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How you make decisions: why it could be harming your team’s performance

Culture & mindset development 06th March 2018

Every leader and team will have information that they refer to when monitoring and managing the performance of their team, function or entire organisation. But how a leader and team interacts with this information can determine how successful they are and will be.

There are ultimately two ways that such performance information is dealt with:

  1. Reactive = an emotional and subjective action following an event
  2. Responsive = a planned, objective and focused action associated to an event

Most of us will have been guilty or would have witnessed a manager being reactive to performance measurement information – especially when things are not heading in the desired direction. Occasionally reactive behaviour can generate good decisions that galvanise a team, but more often it is detrimental to team performance. Why? Because it rarely considers underlying performance and triggers, so it fails to focus people on what matters most in order to achieve the desired performance levels and fulfil goals that have been set.

Top tips: effective performance measurement and responses

Shifting habitual behaviours for how performance is measured and responded to can significantly improve organisational performance. Here are 4 top tips for effective performance measurement and management:

  • Design and prioritise goals that focus on important strategic improvements. 

A Franklin Covey Institute study  showed that teams who focused on 2-3 goals achieved all those goals with excellence. Teams that focused on 4-10 goals achieved only 1-2 goals. And, worryingly, teams that focused on 11-20 goals by-and-large achieved none of them. So take heed: prioritise and focus.

  • Recognise that when performance is measured it will change and disrupt behaviours.

Dean R. Spitzer  says in his book ‘Transforming Performance Measurement’ that “you get what you measure”. And he’s right. Measuring performance can have a drastic (positive or negative) impact on people’s behaviours and focus depending on whether it’s done well, so:

  • Be clear on your intent and the result you are looking to achieve;
  • Consider the knock-on consequence of measuring it
  • Understand how you as a leader will respond to changes in performance that are aligned to measures
  • Focus on signals in underlying performance levels not simply this weeks or months result.

    Our ‘learned behaviour’ of comparing each data point to budgets, targets or comparable periods does not help focus leadership conversations with people on how to lift and sustain the underlying performance that is desired.

  • Anticipate the possible results and pre-plan and communicate your responses.

    It sounds simple but how many teams actually plan the response to different signals in their performance data? By having a plan in place you can make a responsive decision that is objective and that the team are comfortable with.

Challenge yourself: are you a leader who reacts or responds?

Research from the Myers & Briggs Foundation shows that reactive leaders are more likely to get blown off course from achieving their goals, treat symptoms and not causes, and are less respected by their teams. Like all issues the first step is to recognise our approach, often magnified by the pace we work at.

By using these simple tips, we can work towards being less reactive and consciously enabling ourselves to be more responsive in our approach to measuring performance and achieving the goals we set out for our teams and organisations.


FranklinCovey Institute (2012), The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Simon & Schuster
Spitzer, D. (2007), Transforming Performance Measurement, McGraw-Hill Education
Barr, S (2014), Practical Performance Measurement, The PuMP Press
Walsh B (2009), The score looks after itself, Portfolio/Penguin Book