Addressing Change to Drive Performance

To mark the appointment of 400 new Development Managers to manage talent within DEFRA, The Right Address were asked to provide a speaker for the launch event of this new initiative.  Fulfilling a brand new role within DEFRA these appointments form part of a wider change management programme aimed at creating a high performance environment.  The Right Address recommended business speaker Jeff Grout to highlight the issues facing these new managers.  Jeff was chosen by DEFRA both for his business credibility and experience of the public sector. 

He challenged the audience of 160 new Development Managers whether their people felt involved, included and inspired? Emphasising the importance of their role in stimulating performance within DEFRA, Jeff discussed how other organisations successfully created a motivational working environment. Drawing on the research from his latest book ‘What Do Leaders Really Do?’ he offered practical examples from business, sport and the military of how effective leaders create a sense of common purpose and provide a clear focus upon objectives and priorities. Jeff questioned how well the managers present knew their own people and their underlying motivations.

Jeff examined the importance of communication particularly during times of change,“It is the glue that holds any organisation together”. He stressed that communication is not simply the transfer of information. Whilst we may spend two hours a day receiving, reading and responding to email it is often not the most appropriate form of communication. Placing emphasis the importance of ‘eye mail’ i.e. face to face communication, Jeff believes that good communication is much more about emotional engagement than logical, well-reasoned argument. He differentiated between ‘Big talk’ – discussion about goals and objectives and ‘Little talk’ – providing feedback, encouragement and reassurance. Jeff is also a strong advocate that a lack of ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ often saps the energy of an organisation.

Emphasising the importance of two –way communication, Jeff emphasised that successful leaders “listen to earn the right to be heard”. He cited the example of Greg Dyke on joining the BBC. “In his first 100 days he visited as many BBC locations as possible and asked people at all levels of the organisation the same two questions: what is the one thing I can do to improve our service to the viewer or listener and what is the one thing I can do to improve your life at work? He then implemented as many suggestions as he could to demonstrate that he’d heard”. He had built up such ‘goodwill’ amongst BBC employees that he was subsequently able to introduce a number of far reaching changes to the organisation.

Jeff finally discussed the importance of change initiatives in delivering both innovation and continuous improvement and addressed some of the practical difficulties of leading change. He referred to the economist Keynes who said “the difficulty is never developing new ideas but escaping the old ones”. In conclusion Jeff stated that it is not policy but people who drive performance “by knowing your people, by making them feel involved, by developing their abilities they can achieve more than they ever imagined possible”.

The feedback from the delegates at the event was excellent, ‘Everything went very well with Jeff Grout on Tuesday. His address was great, and was well-received by the people who attended. We also did a survey, and received quite a few comments to the effect that the external speaker was very good and that we should look to feature similar speakers at future events.’

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