When it comes to maximising people's  performance at work, I hold three key beliefs that underlie all my thinking and actions:

  1. People want to do the best job they possibly can
  2. They can be trusted
  3. Individuals and organisations perform at their best when they work together, rather than against each other

Of course, I'm not suggesting that these beliefs hold true all of the time - very few beliefs actually do. However, when my clients or I approach a performance issue with these 3 principles as our starting point, the options available to us for increasing performance are always far more extensive than if we were to start from a position of:

  • People want to get away with doing as little as possible
  • They can't be trusted
  • And they will achieve most by working very hard on their own

You see, the thing is, that at both the individual level, and at the broadest generalisation, my beliefs actually are true.

Think about yourself for a moment - which set of beliefs fit you best?

Sure, sometimes you may cut a few corners, tell a few white lies or try to put one over on a colleague - but fundamentally, which one is closer to how you aspire to behaving?

So why should anyone else really be that different?

But it is amazing how many managers are completely committed to that second set of beliefs, and have plenty of evidence to support their position - about other people, of course!

I, not surprisingly, have loads of evidence to support the first set of beliefs.

And that's really the point:

You tend to get the results that you believe in

So, if you start with negative beliefs, you will tend to get negative results and if you start with positive beliefs, you will tend to get positive results.

Not always, but most of the time.

And positive results reinforce positive beliefs, resulting in an upward spiral.

Whilst the poor negative manager spirals rapidly down into deeper and deeper resignation, and worse and worse results - colecting evidence for their beliefs as they go.

Now, just in case you're getting worried - I'm definitely not talking about positive thinking here. This is not "The Secret" for high performance, and I'm not saying "think positive thoughts and you will miraculously be surrounded by positive, high performance people!"

I'm talking about basic motivational psychology - if you treat someone as if they want to do a good job, can be trusted and work well with others, and acknowledge them for doing so, they will, as a generalisation, try to live up to your expectations of them.

It ain't rocket science, but it can certainly rocket power your organisation!


Read the other parts of this series by clicking the links at the top, or below.

3 Key Beliefs for High Performance Organisations

People want to do the Best Job they Possibly Can

People can be Trusted

Working Together is Best


7 Responses to 3 Key Beliefs for High Performance Organisations

  1. Tim Douglas says:

    Good start to an interesting series, Doug. I await the rest with anticipation.
    Of course, it’s also true to say that those three beliefs only hold good in organisations where the leadership (collective) and leaders (as individuals) are trusted and respected by the employees. That goes without saying. And my point is, it often goes without saying! In leadership, people will accept any quirks of personality or individual flaws of character and skill set, providing the leaders are trusted and liked.
    When I come across clients who don’t achieve those standards of leadership, no amout of work with the employees will turn around a company’s fortunes.

  2. Doug Mather says:

    I completely agree with you, Tim.
    AND, I’d suggest that in organisations where trust and respect for the leadership is missing, those leaders are much more likely to hold the 2nd set of beliefs than the first – how much trust and respect would you have for someone who thought that about you?
    And, not surprisingly, the people will have similar beliefs about the leaders – the most influential being “they can’t be trusted.”
    In those kind of organisations, if you can’t get the leaders to shift their beliefs, then, as you say, whatever you do with the employees will have very little effect.

  3. Hello Doug, that´s exactly the right point of view in my model. I am convinced that trust and respect is the result of trust and respect.
    Furthermore I am very often in far east countries and my experience as consultant is that there is a certain level of solidarity necessary between employees and the organisation. I saw that sometimes the mindset of employees is very different to Europe.
    There was a flow manufacturing line running with very low efficiency and I made a training several days and we raised the output by 90% in one shift with same number of operators. We motivated them and and told about best practice and new work style as a team in the line. After that 5 operators wanted to have 40% increase in salary or quit, because now they were better. So they quit. After 3 days 2 of them wanted to come back.
    In other areas there were operators who forced new employees to work slow or they would punish them.
    In far east countries it is very easy for operators to find a new job with higher salary because many European companies build up new factories there. So many employees (especially on the shopfloor) leave if they have the same money with less effort or just a little bit more money. Here we could discuss now the salary systems to fix this topic because it is very different to Europe.
    In my opinion the respect and trust is essential from both sides combined with the detailed knowledge about how to motivate the single persons in different ways.
    In addition there are the surrounding factors in different areas of the world which have to be considered to get the best possible result with a stable team.

  4. Hi Doug. Great post. Your point is so simple yet so true. One of the challenges that we face is that creating a culture of trust and respect takes time and patience. Once you start building a track record it builds on itself. As the old Chinese proverb says, ” A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lets start today. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

  5. Doug Mather says:

    Klaus, it’s interesting what you say about the behaviours in the far east – it sounds very much like what used to happen in the UK, and I guess the rest of Europe back in the 70s – when employers were always trying to squeeze every little extra piece of profit out of their employees, and the employees were trying to grab every little extra piece they could from the company.
    Not much room for trust in those relationships!

  6. Doug Mather says:

    Frank, you’re so right about the time and patience, although sometimes, I think, if you’re willing to REALLY go with the trust, the time factor can shrink dramatically.
    I don’t know if you’ve read Stephen M R Covey’s “Speed of Trust” in which he proposes the idea that in any relationship, as Trust goes up, Speed and Cost come down.
    If you haven’t read it, it’s a very cool, simple and brief book (I like brief books) and well worth the read. If you have, then you’ll already know that.

  7. dialogic says:

    Doug: very relevant points. I think one of the most underrated areas to analyse in organisations is how beliefs shape behaviours. What are senior leadership’s core beliefs? Which values drive them? Surface those and 10 to 1 that there is where you’ll find the root cause for any suboptimal performance…
    Because ultimately an organisation can never develop beyond the capabilities of its senior leadership.

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