Getting the most out of your people: peak practice

Sitting on the Eurostar after a truly great debrief this morning on our latest project, I was reflecting on the 3 levels of performance. What was presented was best of breed in research – deep thinking linked seamlessly to the supporting findings – drilling down to individual interviews. There are 3 performance levels worth thinking about. The first is the average – what a person typically delivers – this fluctuates depending on tiredness, motivation and to what extent the subject matter is relevant to the person concerned. The second performance level is the best that individual can perform by themselves.  Necessarily this is a peak which fluctuates.  The 3rd level which is the one which interests me particularly is managing people to be better than their best – by creating an environment which gives them space to excel or prodding them into doing better. Managing people is so much more than organising people. And I genuinely believe that great management gets above average even above peak performance out of employees something freelancers and sole traders can't achieve.

When I worked at CDP the press ads – some of the greatest press ads ever written in the English language were hung on the stairs. Eventually someone took them down. The difference between these classics and the work we were putting out was I am afraid all too obvious. The creatives who produced those ads were named below each ad. All of whom had gone on to be creative directors in other agencies. I had to conclude that they couldn't all have been brilliant though many were very capable. What produced what was 2 series of winning streaks at one of the UK's greatest advertising agencies was culture – and great management which made good people produce great work.

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