Staff Performance: More Silver Rules Gurus Don’t Explain


All the management gurus and consultants extol the virtues of the Golden Rules of Management. They’re important. But the Silver Rules, those that are more practical and relevant day to day, make your management life far more pleasant and stress free.

When in Doubt: Listen

All the gurus talk about “communication”: how to speak clearly, say exactly what you mean, get effective feedback and all that. Nothing wrong with that. But some managers can’t resist the temptation to say something when they should say nothing. Just listen. Listening carefully is a most underrated skill. Learn some effective listening skills and use them.

Value Is Easily Underrated

This silver rule is in fact golden. We talk about benefits. We talk about quality. We talk about “value for money”. We talk about customer satisfaction. We rarely talk about value itself. Value is something we all seek. But we often confuse value with other things.

For instance, we talk about the difference between poor performance and good performance. We rarely talk about the value of the difference. We tell customers about how much they’ll save by using our product. But we don’t talk about the value of that saving. We talk about technological improvements and how wonderful they are. We rarely mention the value of them. Think value: and get your staff to do the same. It’s rarely just a matter of money.

Perception Is Reality

This is one of the great secrets of effective management. What people believe is a fact to them. This applies bothe to staff and customers. A former boss of mine used to say, “The opinions that people hold are facts to them”. As managers, we’re taught to “get the facts”, “find out exactly what happened”, “get to the bottom of it”. That’s OK. But it’s only part of the story. Everything you do creates a perception: good or ill, large or small. You need to recognize the importance of perceptions and ensure that the perceptions that you create benefit your business.

Value Staff Intelligence

There’s that word “value” again. Your staff are in touch with customers. Many are in touch daily. They talk to customers, listen to customers, explain to customers. For this reason they accumulate valuable information. How much use do you make of this intelligence?

Do you have a systematic way of collecting it?  Do you reward staff who provide valuable intelligence? Do you tell staff what customer feedback you’re seeking? Are staff aware of the importance of this information?

Remember, you need to know what pleases customers most as well as what improvements they’d enjoy.

The Great Training Myth

Training is good. Training is essential. Training is valuable. Training improves on job performance. The first three of those statements are accurate, The fourth isn’t. Training improves on job performance only in employees who don’t know and can’t do.

Training is not a cure for poor performance. You need well trained staff. But don’t believe for even a nanosecond that training is the answer to your performance problems.

Many people stress the importance of training. And it is important. But good training means only that employees can do the job. Whether they do or don’t depends on many other variables. Many of these are far more powerful the training.

Some Tips For Improvement

  • Make a concerted effort to improve your listening skills. Learn to listen for what people mean when they speak not just what they say

Remember the telling words of Peter Drucker: “The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not said”.

  • Develop a “head for value”. Always ask about the value of a benefit not just its importance. When someone says, “It’ll save $100,000 in set-up costs”, ask about the value. A saving of $100,000 in set-up costs may lead to the loss of 100 customers. Is that value? And remember, value is rarely merely a question of money. A well designed employee incentive scheme may save you money on waste. But its value in terms of reinforcing commitment may be far greater than the short term financial reward.
  • Learn to use questions such as, “How will that look to the customer?” “How do you see the benefit of this?” “Does this seem like a good idea?” Use questions that will create responses about perceptions. Facts are great. But if they’re to be “valuable” they must be tempered by how they’re perceived. Let’s say you call your staff together and tell them that you’re giving each of them a $100 a week wage rise. They’d probably all welcome the money. But what else would they be thinking? That’s perception.
  • Always remind staff of the value to you  of the information they receive from customers. Put a system in place for regular discussions of customer feedback ….. and perceptions. Decide specifically what particular information you want staff to gather. And reward them when they provide it. Use staff not survey forms.
  • Always use pre training tests before starting training. When it’s proposed that an employee should undertake some training or other, ask two questions
  1. What will he or she be able to do at the end of the training that they can’t do now
  2. Precisely how will the training improve the on job performance of the employee?

If these questions aren’t answered to your satisfaction, you probably don’t have a problem that can be solved by training.


These are my second group of “Silver Rules” Read them in conjunction with the first set. The Golden Rules are great. But the Silver Rules help make them a reality.

What To Do Now

Which of these silver rules has most relevance for you and your business? How could you use them to improve your business results. Hw quickly and effectively could you apply them?

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