Are your staff able to do their best work?


I was working with a Client a while back who wanted to really shake things up. They were a medium sized business with close to 300 staff. They had a good reputation with their customers and seemed to win work with ease.  However, the management team were concerned about the complacency that the staff showed whilst working on projects.  Once new projects had been taken on, irrespective of their initial interest, staff soon lost attention which resulted in missed deadlines and projects being over-budget.  It was becoming harder to keep their customers happy.

As an external Consultant I was approached to help resolve the situation and in particular get staff motivated and productive. I was curious to find out why staff weren’t able or willing to do their best work.


Questions, questions, questions


There was recognition that issues had often been brushed under the carpet in the past. This Client wanted its staff to be far more pro-active and engaged and generally interested in the work they produced.  Tough conversations had been avoided to keep the status quo, but they wanted to turn a corner. So one of my first question to the Management Team was ‘Have you asked staff why they aren’t able or willing to do their best work?’ It was a simple and straight forward question.

Versions of it had been asked but nothing so direct, responses had been vague and little had been followed through. Of course, as an outsider to the Company I had the advantage of being seen as impartial, non-biased and was willing to ask direct questions, it goes with the territory.

So I started at the beginning. A couple of group sessions, some focused 1-to-1’s and we soon established the main reasons for the disengagement.


The Killer Question


And one that guarantees results is  ‘What’s getting in the way of you…completing projects on time/ doing your best work etc.?

We collected all the golden nuggets we needed.


So how can YOU use this?

This is a question that you can ask your staff. Possibly during 1-to-1 catch ups where you discuss workloads or performance reviews. But the way the question is phrased here implies that things have already started to go pear-shaped.

There’s another version of the question that you could ask in order to be more pro-active.

‘What would need to change for you to perform at your peak/optimum more often?’

Sounds far more positive to me. I’d urge any Manager or Supervisor who wants to support their staff in doing their best work, to ask them this question.  Of course there has to be a degree of trust and honesty for this to work. Staff often complain that their manager doesn’t take an interest in them or their work; imagine the difference this question would make to those staff.


Just to finish off

My Client was brave and willing to take the evidence from the staff consultations and implement changes; not everyone is. Incidentally the 3 biggest issues they faced were;

  • change of mindset
  • more trust from managers towards staff and
  • staff taking more ownership of tasks.

They very quickly started to see improvements; it became clear to staff what was and was not acceptable, they started to see consequences to their actions (as a result of pro-active performance management) and this led to changes of behaviour from managers and staff alike.

The bottom line was that work got completed within timescales and customer expectations started to rise slowly.


If you want to find out more about the work I do in this area and how I can help you, feel free to contact me.