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Critical success factors for home and work. 

Cigarette packets tell you smoking kills. At least you’ve been warned.

We need a sign that says:

Incompetence kills. Likely to cause stress, loss of confidence and feelings of despair.  Long term effects of incompetency are a team that distrusts you with potential for conditions of hostility.'

Mediocrity is a common problem in our relationships and in the workplace and many of us, including managers, often make it worse. We assume a lack of work ethic.

Critical success factors can be tough to work out.

To paraphrase leadership and management expert, Stephen Covey, ‘working harder with a faulty map only gets us nowhere faster.’ 

The mindset that hard work alone that yields higher returns is like hoping that if you worked hard to pour water in a volcano it wouldn’t erupt.

A lack of high performance or an unhappy relationship leads to back-biting, gossip, conflict, absenteeism, loss of productivity and low retention rates that infect the culture of an organisation or family.

It breeds fear, resentment and contempt. This is not a culture that cultivates excellence. Over a long period of time, this leads to Relationship-Mass-Destruction.

Critical success factors that do make a big difference in generating excellence are:

  • The strength of relationships, 
  • Happiness factors,
  • Innate talents,
  • Habits,
  • Perspective and
  • The patience to practice and practice and practice.

Humans have two basic needs.

‘To look good’
‘be right.’

These needs, unmet, may produce similar fight/flight symptoms to a physical threat.

What you’re seeing in someone struggling - is not laziness or lack of care. 

These are symptoms of something bigger. I believe every human being has a deep yearning to excel. Sometimes though, when faced with what appears to be insurmountable obstacles, people lose spirit.

This is no different in a marriage, or for parents as it might be as work as a manager. 


Critical Success Factor I:
Relationships Matter

Our social world can determine our success. The Hawthorne Experiments conducted at Harvard University (1927-1932), showed the social dynamics of the company influenced productivity levels. We spend most of waking life in the workplace. It’s home away from home.

Many clients I work with seem to falter when they no longer feel valued. Isn't that what happens in relationships?

According to  management thought-leader and best-selling author Marcus Buckingham, the most important relationship of all is between supervisor and employee. He says people leave managers not companies.

While the Hawthorne experiment showed any attention is better than none, Buckingham’s research shows positive reinforcement matters far more.

In my own experience, there is a gradient of what works.

At the bottom of the ladder is No Attention at all.

This can happen with managers who have a laissez-faire (let you do) management style and who don't see themselves as mentors, cheerleaders, teachers or who don't believe in giving appreciation and recognition.

Often they are too self absorbed to notice enough how much someone is doing or how well they are doing.

After a while in any relationship, people move onto other people where they can be SEEN. It may be ego. It's still a real human need. 

The next rung is Negative Attention.

People perform better with negative attention than none.

A manager who has a hyper-critical style teaches people that it pays to do just well enough to keep the job but not so well that they become unseen.

This is exactly what happens at home too. People will do just enough to keep the marriage but not so well they become invisible. 

At the top of the ladder, is sincere Positive Reinforcement.

Great sales teams celebrate any small win. Some sales managers teach their teams to celebrate just making the calls. These are the teams that do exceptionally well over long periods of time.

Negative reinforcement without the positive breaks confidence. Buckingham recommends for every negative feedback there should be five positive feedbacks.

Positive feedback generates the feel good factors that build and energise. It teaches people that action matters.

Critical Success Factor II:

Award-winning teacher, Harvard trained researcher and author on the connection between happiness and success, Shawn Achor - discovered  in over a decade of research for Harvard, that people who were happier not only achieved success over a life time, but companies who knew this were able to raise their profit, accuracy, sales, productivity etc.

People who were unhappy were either mediocre or experienced short terms wins. 

Like Buckingham, Achor says strong relationships in the workplace, perceptions and positive reinforcement generate the right happy feelings for excellence.

Some of the pay-offs in the workplace are being more solution focused, seeing more opportunities and a greater resilience. People work faster, more efficiently.

The bonus is their enthusiasm is infectious. According to Achor, it’s not only employee happiness that counts.

The studies showed teams with happy managers faired better than teams with negative managers.

The question is, what IS HAPPINESS? It's seldom what most people have in their fantasy. 

Critical Success Factor IV:

Some people have learnt bad habits. They may have enough talents to shine here and there. But their bad habits ultimately leave them hitting a wall.

A decade later the wall has become a place of lost dreams. Good habits eliminate stress, mistakes and procrastination. Good habits eliminate relationship conflict. 

Critical Success Factor V:

There are collective stories that exist in human thinking.  One is:  ‘I’m not good enough’. Anxiety about this impedes wisdom and action-orientation.

Others stories are: ‘This is FOREVER’ and ‘it will NEVER change’ OR ‘This is going to affect EVERYTHING.’ Challenges, mistakes and failures are perceived as permanent and pervasive.  Pessimism, inertia and hopelessness follow.

Yet failure is not only inevitable, but necessary for continued growth, creativity and mastery. Encourage yourself and others to let go of the apocalyptic mind talk. Without these thoughts we can become unstoppable.

Critical Success Factor VI:

In maths, I went from 16% to 98% in one year. My teachers and I thought I lacked the aptitude for it. We were wrong. Finally a teacher taught me the art of mistakes and practice.  

The same applies to mastering music or sales, admin or strategy, management or leadership. At first it’s fearful and clumsy. Then it’s boring.  But the effort pays off.  Now the talent flows into brilliance with little thought to the how.

In the end, a family or workplace environment that cultivates a culture of patience and enthusiasm for this will find a team that not only produces excellent results in less time, but a team that perseveres in the worst of times, that loves working together, and a team that grows and glows.

Written for Business Report, The Star 2014

Jo Ntsebeza is a qualified professional coach, facilitator, trainer and lay counsellor.

All works are copyrighted. You may quote me or use no more than a paragraph with a link to the article on my website. 

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