There’s a debate current about Performance Reviews (PRs) involving some strong advocacy against them. Stories are going around that notables such as MicroSoft, Accenture and Seek are ‘doing away’ with PRs but they’re not true.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I recognize that much is dysfunctional about the way many PRs are conducted, including:

  • They are part of the remuneration cycle, thus a threat.
  • Being a once-a-year or twice-a-year event, they are ‘major events’ and therefore threatening.
  • They often involve the ‘sandwich’ – the crap is between two nice bits of feedback; this creates lack of trust.
  • They are one-way and authoritarian; unequal, threatening.
  • If there are behavioural etc. issues that should be addressed, why weren’t these raised when they happened? ‘I’ve been allowed to do x for a year or so and now it’s not OK?’

However well handled, PRs can be very valuable to both the company and the staffer.Base a PR on some simple principles:

  • Meet regularly (monthly to start) to discuss non-operational matters – attitude, behaviour, skills, development, trust, values.
  • Set the tone for two-way discussions base on how each party – yes, the boss and the staffer – supports and meets the needs of the other.
  • Build a ‘positive emotional bank account’ with each staffer. (1)
  • Engage on foundations of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. (2)
  • Get the person to do the PR hard work as self-assessment, not judgement from on high.
  • Raise behavioural issues when they become a problem.

I can send you a One-on-One sheet to get you started. email me with the request on Ian.Mathieson@mathiesonmgt.com.au.

  1. Thanks to Steven Covey.
  2. Thanks to S+B article Managing With the Brain in Mind by David Rock.


When you have the right people in the right roles, they will make sure you have everything else right, all the other components of the business working well and contributing effectively. Get the people and roles right before setting goals and settling strategies.

 There are at least three perspectives to this.

 First, every now and again step back from your business and think about each of your key people; is each the right person in the right role? Sometimes the right person a year ago isn’t the right person now, or going forward.

 Second, when you are engaged in planning (your annual business plan, planning a new business, planning a takeover or merger, planning a new mine or a new engineering consultancy), get the right people involved and start a bottom-up planning process. It can work brilliantly; start with each unit in your business working out their forward action plan then get the contributors to pull this together. The bi product is contributors can use this initiative to stretch their roles.

 Finally, are you the right person? And are you in the right role? It’s a good question to ask yourself.

 (A bow of appreciation to Richard Semmler).

 PS. Most roles develop over time. Changing business priorities, technological change, performance reviews and regular one-on-ones can change the direction of responsibilities without the formal role description changing. It’s important to check from time to time that the role is the ‘right’ role.



Most people measure their value to the business by the time they devote to it. Do you?

Lots of people don’t have a life outside their work.

Be honest with yourself; is either of these you?

Break a habit. Set an example. Go home early. Regularly.

If you’re addicted to work, look at the why first. No addiction is healthy. Then make a long-term commitment to change; remember that habits don’t break overnight. As George Bernard Shaw observed, entrenched habits have to be ‘coached downstairs gradually, and shut outside’.

The unfair add-on of a boss who spends 60 hours per week at the office is that most of their staff feel that’s how they have to show their value. So you mightn’t care enough about your home life but your example is taking away from the value of their home lives.

Talk about working with passion, working with diligence, not working ‘hard’. Hard sounds hard and should not be encouraged as a currency, swapped over children’s footie matches or time at the gym.

Give your staff a big surprise. Start talking about their value being their output not their hours per week. Start going home early occasionally, even if ‘early’ means before 6.00pm.


Listening is an activity, an active skill. ‘I really hear you’ is a very powerful message.

It’s a great sign of respect for the other person.

Relationships aren’t just about authority. They’re about understanding, respect, emotional capital.

Many of us understand a bit about body language and its significance in conversation and we try to use it to ensure better communication. But what’s the point of setting an attentive body pose if you’re only half listening, rushing ahead to get your next comment ready or wondering if you turned the iron off?

Attentive listening is a developed skill which needs constant management and maintenance. There are lots of techniques; one useful one is every now-and-again to repeat back to the other person a phrase they’ve used, or to summarize a key point to check that you’ve grasped it as intended.

Careful listening helps you get across key messages first go, and builds the emotional capital between you and others. It require some patience!


There’s more to delegation than getting tasks done, making sure that your reports deliver their responsibilities. Sure, it’s important to get this part working and working well, but it’s only part of the story.

 The second and more exciting element of delegation is creation of opportunity for the other person, setting challenges to grow and develop their skills, to expand their responsibilities. Don’t overlook this; it’s a criminal waste to neglect this area.

 This is the exciting part; this is where you can experience a bit of fear and your reports also can get into feelings of terror. This is where you get real engagement with your staff, providing opportunities for real growth. You also can benefit from real freeing-up of your role to deliver your personal best value.

 The point of terror both of you and of the person to whom you are delegating means stretching them, challenging them within the bounds of their potential. Identify the specific areas of potential for each of your reports, then give them tasks to allow them to show their stuff. Take the risk, they will sometimes fail but the benefit to both you and to your reports will be huge.

 Remember, we only identify out boundaries or limits when we reach them.

If you don’t get to the point of terror with each of your reports, you’re not delegating effectively.



When times are good, it mightn’t be too hard to keep your business or professional practice busy but how sustainable is your business? How well are you maintaining your market share now that times are ‘slowing’? How deep and well developed is your relationship with your customers or your clients? Do you care?

You make sure the basic product or service is acceptable in your marketplace. The folding tables are sturdy, the engineering or architectural designs are efficient and effective and well presented, the training package is fine-tuned.

Take a step back and reflect about your business as a whole. Do you:
1. Not care too much about how your goods or services are received – the cheque is in the bank, the contract is the contract and that’s that.
2. Make sure what you deliver is fit for purpose.
3. Make sure your staff understand your brand of customer service and train them in this.
4. Develop a relationship with your client, understanding their needs and priorities, and the factors outside the contract that are significant to them.
5. Engage in a real and meaningful partnership with your client.

There’s a spectrum across these five snapshot points, from no relationship to an excellent and fulfilling relationship with your client. Do you know where your business falls on this spectrum?

Take the time to realistically diagnose your business applying these five questions. Whether your business is booming or things have slowed down, now is the time to be clear about this question. Work on whether you have the tools to change any of this.


‘I want a big, hairy customer service culture throughout the whole organization and I want it tomorrow’, CEO to Executive GM, Sales & Marketing.

A direction that’s almost certain to fail, even to be counter-productive.

It’s counter-productive to set goals about culture and values, even when they’re supported by a project plan with actions and responsibilities. You cannot project manage a new culture.

Don’t misunderstand, it’s important to promulgate your vision and values. Just back them up with behaviours to match.

Culture and values are influenced mostly through ‘peripheral vision’, through actions and behaviours seen throughout the organization, not by plans. In any organization, values constitute an area where there’s always a background, low level of mistrust and suspicion. If a CEO says, ‘I want to highlight the values of honesty’ some of the staff will try to fall into line but many will ask, ‘What’s she up to; what’s the agenda?’ It’s like saying, ‘You can really trust me’; the general reaction to such a statement is, ‘What’s she trying to put over me?’

You will get values in place by both talking about them but more importantly by demonstrating them consistently, frequently and repeatedly. The board, the CEO, the management team, supervisors, everyone whose actions are seen by staff. You’ll get values in place through recognition. You will get values to grow by trusting people, by allowing for mistakes, by encouraging initiative, by being even-tempered and considerate. Talk with your senior team about their behaviour; are they displaying behaviours you are personally seeking to demonstrate.

Get the values right and the culture and morale will follow.

When you personally demonstrate such a consistent set of values, you’ll lead the organization into a good space.

It’s a never-ending task, as one of the engines of your organization, it needs regular maintenance.


  1.   Values, culture and morale are strongly interrelated and fundamental to the long-term health and success of an organization. Values are guides to behaviour, culture is the broad sharing of outlook and support across the organization. Morale, an expression of the values and culture, is an intangible measure of the ‘mood’ of an organization which, while not able to be measured objectively, can be sensed and assessed through surveys and the like.
  2. Of course, some organizations survive, even prosper, under a ‘reign of terror’ or even ‘command-and control’ culture. But the choice is there for all boards, CEOs and management teams and there’s increasing evidence that the ‘right’ culture and values enable better bottom line performance.
  3. Many organizations have a prominent statement of values and a target culture but don’t live up to them. It’s a great idea to put some thoughts out there about values and culture; the big step however is to evolve the values you desire, and nurture the culture you wish for.
  4. Never forget, values and culture are easily undermined or destroyed. If you’re up there in front of staff presenting an employee-of-the-month certificate, if last week you yelled abuse at someone they’ll only remember that and not your honeyed words at the presentation. Move on any manager or supervisor who doesn’t ‘walk the talk’ – after suitably guiding and encouraging them to change, of course.