Features: May 3rd, 2013

With the Public Sector going under a period of extensive change, Bryan McCrae, leading organisational psychologist, explains how a change in mind-set can help employees stay positive, even during these tough times.

A  recent CIPD survey ‘Employee attitudes to pay’ revealed that 36% of Public Sector employees now feel their pay should be linked to individual performance. To improve performance what many employees want, but rarely get, is effective coaching from their managers.  Why?  There is ample evidence that a combination of goal setting supported by coaching is the best way to achieve success, which in the current climate could be the difference between success or failure.

Attitude to achieve

In order to achieve, you need to have the right attitude. Not achieving success is often blamed on failing at something, but generally it’s because the goal was not defined clearly  in the first place, you had no plan about how you were going to do it  or that you weren’t really motivated enough.

We need to look at the big picture, take time to set clear goals and write down the top three.  By choosing our three key goals we can really focus rather than having a long list on which we make little or no progress.  Take some thinking time over the next day or two to really consider what things you would like to achieve, then write down your top three.

Once you’ve set your goals, you need a plan to achieve them.  Wanting to achieve isn’t enough, you need to develop a step by step plan to achieve your goals.

Next, the goal is often too vague. If your goal is to ‘lose weight’ or ‘sell more’, then you are going to struggle. How much weight? One gram, or twenty kilogrammes? Sell £1 more or £1 million more?

You need to set yourself a very specific goal so that you can track your progress against it and know when it has been achieved.

We often describe goals such as weight loss, in terms of giving up something rather than obtaining something that we want.  Saying that I’m going to ‘give up eating chocolate’ or give up ‘long lunch breaks’ doesn’t work, because we’re not giving ourselves any incentive to give up something that we like.  You need to change your mind-set, translate these into things that you want, such as ‘I’m going to reduce my waist by 5cm and fit into those jeans I love’ and ‘I’m going to leave my work at the office every evening so I can spend more time doing things I enjoy, such as painting’. Describe your goals using positive language.

We sometimes just give up too easily. If these goals were easy, we would have done them years ago. Adopt the mind-set that says ‘I’m not going to give up at the first hurdle, this is going to be the year that I do things differently and succeed’.

Effective coaching

Once you’ve set your goals, you need to get the support or coaching to help you achieve them.   Coaching in the workplace can sometimes be difficult to justify, particularly in the current climate.  The reasons are often a combination of lack of time, skills or resources within management, or sometime even a lack of desire to coach.

So is it possible to provide coaching to boost motivation and performance whilst also reducing costs? It may seem like these are conflicting requirements, but there is now an approach that can address all three simultaneously, based on the most sophisticated technology available discovered so far in the universe, which you already have, but you are probably using just a fraction of its capabilities!

Psychology Matters

That technology is the grey stuff between your ears, the human brain.  Organisational psychologists are rapidly gaining an understanding of what can be done with it through use of some advanced proven psychological techniques to help people perform better.

These techniques are focused on the connections between what we think, how we feel and how that influences how we behave. In fact, these factors all work with each other, in complicated ways, all of the time, and often without us having any awareness that it is happening.

Positive performance

These proven techniques can be used to take positive steps to make changes in what we think and how we think, to bring about more helpful feelings and behaviour, which leads to greater motivation, less stress and improved performance. A recent published study has shown that these techniques, when applied in a large sales force, achieved a 20% increase in sales people on or above target, a reduction in resignations of a factor of three and significant reductions in stress levels. When you consider how long it takes and how much it costs to recruit a high performance sales person then the reduction in resignations alone can make this worthwhile.

Previously, these techniques have only been used successfully in business through traditional training and face to face coaching. Although very effective, delivered like this it can be expensive, difficult to organise and disruptive to normal selling activities.

Success through seamless delivery

However, psychologists have managed to translate these techniques to be delivered successfully through technology based platforms such as e-learning to achieve at least the same levels of success as the traditional methods. This approach can be implemented to integrate seamlessly with the sales persons normal selling activities over a period of a few weeks, leading to long lasting, more effective habits and strategies for  dealing with stressful situations that are common in sales roles.

Perhaps it is time to investigate how to get the best from that lump of grey stuff between our ears!

Bryan McCrae is a Sales Psychologist and is MD of Sales-Motivations.