What stops our success?
It may not be the obvious place to start to answer the question, but how blind are you to your own beliefs, attitudes and behaviours and the impact they have?
Whether positive or negative, your beliefs about the situation you are in and the people you work with will make a tremendous difference to how you and they perform. In this article we will offer you two means of opening your eyes to the problem – if you are willing to look. They are the ‘Gaps’ and ‘Traps’ that we all fall prey to without even realising it.
- ‘Gaps’ are external. They are the unacknowledged or ignored difference between what the system and process at work is supposed to deliver compared to what we actually get.
- ‘Traps’ are internal. They are embedded and unexamined beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that combine like viral bugs to deliver poor performance and distraction from noticing the ‘gaps’.
It is our blindness to the ‘gaps’ combined with the ‘traps’ of negative ritual behaviours within work situations that keep us locked into ways of working that are wasteful (behavioural waste) and costly. They prevent us from identifying and taking those small, considered steps that all businesses need to take, in order to grow and move forward. This blindness leads to ‘Behavioural Waste’, those activities that cost time, effort and money and can make the difference between the success and failure of a business. Challenging behavioural waste exposes activities that keep people busy but unproductive.
What difference would it make if you reduced behavioural wastes in your business by one hour a day for each employee? Where could you focus that additional time?
Behavioural wastes are all forms of behaviour that divert energy, focus, talent and resources away from personal or organisational purpose. They stop us thinking, leave us in a frustrated state and we lose the drive to do anything different. Behavioural Waste results in unproductive ‘games’ that people persist in playing that lead to and may include:
- Unchallenged low performance and weak leadership
- Setting unrealistic targets
- Unnecessary ritual meetings or consistent lateness at meetings
- Supporting internal competition that benefits the minority and not the business
- Training that consistently fails to deliver results, whose ineffectiveness is accepted or ignored
- Failure to tackle bullies or resolve conflicts
- Persistent, cynical attitudes that reduce commitment
- Maintaining obsolete working practices and processes
- Unfair loading of key individuals
Such behaviours are caused by ‘can’t-do’ or ‘won’t-do’ beliefs and attitudes where people ignore or make excuses for failure or simply do not put the effort in to face them, name them and taking action to eliminate them. Sometimes people lose sight of what is needed and spend their time stabilising unproductive activities because the fear of doing something different may be too scary and they find themselves locked into hygiene or tidying routines under pressure. When we hear a new idea, we become programmed to look for weaknesses or flaws instead of trying to identify the positive, useful elements. If offered an alternative approach we often decide not to take the risk by applying a routine ‘won’t-do’ defensive excuse and block a new thought or initiative to transform a difficult situation.
When you find yourself instinctively blocking a suggestion, take a moment to reflect on how much thinking you put into exploring the new possibility or did you immediately find yourself ‘trapped’ into instinctively looking for reasons to justify not taking action? What ‘game’ are you playing?
Here is a recent example where the excuse for failure to address a real problem is already available. A medium-size professional organisation has a serious problem with some of its customer-facing people. They have the wrong attitude and behaviours and give such a poor quality of service that it needs to change for business success.
However, rather than working with a company that has experience in dealing with negative attitudes and poor-performing teams they opted for a training organisation to provide additional inputs on customer care, instead of attempting to understand why previous indoctrination had such little effect.
The senior person in the company who made this decision knows that the training is unlikely to impact on current behaviours or improve performance. However when invited to explain his choice pointed out that you can always blame the training provider for the failure.
Most people are completely oblivious to ‘gaps’ and ‘traps’ at work and continue to do what they have always done, because they either believe it works or they are resistant to checking the reality. Yet by simply asking some basic questions and thinking through what we are doing we can identify where we are wasting time, effort and money.
Common ‘gaps’ and ‘traps’ found in many businesses include:
- Knowledge – Doing Gap
- Predictability Trap
- Change Management Gap
- Engaged vs Disengaged Gap
- Perception vs Reality Gap
- Performance Trap
Knowledge – Doing Gap This relates to a well-known problem relating to the transfer of knowledge following training, into attitude and behavioural change, and tangible results. People attend training programmes particularly relating to non-technical subjects that include leadership, customer services, communication, personal performance, sales and conflict, yet fail to use that knowledge back in the work place.
If knowledge training in its current form does not work, why do we continue to invest in it?
What if we addressed the wrong attitudes and behaviours first before providing knowledge? Or is it too much of a risk to focus on attitudes?
Are you focused on ‘learning’ or ‘doing’? Are you stuck on the wrong side of the gap?
Predictability Trap Predictive models abound these days and in truth some work well however, there is a flaw within these models or algorithms that many people ignore – most models fail to consider factors that we cannot control or influence, or depend on accurate data. In predicting results people get trapped into thinking that their estimates will be more accurate than they really are and this thought-pattern may drive rigid and unrealistic expectations and create a style of leadership that is overly controlling. Businesses should avoid being driven by predictions on aspects of plans that they cannot control or influence to a necessary degree of certainty. Logical prediction or decision taking models, many of which are linear, fail to accept that the world and people in it are more complex, dynamic and unpredictable than we like to think. Complexity theory informs us that we should identify patterns and trends and learn from the past as the future is unpredictable, and the only thing we can control or influence is what we do in the moment.
What are your predictions and where do you focus? Are you in a predictability trap?
Change Management Gap Change management programmes offer a range of solutions that will allegedly transform your organisation, all providing information about what you need to do and where resistance is likely to come from. Years of evidence has enabled change providers to be confident in what they offer and how it will unfold. What they ignore is the gap between success and failure of change programmes. A regularly quoted failure rate is 70% and if you search it on the web you will discover over 3 million results on change failure. Recently IBM carried out a study on ‘Making Change Work’ with 1500 change practitioners and the results from the people who offer change solutions to businesses of all sizes is a 59% failure rate. Not good.
How much time, effort and money would be saved if people started out positively engaged instead of resisting? How much quicker would a change programme be implemented?
Engaged vs Disengaged Gap Survey after survey informs us that most workers are increasingly disengaged. Kenexa published a report in 2012 that stated the UK worker is 20% less productive than workers in the rest of the G7 industrialised nations and represents the biggest gap since 1995. Yet how many businesses really commit to closing the productivity gap by focusing on building engagement? Today, there is substantial evidence that engaged employees are more productive across all sectors of the economy. Closing the engagement gap can be beneficial.
If you could increase the number of engaged staff; those willing to put in focused effort by 10%, what impact would that have on the bottom line?
Perception vs Reality Gap Our beliefs and perceptions influence the way we think, feel and behave. Unfortunately, our perceptions are not always based on reality. Sara Rynes in 2007 published a paper relating to evidence-based management in which she states, “The gap between science and practice is so persistent and pervasive that some have despaired of it ever being narrowed”. A recently published survey by the ILM titled, “Beyond the bonus: Driving employee performance” disclosed more gaps between perception and reality. For example 82% of managers said that their staff know exactly what is expected of them; they are always giving feedback and also coached their staff. A majority of employees disagreed with those statements by managers whose level of awareness about what they believe they are doing and what they are seen to be doing by others, are poles apart.
What do you believe you are doing and what do you really do? Have your employees a clear line-of-sight to the impact they have on the business?
Performance Trap Many organisations senior people and managers focus on the performance output of different activities and that is understandable and necessary. A lot of time and effort is put into measuring results like KPIs and analysing them. If the results are not as predicted then sometimes the wrath of senior staff is brought down on to the heads of departments. Being trapped in performance ‘output’ often means that you lose sight of those small necessary ‘input’ activities that lead to those output results. Small changes in input activities, namely those things you can control and actually do, can lead to big improvements at the output end. There are many examples if you check out complexity theory.
Ask yourself, “Do I know what the small inputs are that lead to the desired outputs?” “How do I do each input activity?” Can you answer these questions simply and with clarity?
People often know the words but not the actions.
Closing the gaps and escaping the traps
You may have noticed that in all of these gaps and traps there is a consistent message. Our blindness or negative beliefs, attitudes and behaviours are at the heart of gaps and traps. Simply ask a series of reality check questions and not assume you know what is actually going on.
Such basic questions may include:
- What is our purpose?
- What are we doing that lead to our purpose?
- What are we doing that take us away from our purpose?
- What do I/we believe is happening?
- Are we in a ‘gap’ or ‘trap’?
- What are the consequences?
- How much are behavioural waste activities costing?
- What will it take to escape our flawed reality?
- What do we need to stop doing?
- What do we need to start doing?
The recent “Good to Great” by McKinsey report referred to case studies and rigorous academic research that shows if you want to create and spread excellence, eliminating the negative is the first order of business. How you do that, they leave to you.
At Mind Fit we identify negative activities through the term ‘Behavioural Waste’ and the experience of being trapped or ignoring gaps between beliefs and reality generates much of that. The Mind Fit process further raises your awareness and that of your business about how your attitudes and behaviours and that of your people, impact on everyone’s ability to perform to their optimum, lead and engage, work in teams, and ultimately improve performance.
We do not assume that we know your issues and have the solutions that you need before we start to work with your organization. We work in partnership with our clients’ so that the input activities that you choose to change are relevant to you and your business.
As ever now the choice is yours. Whether to continue with the behavioural waste inherent in the business, or free yourself, your people and your business from those blocking ‘Gaps’ and ‘Traps’ and outperform your expectations.
Contact us today for a free consultation firstname.lastname@example.org
Growth comes from Engaged Employees
Behavioural Waste is from Disengaged Employees