There used to be a saying that when you’d had a hard day at work, when you got home you should ‘kick the cat‘ before you went in the house. This theory was based on the idea that if you ‘kicked the cat‘ then you could let out your aggression and everything would be okay when you went inside.
Thankfully such thinking
is long gone! Not only would it be politically incorrect to take such
action, it would be morally and legally inappropriate! So please, don’t kick your cat.
Unfortunately, however, this metaphor is alive and well in ‘Organisation Land’. Maybe some of you have been the ‘cat‘ who has been ‘kicked‘ (metaphorically speaking).
A case in point. A client of mine has a national sales role. In 2012, prior to her taking on the role the sales team failed
to achieve their prescribed 2012 targets. When she took over leading
the team in 2013, despite missing the 2012 target their new targets were
arbitrarily raised by 20% and they just achieved them. Celebrations followed. The ‘cat‘ was patted.
In 2014 (their financial
year finishes in October) another 20% was added to their target. They
just missed their prescribed targets after having been ahead of them for
most of the year. Ultimately the team’s performance was 113% better
than it was in 2013, but 7% short of the 2014 target. What do you think
is happening now? Yes, you guessed it, the ‘cat‘ is being ‘kicked‘. Apparently in ‘Organisation Land’ kicking the cat inspires the cat to higher performance. What do you think?
Personally I have never found getting kicked motivating. Unfortunately I am hearing more and more stories like this.
In this specific example
my client was informed by senior managers that she and her team would be
trusted to contribute to the targets process once they could be trusted to achieve them. Interesting logic!
Let me just walk through that logic again. Once
the team regularly achieve budgets that they had no input in creating,
that’s when they will be trusted to put forward budgets in the future.
Oh, by the way I should mention that I’m not talking about junior staff
here. I’m talking about staff with a minimum of seven years’
experience. There’s a lesson in how to de-motivate people right there!
‘Kicking the cat‘
creates demotivated and disengaged staff. Seriously, if you think that
such behaviour really motivates people to perform at a higher standard,
you probably also believe that if you go outside and yell at your grass
to grow that it will! I’m sorry to let you down but both strategies
Folks, growth doesn’t happen in straight lines,
not in the short-term that’s for sure. Linear growth expectations are
flawed and ultimately cause senior managers to behave in a ‘kick the cat-like‘ manner.
My client is a wonderful,
high performing person. She did amazingly well to achieve her result in
2013 and did amazingly well given local economic conditions to achieve
what she did in 2014. I doubt that any other team could have matched her
team’s performance. Yet do you think she is feeling valued right now?
You know what’s going to happen, don’t you? This high performer will leave and will end up serving another organisation more worthy of her commitment.
It is an interesting thought experiment to consider whether your
organisation is worthy of the commitment of the people who serve it?
‘Kicking the cat‘
doesn’t work so if you’re one of the guilty ones who does this
behaviour, please stop! Treat your people like human beings – you may
just be surprised by how well they shine.
If targets aren’t achieved
by experienced, engaged people, then sit down with them and work
together to work out what can be done. Maybe achieving the 2012 target
in 2013 would be, in reality, a success. Just giving people bigger
numbers to achieve because it is a new budget cycle is seriously flawed
and lacks using the knowledge, talent and expertise that exists within
organisational teams. People don’t want to fail. People don’t try to
fail. Not most people. Work with people so success over the long-term
can be achieved. It is possible.
What’s your experience of being ‘kicked’?
Gary Ryan enables talented professionals, their teams and organisations to move Beyond Being Good.