Posts Tagged ‘service industries’

‘One out of every 25 business leaders could be psychopathic* ‘

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Is your Boss a psychopath?
Is your Boss a psychopath?

What a great headline and timely – we’ve all worked with bosses from hell, and at times of turbulence when people are very stressed, these stories have a particular resonance. But the headline is a gross simplification.  **1 in 25 out of small sample of 200 individuals – that’s 4% of a really small population. 

Many of the skills sets required to be a good boss could easily be confused with those described as psychopathic traits.  Doing business means that we are not always authentic in our emotional response to situations.  Appropriate senior management behaviours include:

·         Always outgoing and charming in public, (even if you’ve just lost a major contract).

·         Knowing when not to engage at an emotional level, and even when to ignore individuals (and how not to give offense when you do not).

·         Staying adult, (whatever the provocation), with staff, and customers.

·         Maximising time to useful contacts; minimising time given to those who are not useful – and making assessments about the ‘usefulness’ of the people concerned.

·         Firing people  – even if they have families to support and there is no other employment for them.

·         Making political accommodations and contracts with people and companies you do not ‘admire’.   

Consider also entrepreneurs?  Individuals who succeed against the odds – be it in commercial or not for profit sectors tend to have different psychological traits to those of the general population.  Some of these traits are not very attractive.

Here is how to protect your organisation from psychopaths:

1                    Know your business – it’s hard to fake when managers are knowledgeable about their business. 

2                    Manage performance – manage performance against objective criteria and agreed timelines.  To underline the point, business plans usually come with numbers and dates. 

3                    Have robust hiring systems.

4                    Inform everyone one of and apply relevant processes (including informal networks) to stamp out bullying.

5                    Ensure the Organisational Values are alive, not just written on a piece of paper – which means including them in performance management.


 Talk to us, in confidence and without obligation about helping your managers develop the competence and confidence to manage effectively.  Solutions that engage, motivate and fit around, rather than disrupt the business.

*The Guardian newspaper and other media sources.

**The study was conducted by Dr. Paul Babiak, you will find more – including a (n interesting) check list of psychopathic traits at

Supernova – when your Star explodes

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Managing Performance Key Success Factor

The Pain of Performance

After much professional struggle and personal pain, you are a Star in your industry. But life is not going so well, using alcohol and maybe some other substances to dull the pain, you lose control in public and are arrested for racist and anti-Semitic defamation. The instantly recognisable face of a global retail brand, the outburst filmed by a bystander goes viral on Then you are fired as your employer attempts to avoid brand contamination. Sober, and publicly shamed, you apologise profusely. But the damage is done.

John Galliano’s very public meltdown caught our attention as managing staff performance – however senior or much of a Star they are – is a key indicator of organisational success. UK organisations have a duty of care towards employees that includes the stress from their employment. Failure will, as Dior are finding out, damage your market and employer reputation, may further damage (and thus increase the risk of your being sued) your failing employee and will certainly waste the monies that you have spent developing and hiring him or her. For Dior to un-mesh their corporate identity with that of the Galliano ‘brand’ is a further cost.

High value services and products require teams to deliver into globalised market places. Leading teams of different generational, functional and cultural backgrounds is a daily reality for most managers. You are part of the team you lead and work alongside them every day, and you may even like them. With current market turmoil, the possibility of reducing stress by average scoring and giving the standard pay rise has gone. No wonder it is difficult to persuade managers to engage with this personal and interpersonal challenge.

No surprise then that the banks and IT developers are talking about developing software that will de-risk the 1:1 of leadership – Cyber or Android Manager to take the pain away?

We beg to differ. The solution starts with the senior team acknowledging the significant risks and costs involved with poor execution of these skills. Performance management belongs to line management rather than HR, as it is in those thousands of ‘moments of truth’ as teams interact that performance is managed. Giving managers the competence that leads to expert and confident delivery requires an accessible, engaging, individually low risk programme that fits around demands of running a business.

Talk to us today, in confidence and without obligation, to ensure your managers produce stellar performance from the whole team

NB: Dig a little deeper into the Galliano story and it transpires that the individual who managed the interface between Galliano and his employer, (Steven Robinson), died four years ago. Perhaps this exposed the designer to the stresses of managing his own relations with a corporate culture, and removed an important reality check. Whilst Galliano will no doubt recover from the shock, it is a shame for both the organisation and the individual concerned that the realisation that there was a problem came only after such public and shaming exposure.

AQ & Market Crunch – Seduced by Schwarzenegger?

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

As the global recession crunches markets, organisations are entering the unknown. What worked in the bubble is no longer applicable, and previously high performing talent is finding itself challenged by uncertainty. What to do? One of the suggestions is that we add the Adversity Quotidient (AQ) to IQ and EQ as an element of individual manager performance to be measured and required in new recruits and existing staff. We are talking in essence about emotional (and intellectual) resilience in the face of professional challenge. I find the idea worrisome – let me explain why.

The focus on the individual is a concern in itself. Globalisation means that anything simple has been off shored and outsourced. Western organisations compete in open markets and at the higher end of the value chain. Effective and sustained competitive performance in such complexity requires a team response.

Even if we are seduced by the focus on the ‘strong man’ (Schwarzenegger for Governor?), an individual’s ability to deal with adversity is not set it changes over time, and from situation to situation. Domestic influences are important – bereavement. Divorce etc., as well as the corporate and team environments. It’s quite usual for individuals to be considered as a star in one team and then fail when moved into another.

At the Performance Practice we see an active process in successful entrepreneurial companies of a ‘live’ testing of resilience, and a development of competence over many years. The senior core of managers will have usually been in the team for a long time – their strengths and weaknesses are known. Their internal relationships/networks are solid and have been built up slowly. This testing is not possible in organisations which are unable to, or choose not to, grow their own talent.

As such the concept of AQ is attractive, particularly in turbulent times when organisations, their HR teams, and recruitment agents try to reduce the risk of new hires and promotions. But is it really a break through or is it an attempt to codify elements of experience, knowledge and maturity? When markets change fundamentally and the risk management software is no longer so effective in predicting outcomes, knowledge and competence really matter – and the individuals who have that are likely to be older, more expensive and harder to manage.

Next steps
• Talk to us about how to making this ‘hard’ soft stuff easier and improving practical performance management skills.

Performance Management – connecting rewards to results

Monday, May 11th, 2009

How did the link between performance and reward become so etiolated? ‘interesting times’ indeed when bankrupt organisations pay out pre bankruptcy bonuses and benefits, and company officers walk away apparently without sanction.  The breaking of the link raises many questions.  Did the City ‘pay to go away’ culture lead directly to the loss of management competencies? Did a super abundance (overstated?) of profits allow the development of a culture of avoidance and collusion?  Did failure to understand the true nature of the products and services being sold, lead to the confusion of a market bubble with management performance?   

To most (and surely especially to more junior staff) the breaking of the link between performance and reward makes a mockery of much vaunted systems of recruitment, appraisal, and development.  Those of us with grey hair understand that systems need people to co-operate to make them work.  For this to happen not only must they be credible (measure the right thing), the individuals concerned must be confident in their ability to use them.  At The Performance Practice we know that the practical side of performance management is actually really difficult – particularly in high intellect and entrepreneurial organisations.  Big hitters (and wannabes) do not usually take lightly to being realistically appraised: those professional skill sets you hired tend to be applied enthusiastically to the more immediately motivating question of pay rises: whilst the conversation is about performance it’s impact on the relationship between manager and managed is potentially damaging and technically orientated managers may not even be willing to try.  Responses to this challenge are not necessarily logical but emotional.  Ironically it often feels much easier to introduce a standard system and tick the boxes, rather than address the real issues – particularly when the organisation also has to meet a regulatory or legal requirement.


? Does your performance management system reward performance?

Next Steps : 

  •          Audit your existing system
  •          Practical and realistic performance management skills training
  •          Employee Value Proposition

Talk to us, in confidence and without obligation at


Risk Management, or Management, Failure?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Much recent press has been devoted to the apparent failure of risk management systems in the financial services sector. However, continuing revelations indicate more a failure of management, rather than risk management systems. Managing risk is at the heart of competitive advantage, and is management’s job. As added value services become more complex and associated risk levels increase, delegating responsibilty to the Risk Management team is an understandably attractive option. But understanding risk and managing its consequences is what managers (should[?}) do – and why they are paid more. To do this managers need to be able to recognise and communicate risk, and manage those consequential politics and team issues.

? Are your managers over reliant on the risk management department?

? Do your managers have the soft skills (interpersonal and political) to effectively manage risk?

? Does your organisation have a ‘culture of challenge’

Next Steps

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