An Introduction from the Author

The premise of this book is that a leader’s behaviour or, rather, the quality of their leadership delivery, drives the performance of the group or business for which they are accountable. This is irrespective of the size or scope of the leadership challenge. It applies to the case of a supervisor of check-out staff ; to the coach or captain of a cricket team; to the Head of a school or a Vice-Chancellor of a university; to the manager of a petro-chemical plant; or to a Chief Executive of a multi-national corporation. This statement is based upon research and management consultancy experience spanning over 25 years and involving the delivery of feedback in the context of leadership and career development with upwards of 20,000 managers.

These leaders have worked in an extremely large range of organisations, business sectors and geographical regions. This experience demonstrates that the leadership behaviours that drive performance are quantifi able and measurable. It is entirely feasible for individuals to raise their behavioural game in order to contribute more to their organisations and enable these enterprises to deliver better performance outcomes.

For those leaders to whom feedback has been provided as part of their quest to improve how they operate, it has been hugely important for them to know that they are receiving input that is based upon a rigorous methodology underpinned by sound, psychological rigour. In other words, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it.” Leaders are kidding themselves if they think they can improve their performance by relying upon a process of measurement that is unsound by virtue of it being unreliably calibrated. In such instances, trying to benchmark oneself against ‘the best’ is an exercise in whimsy; it is unfeasible and impracticable.

The driving force for writing this book is to share this experience concerning how and why the behaviour of the manager specifi cally drives organisational performance. A clear and unambiguous insight into the causal link between diff erent behaviours and performance outcomes will be provided. This is predicated in a clear and understandable framework beneath which lies an extensive and far-reaching methodology that has been established and continually expanded through ongoing research over the course of the past three decades. This book explains the broad and deep-reaching set of methodological principles that I have conceived and devised. Above all, however, this is a practical book, but one based upon a robust foundation of valid research.

There are very signifi cant parallels between the economic conditions that prevail at the time of writing this book and those that existed at the outset of my consultancy career in the early 1980s when economic upheaval abounded. Businesses sought then to survive by ‘down-sizing’, ‘de-layering’ and ‘off -shoring’, all of which were deemed necessary by heightened competition in an intensifying, global business arena. Essentially, the critical impetus for organisations was achieving more with less.

This book is published at the time of another round of economic strain which some people, ranging from politicians to economists to business managers to media commentators, are suggesting is going to be the most serious for many decades. The shift of economic power appears to be moving from the occidental to the oriental. Interestingly, in the database of organisations with which my colleagues and I have worked, the most powerful ‘measurement scores’ ever achieved were by a Far Eastern business during the 1990s. Perhaps there is still more for the West to learn in terms of what constitutes this profi le? This work, therefore, is timely and relevant to both the upswing and the downswing, and to the global community.

Unlike many other books that are littered with references to ‘blue-chip’ names, both organisational and individual, this is not the case in this body of work. This is not because my consultancy practice hasn’t worked with the blue-chips, but rather because the nature of the work that is conducted involves dealing with some comprehensive, personal and psychological dynamics. It would be entirely unfair to those thousands of managers with whom my colleagues and I (the ‘we’ which I will use most frequently throughout the book) have worked to give any hint of breaching our sacrosanct confi dentiality. Therefore, while many case studies are referenced, each is done so in a strictly anonymous manner. Suffice it to say, the range of enterprises with which we have worked ranges from the truly global to far smaller businesses, entrepreneurial start-ups, family businesses, healthcare institutions, religious orders and educational institutions, all operating in numerous socio-economic contexts.

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Already, there have been references made to psychology, a term which tends to possess a strongly pejorative tenor for many people. However, no apology is made for its use because the science of psychology sits at the heart of what we do. How leaders and managers go about doing their work is entirely psychological. However, I do not intend to present an opaque, scientifi c or academic transcript before you. Neither do I intend to take an overtly light-hearted or frivolous approach. Being a leader or a manager is a serious responsibility to assume. Many other people (and their families) depend upon their boss’s ability to set a course of direction for their enterprise and to win their hearts and minds to work hard and effectively to achieve the established goals. The application of the science of psychology, notably the specialist fi eld of Organisational Psychology, is based upon a combination of research, management practice and consultancy delivery. I consider my work and that of my colleagues to be valid, practical and relevant to all shapes and sizes of organisations. I have sought to provide a fair balance of defi nitional explanation with some story-telling. A range of references is made to other books and articles, which are listed in an abridged bibliography at the end of the book.

Much has been written about the difference between what leaders and managers do (see John Kotter). While I concur with many of the propounded views, throughout this book the terms are used interchangeably, not least for variety but also as valid labels representing any individual who has responsibility for the performance of other people.

In terms of whom this book is designed to be read by, I hope it will appeal to a wide spread of leaders from the most senior to those with a narrower remit. Of crucial importance is that the HR community will want to read the narrative. Most of all, I would like both these constituencies, i.e. business line managers and HR practitioners, to use the lexicon of the defi ned methodologies as a common language. Where, in those organisations with which we have worked, there is a truly collaborative approach between ‘the line’ and HR, some truly remarkable and positive transformations occur, particularly in terms of the mood that prevails in the organisation and the results that it achieves. ‘Mood’ is another of those pejorative words. None of my colleagues nor I subscribe to the concept of ‘mood’ meaning soft, benign or overtly friendly. We fully subscribe to the view that an economic candour must prevail in all organisations. Commercial businesses are there to make money for their owners (albeit fairly, equitably and lawfully); public sector and charitable enterprises are there to spend their funds wisely, efficiently and eff ectively. Each needs to seek to get the ‘biggest bang for its buck’.

By ‘mood’ we actually mean ‘Climate’, a concept that has been around for many years (see Litwin and Stringer2 from 1968, for instance) but very much refl ects the people dimension of an organisation in terms of what they feel it is like to work there. ‘Culture’, which is a term used somewhat more frequently, relates to something entirely different. It concerns how things are done. ‘Culture programmes’ fail to generate improvement in organisational performance because, at best, they overlook the people dimension; at worst, they ignore it altogether.

The title of this book posits that behaviour drives the performance of the organisation.

The word ‘behaviour’ is used in two ways. Firstly, that the establishment of a great Climate causes everyone else in the organisation to deliver excellent behaviours. Secondly, that it is the behaviour of leaders and managers that creates the Climate in the fi rst place. Great behaviour begets great behaviour. Ultimately, my colleagues and I are all ‘behaviourists’.

Admittedly, much has been written previously about this subject, but I want the
statistically underpinned analysis of the methodologies I explain to be regarded as ‘a gale of creative destruction’3 that cuts through the prevailing, unnecessary complexity and re-clarifi es thinking in this arena. While Messrs Bower and Christensen may have considered disruptive innovation in the field of technology, see no reason why the same cannot be applied to the realm of leadership, management and organisational performance. Like the passage of a storm, I want this book to clear the air.

Quite bluntly, a far sharper and more concise understanding of the actual causation of organisational performance needs to be developed and applied by leader and managers. Organisations need to perform better; the economic gains to be achieved are undoubted; more importantly, there are immense socio-economic benefits available as well.