Accept The Person; Mentor The Behaviour

March 14, 2016




Go to any high school in Australia today, and the subject of acceptance will be front and centre. Who is 'cool', who is 'odd', who is a 'loner' or a 'bully'...


Fact is, we all want to belong. We need a tribe to be part of and contribute to and our behaviour is a major contributing factor in determining which Tribe we will connect best with.


Pull the behaviour back and uncover the layers of limits and rules and we find the common strands that bind us all as one... The need to belong, to be valued, to be heard, to be loved and to be accepted.


In the workplace, the common theme to performance appraisals is behaviour. Of course! This makes perfect sense. We employ people to achieve certain goals and outcomes and the way they achieve them is as important as what is achieved.



Often, I have found that leader's roll the person and the behaviour into one profile and label the whole.


In a recent meeting with a business leader, the owner mentioned how unhappy she was with the reports of an employee's performance which had dropped significantly. After detailing the performance issues, she said "I am so disappointed; I really did peg XYZ as being a good person and I have always liked them," as if the drop in performance levels changes these findings. A person can be honest, kind, helpful AND lazy, self absorbed and inefficient.


As  Leaders, it is crucial that we connect with our employees on a minimum of two levels at all times; the person and the performance. 


Accept and coach the person whilst mentoring and managing the behaviour. Give the employee very clear strategies for success. Real-time feedback, both congratulatory and corrective, is fabulous, as is effective communication on a regular basis.


Rather than wait for 3, 6 or 12 months to tell employees how they could have improved - tell them today. In fact, whilst we're chatting about this, rather than tell them what they have done, instead, ask them how they came to the decision to act in that way? (Note: Don't ask "WHY did you do that?" You'll get a defensive response and the employee will shut-down.) Great intentions can go awry for us all from time to time; understanding the intention is more important that judging the behaviour, and far more useful as a trainer / mentor.


Add perspective to the employees view, by extending their behaviour out in time or value, to showcase the repercussions. Simple example; 'So Jo, coming in 30 minutes late most days, and working through lunch to make back the time... with 40 employees all doing that, what would the business look like and how would our clients feel about our services?'


I have yet to find a psychopath in the sales team. Ok, I accept it is possible that they exist.


I have found that beautiful people can have ugly or unsuccessful behavioural strategies at times, and until a mentor comes along to validate them as a person and guide their behaviour as a poor strategy that can change, they just keep repeating what they know. After all, we don't know what we don't know!


The leaders that create high performance teams tend to speak clearly and truthfully with respect and a willingness to invest in the people they hire. They have clear expectations and they say what they mean and mean what they say. The team members are willing and able to take responsibility for their outcomes and continually invest in their own personal and professional development. There is a theme of respect, open communication, challenge and development. 


So if you are leading a person or a team or a business, when you next sit down to revise the forward business plan, make sure you pay attention to your people plan too. Learn all about the people as you guide their performance. Give them every chance to shine. And if they wont pick up the challenge or prefer to move on - that's fine too.


An honest conversation is not confrontation or difficult. Dishonest or 'let's pretend all is fine here' conversations or avoiding the conversation completely, masks the reality that needs to be managed and is less than being kind to the employee.


Remember; People Create Profit.


Coach Out.

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© 2016 Helen Treloar