April 21, 2015

Bringing fairness to management

In 1994 I discovered the world of personal development and coaching and found a conversation that I wanted to engage in for the rest of my life.

I also knew that I wanted to create something that would help not just individuals, but teams and organizations to fulfill their potential. So, I started to listen and learn from others about what was at the source of individual and overall business performance.

Along the way I found a great partner who shared my philosophy and provided the missing links that helped us pull this all together into what has become AXISNeuroPerformance.

More than models and a performance management framework, AXIS is in many ways the mission we are most passionate about.

AXIS helps solve a common challenge faced by leaders and managers – how to enable people to bring their best to work everyday.

Think about this, no one at a job interview ever says, “Hire me and I’ll do my worst!” But often managers lose people along the way. Many more than you may realize. According to Gallup, worldwide engagement is a sad 13%.

If we consider that people want to do well and enthusiastically apply for jobs, what’s happening once they are hired?

Unfortunately, current performance management practices are found to actually reduce engagement and performance.

Current feedback and performance management practices more often than not leads to a person feeling social pain or rejection. This response lights up the same regions of the brain as when a person experiences physical pain. In other words, feedback hurts.

As well, when people are in a situation that they perceive to be unfair, it ignites a fear or threat response in the brain. Unfair situations also activate the same regions as when we experience disgust.

Which means that current performance management practices ignite experiences of fear, pain and disgust.

It’s no wonder that the most feared words in business are. “Will you step into my office?’

Neuroscience tells us that what people need is a safe, respectful environment that enables us to learn from mistakes, grow and achieve. Business needs humanity.

Unfortunately, while business is run by people, it manages as if they are machines.

Business needs to instead look to a way to bring a more mentalizing approach to how managers interact with their people. Managers need to wonder about what’s going on with their people beyond the immediate and obvious. Then engage in a collaborative learning conversation that drives insights to better performance.

Personal responsibility is paramount, but, we do not live or work in a vacuum. Our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being is affected by both the people around us and our environment internal and external to ourselves and our workplace.

When a person isn’t operating at their best, it isn’t enough to just look at them. I’ve seen poor performers shine when working for a great manager who believes in them and seen super stars brought to their knees by a toxic culture.

Traditional performance management frameworks and reviews, diagnostics and thinking all look to the individual for the whole picture. AXIS helps you widen your perspectives and get to the real source of performance. Then engage your people in a fair and collaborative dialogue that helps them learn, grow and achieve.

Fair and collaborative management practices increase people’s sense of connection, certainty and fairness, leading to more optimal levels of dopamine, oxytocin and other neurotransmitters critical to thinking and decision-making.

More than just a nice idea, bringing humanity and connection to the workplace will actually lead to improved performance, engagement and ultimately your bottom line.

It’s time for a new approach to management.