want and give constructive feedback.