In this blog post on 17 October, iHR Australia managing director Stephen Bell wrote:

The Power of Patterns of Behaviour
The repeated patterns of management and employee behaviour become the culture of a group of workers. Culture, in turn, has a significant impact upon Employer Brand, Performance and Organisational Compliance. It is a very powerful element of any organisation. The Age newspaper in Melbourne, yesterday carried an article where employees spoke about the 'general' organisational culture being 'toxic', 'cold' and 'poisonous'. Interestingly, these descriptions may not actually refer to the organisational culture at all. They most likely refer to patterns of behaviour within a team, area or department of the organisation. When people describe organisational culture, they are often describing their immediate experience with the behaviour of direct managers and team members. Simply put, if we remove individual and team behaviour from the performance management agenda, we are putting the organisational culture at risk.

Behaviour can be Difficult to Discuss
Of all the elements of performance management, behaviour is one of the most challenging. This is because it is often hard for a manager to put their finger on exactly what the behavioural problem is. Furthermore, there is something very personal about talking about a person's behavioural challenges. Setting behavioural expectations is important. Having a set of 'aspirational' behaviours can be a very helpful starting point. Teams of leaders or employees can develop and reference 4 to 6 key behaviours that are non-negotiable elements of their team and management cultures. For example one organisation aspired to the leadership behaviour 'whenever possible, listen before you give your opinion'. The statement is clear and observable.

Managers Do need a License to talk about Behaviour
The license to talk about behaviour is earned by managers behaving in line with the 'aspirational' behaviours of the organisation and, when they get it wrong, having the courage to say so. Very few people in Australian work places accept the notion of 'one way for my manager, another way for me'. That is because acting in line with what you prescribe to others is part of the 'fairness' paradigm. Being treated with fairness is perhaps the most important attribute Australian employees seek from their employers. For more information on workplace values, see the results of our 2010 Australian Professional Employee Values (APEV) Survey. Clint Eastwood once said 'A good man knows his limitations'. How true. If you as a manager don't know your behavioural weakness, any meaningful adjustment is going to be difficult. You don't need to make a public announcement about these weaknesses, but know the situations that bring out the 'wrong' behaviours and work hard to adjust your reactions or avoid the situations. Inevitably, the license to talk to others about their behaviour comes from a manager being a role model. That isn't always easy.

Let's Talk About Behaviour
Modern managers need to accept that part of their role includes being a coach about behaviour. He or she needs to believe that they have a responsibility to build and preserve an engaging work culture and that the standard of behaviour is fundamental to this. When it comes to coaching on behaviour managers need to be specific. For example, a manager should not just say to an employee 'you were really effective in that client meeting today'. A better way would be to say 'I thought it was very effective how you allowed the client to voice their concerns about the service timelines before you shared your own views'. Similarly, during a feedback or performance counselling session on poor behaviour it is extremely important to be very specific about the behaviour, discuss the potential impacts of that behaviour and agree what is acceptable behaviour into the future. For example: 'I noticed at the end of last weeks meeting you said to John that he almost put you to sleep when talking about the new filing system. Do you remember saying that?... Given that his concerns were legitimate and he needs the system to do his job, how do you think he might have felt when you said that?... What would be a more acceptable way of expressing your concerns about the timing of the meeting?'.

When coaching or counselling on behaviour make it a discussion rather than a lecture. Behavioural modification in an educated society rarely comes from tyrannical imposition. And Finally... Organisations that are strong about values are strong about behaviour. Ultimately values are lived out through the day to day behaviours of teams and individuals. Not everyone is prepared to change. Smart managers know that they have a role as educators. That includes educating on behaviour. Smart managers also know that if we are constantly negotiating with employees on the right behaviours it is both exhausting and a misuse of management time. Our job as managers is to articulate what behaviour is acceptable, role model, provide positive reinforcement to those who do it well and be prepared to act when individuals consistently get it wrong. That is all about caring for the culture. For more information on iHR Australia's In-house or Public Performance Management and EEO & Anti-bullying Training programs click here or contact us on 1300 884 687.


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