Ideas and Insights

The vexed question of performance appraisals

Jill has written a short paper to help leaders and managers clarify their thinking when it comes to performance appraisal.


Feedback: the how

Many companies try to help managers navigate this minefield by standardizing a feedback/ review process, even going so far as to have printed out mandatory questions with blank spaces for the recipients’ answers….  And in doing so they are trying to equip managers with a tool to help them succeed in the conversation (and avoid HR complications). 

People take feedback differently, in terms of their emotional reaction, subsequent motivation, engagement, input, openness, honesty, follow up output and much more. Feedback is not a one size fits all or each performance review and coaching session would be perfect every time. 

Unfortunately, this way of thinking often addresses the dimensions of content and formal process.  There’s another, equally important focus to consider… the ‘how’ – the informal, hidden or tacit process.

Read more…


Going beyond information exchange: good questioning skills

As far as we are aware, humans are the only creatures that ask questions. This shows a level of self-insight: that we don’t know or understand everything about a situation. Questions take us beyond the obvious.

Generally, questions are seen as ways to elicit or exchange information, but much more importantly questions can,

  • unlock learning
  • fuel creativity and innovation
  • reveal how another person ticks, and
  • build relationships

The use of carefully framed questions is an undervalued tool in organizations and teams. Unfortunately, our education system does not seem to recognise the value of questions or the skills required to construct and use questions. Questioning is a skill to be honed. Our education systems emphasize advocacy at the expense of skilled inquiry.

Read more…


Receiving feedback

It was Ken Blanchard who supposedly said that feedback is the breakfast of champions. Here are 8 simple tips for receiving feedback

Above all else breathe! Move your body (significantly), avert your gaze momentarily, and then take two deep breaths.

Do not look at the person. Do not maintain eye contact. Look to the side and nod your head in acknowledgement to the rhythm of the other person’s speech. Despite everything you have been told to maintain eye contact it is actually counter-productive when dealing with volatile information. It will only male you tense and slow down your thinking and do the same for the other person.

Never argue; just say thanks. Remember, another person’s feedback is about their experience of you not about you.

Don’t let any clarifying questions you have turn into a defense of your position.

Think carefully and slowly about what they have said to you. Don’t immediately reject or immediately reject what the other person has said

Go ask someone else whom you know for their frank honesty with you about how they see the issue and be careful when doing this not to “lead the witness”. In other words, triangulate the feedback.

Look for opportunities to stop doing or start doing critiqued behaviors.

If you feel the criticism was justified and you are better off for it, don’t forget to close the loop and share your progress with the feedback giver.

If you don’t know to change the behavior then ask for help or seek a coach.

Cathy Taylor


The key – knowing what outcomes you want




In framing work with an individual, team or meeting it is always critical to know your outcomes first. This is especially important if you are engaged in repetitive social activity with a purpose in which the sheer repetition can, at times, cause you to lose sight of fundamental purpose. Realizing that the majority of work we do in organizations is with, and through, people it is important to recognize that there are three broad types of outcomes: rational, emotional and social.

Read more…


Behavior change – lessons from the health sector for all leaders


Creating the conditions for, and facilitating, behavior change is a core competency of great leaders and managers. It is also perceived to be one of the most difficult things to achieve and requires approaches and skill that, although may be intuitive to some, the majority find challenging and perplexing. However, research and experience have shown us that there are some clear frameworks and simple skills that can be taught to give leaders and managers huge assistance in more elegantly and successfully influencing behavior change. The health sector provides us with a useful example and model for this. Read more…


Performance: The Holy Grail of Leadership



Click here to view or download a paper exploring useful concepts related to how leaders can approach the sometimes elusive improvement of performance of their organizations, teams and  people. It describes the nature of changes that need to occur for breakthrough performance to be achieved.

Jill Tideman


Communication patterns predict for high performance in teams


There has been some interesting work over a number of years at MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab and MIT Media Lab under the leadership of Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland. Back in 2008 Professor Pentland published a book, Honest Signals: How they shape our world, which introduced the research of his group. With advances in technology they developed a measurement tool, called a sociometer (wearable digital sensor linked with wireless technology), which allows them to map at a very detailed level the non-verbal behavior of large numbers of people as they go about their normal workday lives. They demonstrated that people’s behavior such as tone of voice, body position in relation to others, gestures, body movements and nodding is much more than a complementary system of communication to the words we use (our conscious language). Read more…


Checklist Manifesto: getting it right!



All of us are working in a world of ever-increasing complexity and information overload. Technology and know-how is evolving to help us better manage this complexity, but we continue to be plagued by avoidable failures.


Atul Gawande, a surgeon, in his book of 2009, The Checklist Manifesto, describes a remarkably low-tech approach – the checklist – to manage the complexity of decision-making – consistently, correctly and safely. He developed this approach in the high stakes world of surgery. His very readable book tells the story of how he explored how the construction industry and airline pilots  use checklists to make better decisions particularly when under time pressure. At the behest of the World Health Organization he refined and tailored the approaches he had uncovered, tested and improved them until finally he came up with a version for surgical teams. Read more…


Handling the grey


When someone does something that is blatantly wrong, most leaders know what is asked of them in how to respond. If it is very serious then the usual consequence is that the person responsible is removed from employment.


But when someone does something that is borderline how should you respond?


There are many guidelines within well-established companies on how to handle both the blatant and the borderline. We offer you one simple model that can help you in your decision-making and may be a good adjunct to that which your company already uses.


The table below is derived from the work of Royal Dutch Shell Company.  It was originally developed as a map for handling safety decisions but can in fact be used for guiding managers and leaders across a wide range of situations.






Consequence for the individual


1 Compliance Did they follow all procedures and best practices? Receive encouragement and recognition for good working practices Provide praise and recognitionEnroll person as a coach to guide others
2 Unintended Did they think they were doing it the correct way? No blame and receive training to raise awareness of correct practice Provide simple guidance re techniques
3 Routine Other people here do it the same way. Whole team to receive coaching for condoning rule breaking and not intervening Coaching for improved performance around techniques and expectations
4 Situational I can’t follow the procedure and still get the job done! Receive coaching on the need to speak up when rules cannot followed and explain why that had not happened and work had continued Coaching for improved performance around expectations, consequences, boundaries and KPI’s
5 Optimizing I thought it was better for the company to do it that way. If the violation was to improve performance or to please the supervisor then should receive coaching or discipline if repetitive. Coaching for performance for the individual and their supervisor re expectations, consequences, boundaries and KPI’s
6 Personal Optimizing I thought it was better for me personally to do it that way Formal discipline and formal warning. This is beyond coaching
7 Reckless I meant to do it my way & I thought I would get away with it! Final warning or dismissal for willful and reckless violations This is beyond coaching.


If the behavior or event falls into the range of Level 2 – 5 then, as a leader or manager, you are required to intervene and become a coach for the individual concerned and possibly his or her superior. If the event falls into Levels 6 or 7 then you should probably be asking for direct assistance and support from your superior and the HR function.


Tim Dalmau


Buy Tim & Steve’s Book

''A truly useful and practical book'' Rich Shapiro, EY

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