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Catherine Baker picture By Catherine Baker


We often start our workshops on high performance in the workplace by asking delegates what high performance means to them. It is always fascinating to see the diverse answers given. Common ones include:

  • Good communication;
  • Trust;
  • Continuous development; and
  • Self-awareness

We are always particularly pleased when the last one is offered as a suggestion, as it is the cornerstone of the work we do on high performance.

We also ask delegates what are the implications of not driving for high performance in the workplace. As well as the obvious answers such as poor productivity, poor performance, we also find delegates tend not to take too long to get to ‘higher staff turnover’, ‘low staff morale’ and ‘inefficient spend on employees’.

Not a great set of circumstances.  So how can you work to avoid this?

We execute a two-stage process, to ensure that our clients maximise the potential of their people.

  1. A simple and robust method that enables your people to understand themselves, and those they work with, better.
  2. Focused training and development, using the insights gained from Stage One.

In Stage One we use a robust behavioural profile that focuses on behaviours at work. It helps people to understand their working strengths, what motivates them, best methods of communication, and how they are likely to behave under pressure.  It also helps to highlight areas where they are not so strong.  But it’s important to go further than this; the work we do with clients around the profiling exercise ensures that their people understand not just the way in which they operate, but also how their colleagues operate. It gives them knowledge on what their colleagues’ strengths are, how they tend to function in the workplace, and how to get the best out of them.

Now you might say that all of this is obvious, especially where you know your colleagues well. But in fast-moving businesses it isn’t easy to keep a handle on everyone. We find it fascinating when we work with clients that even colleagues who have worked together for years find the profiling process really useful to pick up on things that they had never realised.  We especially like it when we hear the phrase “Oh, that’s why they react like that when I do this……”!

The insights gained from Stage One feed into Stage Two, ensuring we can work with clients to deliver focused training and development, or work in conjunction with internal providers to advise them accordingly.  We also work with clients to advise on appropriate roles and functions within teams, again using the insights gained from the profiling exercise.

Different ‘work types’ tend to require different types of training.  Whilst the obvious response for many is that training should focus on people’s weaker areas, we take a slightly different approach.  Whilst happy to do this, we advise clients that training which focuses on leveraging people’s strengths provides a better return on investment.  There is a large body of research in the corporate sector that backs this up, but it is also one of the concepts that we take across from our work in the sports industry.

Shifting as we do between the corporate and the sport sectors, our training also includes lessons that can be learnt from the other sector.  Key lessons from the sport sector into the corporate sector include the concepts of marginal gains, purposeful practice, continuous development and culture and environment.  We always enjoy seeing how delegates think through how to apply these concepts in practical terms to their own environments.

Developing your people in the appropriate way leads to high performance as individuals, and high performance as an organisation.  It is of course one of the founding blocks of John Adair’s (the world’s first professor of leadership) Action Centred Leadership Model. As J W Marriott said: “If you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers, and your business will take care of itself.” What might this high performance look and feel like? Let’s leave it to one of the key exponents of high performance, Sir Clive Woodward: “Whether sport or business….it’s all about people. It’s understanding that talent is the starting position, it’s what you do with that talent.”

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