Thought for the month - July 2012

In Bruges

The most powerful way to achieve performance improvement in organizations is to clarify exactly how the leaders intend to improve themselves both individually and collectively.

Of course this can be personal and sometimes painful for all concerned.

Three summers ago we had our last family holiday with our two teenagers. As the years had passed they had both become more and more assertive, not to say rebellious about their parent's choice of holiday destination. By the time the boy was 17 and the girl 18, dialogue had more or less broken down. So we chose to spend a week in Bruges.

Neither child knew much about Bruges and it was only when we were on the platform waiting to catch the Eurostar out of London that they started to find out more. Gradually their comments became more and more scornful as we tried to assuage them with promises of delights and excitements to come. But it was no use and it got even worse as the Eurostar sped off in one direction whilst we were left on a wet platform to take the suburban train further into Belgium.

Something had to be done. I invited the other three to say just one thing each about my demeanour and or behaviour that they thought I could improve in the interests of their individual and collective health and temper. Now they all thought that this was a good game. They entered into it, including partner Sharon, with what can only be described as 'enthusiastic gusto' and I had to restrict their comments to just one each. They were just starting to enjoy themselves a little more when I advised that the game was not over, but that we now needed to turn our attention to each of them in turn.

The exercise resulted in an atmosphere of mutual openness, trust and tolerance that had seemed unlikely beforehand.

Three years on and our daughter was on the way to Thailand with two girlfriends. They are all strong characters and Ursula texted me from the departure lounge to say that they had just played "that game......."

It works in Boardrooms too.

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