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I have said many times that I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the job that I do. I spend most days working with smart people to solve real problems in a creative and collaborative environment. In recent years, I have got into the habit of taking a photo of the whiteboard or  flip-chart at the end of a session. It is my usual practice to ask groups what they think they have learned from their participation in a workshop. Of course, I am interested in what they are going to do in the immediate future as a result of having attended the session. However, I also ask them to summarise the key, underlying  principles that they will take away. Lessons that will be useful again and again in their jobs. These are usually recorded as short statements or aphorisms that we record and share post course.

Below is a de-duplicated list of lessons recorded over several years of working with sales managers (in many different industries) on the topic of managing sales performance. We use it as an aid to coaching sales managers and as a checklist for helping sales managers decide what a great performance really looks like, (hint: it’s more than a great set of results).

1. Learning ≥ Change or we are failing to perform.

Our ability to perform is always affected by external factors, markets change, customers change and competitors change. If the sales team is failing to develop and learn at a speed that is at least equal to the rate of change they are falling behind and performance will suffer.

2. Everyone has the ability and potential  to perform at a high level.

Managers who get the best from their staff share this belief. People tend to live up to our expectations of them. If we believe that staff are incapable of high levels of performance, we begin to act upon that belief and our staff adjust their performance to meet our expectations.

Your starting point should always be to expect a great performance from everyone.

3. No one comes to work to perform badly!

People under perform for a whole range of reasons but in general there is never an intention to perform poorly. Sometimes the best way to get a great performance out of people is simply to remove the things that are holding them back.

4. High performing people tend to adapt the job to suit their strengths.

Sometimes the best way to get a great performance from a team is to devise a plan that allows them to play to their strengths rather than to try and eliminate all weaknesses.

5. High performing people tend to share similar traits.

Attitude plays a huge role in performance management if you can identify those traits that make the biggest difference in your marketplace. Sometimes replicating a few key skills or traits across the sales team can have a huge impact on performance and results.

6. Managing performance is a balancing act between internal and external forces.

In many ways all the key lessons from strategy can be applied to performance management, in so far as the art of performance is the ability to recognise external threats and opportunities and adapting your sales approach to maximise your use of resources and product strengths

7. People generally know how to improve their own performance

A coaching approach to sales is often the most effective means of improving sales performance. Sales people who have the skill and self- awareness to develop their own performance are the most valuable asset on your sales team.

8. Everyone learns and develops in different ways

An obvious but important point. Developing sales performance requires that the sales manager is aware of the different learning types on their team adaptable in their approach to training and coaching.

9. Coaches and mentors need to be experts in performance as well as the product or service

Great coaches have a detailed knowledge of all the factors that drive performance in their field. They have high levels of insight into individual and team performances and are able to pay attention to even the smallest details.


Performance management is the art of producing the results that you need over the longer term. It is everything that you do to produce the result rather than the result itself.



Whenever we run Performance Appraisal courses for clients, we usually begin the process with a debate about whether there is a role for Performance Appraisal in fast moving modern businesses. There are many good reasons given for not running appraisals. Many people have memories of awkward meetings with their boss trying to make sense of things that happened months before. Others admitted that they were always somewhat guarded in appraisals because they were concerned that any negative marks could affect their pay. Others still reported that in their experience appraisals were used (by their boss) as a way of getting six months worth of negative feedback into an hours meeting or that the feedback they received was so generic as to be useless.

Of course we come to understand that such views are the result of poor execution of the appraisal meeting rather than the concept of appraisal. However when I ask groups to come to a conclusion as to whether Appraisals are a good thing the answer (after much consideration) is usually Yes if……

The “If” being that appraisals are worthwhile so long as there is a robust performance management process in place. So it is worthwhile taking a moment to identify the different elements of the performance management mix and to put the performance appraisal into it’s proper place as an essential component in the mix that will only work if the other parts of the engine are functioning well.

If your appraisal system isn’t working for you, then perhaps it is best to take a look initially at least, at your whole Performance Management System.


Many of these Performance Management Processes share similar characteristics. Most involve one to one dialogue and a degree of action planning. It is important, however, to remember not to confuse the measures or to try and combine them. A Performance Appraisal can be likened to a service on a car. The point of the service is to check all working parts, not just to address short-term problems. This way, the car will run efficiently and optimally for many years because problems have been avoided. In the same way, the appraisal should look at all aspects of performance, not just the problem areas.

How does Performance Appraisal Differ from other Performance Management measures?

Performance Appraisals are just one component in a range of possible interventions that a manager can use to drive performance. These include;

PM Measure Why Notes
Job Review Employee is changing jobs (through promotion restructuring etc) or the nature of their role is changing This is a meeting to review and amend the job description and the key performance indicators associated with it.The meeting should take place every time there is a significant change in the employee’s role or responsibilities.
Coaching Whenever there is a development need for which coaching is the most appropriate option. Usually a series of one to one meetings focused on developing a key skill or achieving a specific goal.
Pay Review To communicate and or discuss remuneration terms. This should be done at least annually (even if no award is made) or after a major shift in role or responsibility. Pay Review decisions should be made with reference to results as reported in a Performance Appraisal.They should not be a major part of the appraisal process. Avoid doing Pay and Performance reviews in the same meeting if at all possible.
Disciplinary Meeting Whenever there has been a breach of rules or professional standards.Disciplinary meetings can vary in severity from informal “reminders” to formal written warnings. Disciplinary meetings should take place close to the occurrence of the problem behaviour.Disciplinary meetings should never be combined with appraisals.
Career Counselling Meetings between Manager and staff member to discuss long-term career goals and opportunities. These should occur by mutual consent There is an element of career counselling within all appraisals, however, the appraisal must primarily be about current and future performance.
Performance Appraisal Occur at regular intervals (2 or 3 times per year).All employees should have the right to an AppraisalThe aim is to review and analyse current performance and identify ways to develop future performance Performance Appraisals are a regular and systematic review of every part of an individual’s performance.Usually one to one meetings, the primary focus is to improve individual performance.

One of the most useful discussions we have in our management programmes is based around a checklist The 7 Areas Of Motivational Influence.

Too often managers think about motivation only in terms of incentives, i.e. things that we can do to motivate staff. However often the elimination of disincentives (i.e. unfair treatment / injustices) is just as powerful a means
of driving motivation.

Furthermore, the more we learn about motivation and engagement (from people like Dan Pink in his book Drive that the factors affecting the levels of commitment that an individual commits to a given task or goals are many and complex.

Ask managers to build a detailed picture of all the areas that influence motivation by discussing each of the seven areas in turn. Encourage groups to look for marginal gains (small things that they can do or stop doing
which when combined create an environment in which people can motivate themselves).

Our preferred method is to put 7 flipchart sheets up around the training room and then get the group to move around each one adding comments on post it notes until they have built their own picture of what drives motivation in their workplace and have generated ideas to enhance levels of motivation.

If you want a full trainer briefing for this exercise please email me via our contacts page at www.oceanlearning.co.uk

7 Areas of Motivational Influence
1. Leadership
2. Remuneration
3. Direct Incentives
4. Job Satisfaction
5. Values
6. Security
7. Status

Leadership matters when it comes to motivating staff. People need a clear idea of what is expected of them, they need to know why doing their job to the best of their ability matters to the wider team. People need to know that they will be supported and developed, they need to know that they will be trusted to get on with the job and that their efforts are appreciated. They need to know that they are working for a good company and for people who will make the right decisions for the long term good of all the company. Everything you do to invest in the quality of Leadership will provide returns in the form of increased motivation.

Remuneration and its effects on motivation is a vast and complex subject. However, there are four major principles to bear in mind.

It is not how much you pay a person that really matters but how they perceive their remuneration package. If a package is perceived as fair (in the context of colleagues and the marketplace), if it is enough for them to live without the constant worry of money matters) and they believe that it is within their control (i.e. there is a clear link between what they achieve and what they can earn) then people will not be de-motivated by their remuneration package. Remuneration is largely a hygiene factor, if it is perceived as unsatisfactory then the de-motivational effect is significant. If however people are broadly satisfied with their remuneration then it tends to be other factors that affect how motivated they are with their work.

Incentives and Rewards
Incentives are the non-cash prizes that are offered to staff if they achieve a particular standard of performance. They are most often found in Sales Environments (top performer prize schemes) but also in production departments (for example staff on the production floor at a factory may get incentives for quality, finishing jobs ahead of schedule and for safe practice). Incentives work because they signal and encourage staff as to the important behaviours and KPI’s that will ensure success. Incentives work best in departments where there are clear and measurable results are best used for:

Short-term motivation

  • Introducing elements of fun/competition to the team
  • Rewarding those behaviours that will lead to better results
  • Building confidence
  • Rewarding effort and initiative

Rewards are the non-cash awards that are made after staff have achieved an exceptional performance or put in an exceptional effort. Rewards can come in many forms from a box of chocolates to a holiday. They can also be non-tangible benefits such as “time off” offered to teams who meet their targets early.

Rewards work best for

  • Identifying exceptional work effort and creating a bench mark for others
  • Departments where staff all do different jobs
  • Departments where the quality of work is more important than the quantity

In either case Incentives and Rewards work best when;

  • All staff feel engaged in the process
  • They focus on behaviours and KPI’s rather than results. (if you need to reward results create a bonus scheme)
  • They are designed to be achievable (incentives) and awarded fairly (rewards)
  • They are designed to be fun and engaging
  • They are appropriate for the target group
  • They reward effort and behaviour over and above the job requirement

Job Satisfaction
How satisfied we feel at work depends upon many factors and those factors vary between individuals (see career drivers). However there are some key elements that always get mentioned in surveys where people report high levels of job satisfaction.

Need for Goals and Results. People need to know that they are purposefully moving on. People are objective orientated animals i.e. they work most efficiently when they have a clear idea of what they wish to do, and they have a feedback loop that tells them how well they are doing in relation to the goal.

For a goal system to be effective it must be comple mented by the continuous
relaying of results.

Training. Training does much more than improving selling skills. If people feel they are improving have a training plan set out for them, they will keep working and stay loyal.

Recognition. Every human being likes to feel that they have done well and are appreciated. “Catch people doing things right.”

Progression. Some people are ambitious. Help them achieve promotion, show them exactly what they have to do and provide them with regular appraisal.

The degree to which our work is aligned with our values has a direct impact upon the level of commitment and energy we give to it.

When we talk about Values we simply mean the things which we hold to be of value in our lives, these things may be;

  • Family life
  • Spiritual values
  • Creativity
  • Our rules and standards for dealing with others
  • The way we like to be treated by others
  • Our personal sense of reward
  • Our beliefs about ethics (what is right and what is wrong)
  • Our drivers See Career Drivers Survey in appendices

Security (a desire to know how things will be in the future) is a very common and powerful, although seldom- admitted motive. Our sense of security plays a significant role in our levels of motivation.

Managers must be able to strike a balance between:
a) A company that is too secure, which may stagnate
b) Lack of security means high turnover of staff and lack of purposeful activity.

Some Factors which positively affect our sense of security are

Standards. We all have a need for clear performance standards – people need to know where they stand. Worry about their positions is destructive – a major disincentive.

Belonging: Man is gregarious and in a sense, one of the things we look for at work is sociability and the ability to mix. People generally do not like to be isolated, when they do feel isolated they tend to worry more about security issues.

Need for Leadership: (See Above) Staff need direction, goals, a feeling of being supported etc. These are all attributes that
a good leader brings to the team.

People want to feel good about the work that they do and the results that they achieve. We all want to be considered significant and important. De-motivation creeps in when we begin to feel that what we do doesn’t matter to the team or the organisation as a whole.

Make sure they know how important they are to the company, but also make sure they are well served i.e. good back up, clear printed business cards etc.
Make people feel that the job they have is an important one and the products they produce are ones they should be proud of.


customers see

For the last twenty years or so I have been lucky enough to work with a wide variety of businesses (from start-ups to multi nationals) helping them to explore and develop the way they win, keep and grow their customers.

One of the most interesting parts of the job that I do is researching the customer experience and working out how small changes to the customer experience can make a huge difference to overall profits.

There are three common themes that recur whenever and wherever we do the research regardless of the size or type of business. Companies who understand and embrace these tend to thrive those that lose sight of these tend to struggle. So whether you are a dog grooming business an IT consultant or a major bank these three principles apply.

  1. Customers don’t buy a product they buy a result. If someone goes to see a lawyer they are not buying the experience and knowledge of the Lawyer in the first instance they are buying the fact that they believe this Lawyer will resolve their problem satisfactorily (be it a dispute a divorce a property purchase etc,) like wise a customer in a clothing boutique is not buying a dress they are buying how they will feel when they wear the dress, how their friends or partner will react or what they think they can achieve when they look their best.  If you want customers to buy from you, spend time talking about the result they want before you talk about yourself.
  2. Customers buy with their heart first. People like to do business with people that they like and feel they can trust. We are always more likely to buy from businesses where we are made to feel welcome, where the staff show genuine interest in the customer (not just the sale) and where they feel they belong. This is as true of a local green grocers as it is a major department store.
  3. Finally Customers will make their own mind up about your business based on a few small experiences (we call these moments of truth). If the small experiences are good, for example a waiter in a restaurant takes time to be nice to your children, they impact on the rest of the customer experience, they can make the customer’s day. If however the small experiences are bad, a rude response to a simple question for example this negatively affects the way the customer views the whole experience.

So if you run a business ask yourself .

Do we spend enough time talking to the customer about what they need our product to do?
Do we engage with them on a personal level?
Do we pay attention to the small stuff?

Whether you are M&S or the local village shop the answer to these questions will have a big impact on your business.


I recently asked a group of  delegates to recommend some great presentations to educate and inspire us to deliver even better presentations. Here is a sample of the presentaions suggested.  There are some very different styles of presenter but all in my book are highly engaging  presenters who I believe have not only mastered the art of communicating to groups but who also demonstrate my number one rule of presenting.

You are the message!

Everyone of these guys has a great set of slides, but note that they have very little actual information on the slide, they use the slides to support their story.

Seth Godin presents to Google


Steve Jobs introduces the iphone


Guy Kawasaki “The art of the start”


Malcolm Gladwell at the TED conference


Hans Rosling on the Myths of the Developing World


Al Gore on averting climate crisis




CBR003593I have just done a favour for a client they asked me to review a presentation that they are making as part of the tender process for a significant chunk of business.

The presentation arrived (all 18Mb) of it and within three pages could see a reason not to do business with this company.

Slide 1 Introduction A presentation for X by Y (Fair enough I suppose)

Slide 2 A fourteen point agenda slide , bullets 18pt no visual content at all ( I suppose they were working on that age old maxim tell em how you are going to bore them, bore them , tell em how you just bored them.)

Slide 3 A brief overview of their company history and operations.(all about us)

Sadly I see this all the time, a golden opportunity to impress and engage the group is wasted with a formulaic and self centered approach.

When I took this up with my client (who doesn’t mind me writing this so long as I protect their anonymity) They argued that they always started their presentations this way…! In fact they could point me to an internal document from their Marketing department that suggested this was the company standard.

Talking about your agenda and your company at the start of a presentation is almost always counter productive. In a competitive tender the client wants to find out why you are the right partner for them so talk about them first.

There are many ways to do this but as a default mechanism start your presentation with a review of the client’s objectives. What are their objectives? What do they want from the partnership? If you cant answer these two questions prior to the presentation then you shouldn’t really be there.

Do your prep, and remember that the presentation is all about the client, their objectives preferences and needs. If you start talking about you, people start to switch off, talk about them first and you make it easy for them to tune in to your presentation. When you have their full attention, when they are fully engaged then you can tell them why you are their best solution.

If you have an important pitch coming up and you want to talk it through drop me a line it is amazing how your chances of winning (or at least achieving your stated objective ) can be dramatically improved with just a few amendments.


A couple of articles have got me thinking this week about the state of our profession. In his article For Trainingzone Donald Taylor paints a fairly bleak picture of the troubles that may lie ahead.

If you’re working for a classroom training provider, you probably already know the answer. In the smaller dip of 2002/2003, classroom training companies suffered as clients cut back on classroom delivery costs. It’s a simple calculation: no classroom training means no fees and no travel, a quick saving in tough times.

“Right now, the manager wielding the knife over the budget has no hesitation in cutting all external training beyond what is legally required.”
But don’t people still need training? Of course they do, but training is still seen as being rather like painting the woodwork on the outside of the house. Everyone knows you have to do it, but even if it looks really bad, you can let it slide for a season or two until structural damage sets in.

In 2002/2003 a number of classroom training companies went to the wall. We can expect worse in 2009, as demand plummets

The Education section of the Guardian today suggests that the Governments pleas to industry to maintain their training budgets are being ignored.

“a survey reported exclusively in Education Guardian today suggests that many employers are not taking any notice.

Half of the training managers questioned in more than 100 large companies say their budgets have been, or will be, cut. Barely a third of them expect their training budgets to come through 2009 unscathed, and just 16% expect their budgets to increase during the downturn.

More than two-thirds say they anticipate that they will need to “streamline their course portfolio” this year.

The managers surveyed work for organisations employing at least 1,000 people and include Xerox, Siemens, the NHS, Pitney Bowes, Deutsche Bank, WHSmith, GSK, JPD, AstraZeneca, Barclays and Oracle.

But there are opportunities; Taylor suggests that the type of training to survive the upcoming culls (and this applies equally to internal providers as well as those of us who sell training for a living) will be:


  • provided by niche players
  • closely integrated with the purpose /customers/culture
  • cheap quick fix off the shelf solutions



The Guardian suggests that it is general training programs that will be culled but that the demand for real leadership, business acumen delivered in a flexible , dare we say blended format.

Interestingly I don’t know a trainer (internal or external) who doesn’t consider themselves to be flexible, integrated, business savvy and fantastic value for money. The next few months will provide us all with an opportunity to work out whether we are as smart as we think we are and to sharpen up in all these areas. But here are the warning signals, that all is not well in your training business or training department.


  • If all your training solutions are organised into classroom courses and planned by the day.
  • If your training materials are broadly the same as they were in 2003 (new fonts and covers dont count!)
  • If you know more people who have left the company than those who remain
  • If you find yourself surprised and disappointed that this years Management Programme has been put on ice



Then now might be a great time for a serious step back.

The alarm bells are ringing and the coffee is pungent enough to stop a charging bull!

The only question is what will you do next?

Paul Kenny In action

Paul Kenny In action

So here we go, this Blog is for all the entrepreneurs, business leaders, and sales people that it has been my pleasure to work with as a colleague, client and supplier. The reason for the blog? well I meet hundreds of people each year in a professional capacity as trainer, salesman, coach and conference speaker and my job is to try and answer peoples questions in what I hope is a clear and useful way.

The problem is that often as I drive away from an assignment or settle comfortably into my seat on the train, I start to remember a whole stack of additional material that would make a useful contribution to our conversation. Or I meet someone the very next day who has a particular experience or insight that would be really useful in answering yesterdays question. My Blog therefore is a means of keeping track, catching up and following up on all the stuff that I do day to day and all the topics that fascinate me in business, sales, leadership, creativity and learning.

The catalyst for this process was the recent (September 2008) Business of Software Conference in Boston Mass. This conference is attended by around 300 software entrepreneurs. I still consider myself to be an entrepreneur and two days in the company of people so totally committed to their creative ideas was an inspiration in itself. Having forgotten to switch my Blackberry off during my presentation I was aware of the constant buzzing as delegates emailed their comments to me from the audience. Talk about instant feedback! Anyway the gist of the emails tended to be ” loving the presentation where’s your Blog?” (those who were hating the presentation had the good grace to keep their thoughts to themselves).

Ultimately I hope this blog will become the natural extension of of my other training, coaching and consulting activities. Please feel free to comment, pose questions and to explore issues further.