Standards of behaviour



How do you set standards of behaviour? Many organizations quote their values and say how important they are, but how many times have you heard companies swear that people are their greatest asset before making many of them redundant?


When it comes to appraisals and performance reviews, if you want to do the job properly I believe you it is a good idea to have standards that people must meet before they can receive an acceptable rating for their performance.


We all know those people who achieve their objectives at the expense of everyone else, but what can you do about it?


The key is to have clear standards, not just to have vague words like:



“Customer focus”


These are only good as values if you know what they mean in the context of your organization.


The test is, would someone new to your organization know how you wanted him or her to behave in a difficult situation?




How to set clear standards


One way to do this is to identify some typical difficult situations in your organization and

Clear standards

Have you got clear standards of behaviour?

identify what you would like people to do if they were confronted by those situations. For example it might be a customer getting angry with them, or discovering a crucial mistake made by a colleague.


What you do then is define something like “Respect” in that situation.


We respect all our employees and expect them to respect each other. So if you discover information that indicates a colleague could have made a mistake, you explain what you have found to your colleague and ask him or her for their response.




We respect the right of our clients to be confident that their information is correct so if you discover information that indicates a mistake has been made, alert your manager immediately and give him/her all the facts.




We respect our clients and recognize that many of them have been through traumatic experiences. If a client calls and is in a distressed state, we listen to them and use our skills to help them to calm down. Then we find out what they need and address that issue.




We respect our employees. If a customer is rude to you or swears at you over the phone ask the customer to behave politely and stop swearing. If they continue, let them know you will close the call.




We respect the views of our employees. If you have any concerns about anything, your manager will listen to them.


I could go on.


Make sure everyone in your organization knows what you mean. This makes it so much easier for them to meet your standards.

When should you give feedback?


Do you ever give feedback to people in your team? And if so, when?


Running a workshop yesterday I got the usual response to this question; people only give feedback when there are problems, and then they usually leave it as long as possible in the hope that things will get better on their own. If you do that you tend to end up in the unenviable situation of having to give quite unpleasant feedback to members of your team.


It’s like going to the dentist; the longer you delay, the worse it is.


But there are other easier and more effective ways of using feedback.



How to get really good results from feedback without the difficult bits


Have you ever thought of focusing on giving feedback to people when they have done things particularly well? And I don’t mean just saying, “That was great.” or “You are brilliant.” I mean some very specific feedback that properly identifies what they have done and why it has yielded the results it has.


If you have, you are in the minority, and that’s a shame, because it’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways to boost performance (and it helps morale too).



How to use feedback positively



Step one

Use feedback in positive situations

Use feedback in positive situations


Identify anything that goes better than usual
That could be all kinds of things, for example:

  • You do it more quickly
  • The results are better
  • It’s cheaper
  • You make more money
  • The clients are happier than usual



Step two


Get your team together and ask them how it happened. Find out what was different. Discover who did what.



Think of yourself as your favourite detective and make sure you go into the detail and get all the evidence.



Step three


Identify why it happened. What was different? Why did people do what they did?



Step four


Work out how you can repeat it and make it the standard way that things are done.





Lastly – keeping looking for feedback opportunities


Get into the habit of doing this. Make sure your whole team is on the look out for things that go well. Make sure they follow this same procedure.


You can extend it to noticing what others in other areas do particularly well and finding out how they do it too. Then see what you can apply to your own area.


When I improved the productivity of a department by around 40% in a week and also reduced their failure rate from 25% to less than 5% this is the kind of process I used. I just picked all the best things that each individual did and stuck them together. None of it was my idea. And I explained to them all which bit each of them had added to the process.


The information had always been there, but no one had gathered it together.


Don’t trust me. Have a go at this yourself and see what results you get.

Objectives or tasks?



I quite often get asked questions about objectives by people who come along to our website. Here’s one that crops up a lot:
How do you differentiate between tasks and objectives?




Some people call small objectives tasks


I think this can be very confusing. Let’s take my upcoming trip to Sandwich. I could break it down into smaller objectives. In fact, that’s what I usually do. They might be small objectives, but they are still objectives. Remember, objectives tell you what you need to achieve and by when. They are measurable.



My traveling arrangements to Sandwich are a bit complicated because my diary is

Preparation for the journey

SMART objectives or just tasks?

jam-packed for several days before hand, all the more reason to work out my plan and my objectives in good time. Also, I’m meeting up with someone else in Nottingham before I catch my train that day. So here’s a list of tasks and objectives for my trip. Just for fun, see if you can identify which are tasks and which are objectives. You’ll find the answers on this page Objectives or tasks?  but don’t peak till you’ve had a go.


  • Check trains.
  • Drive.
  • See Robin.
  • Have lunch.
  • Leave Nottingham in time to catch the train I am booked on.
  • Check out Nottingham restaurants.
  • Find a restaurant for lunch on Wednesday by Sunday 5pm.
  • Ensure Robin has the meeting place details the day before we meet.
  • Check hotel.
  • Get to the Bell Hotel in Sandwich by 8.30pm on Wednesday.
  • Ensure I have all the materials I need to run the workshop in Sandwich packed by 7pm on Tuesday.
  • Make sure I have the hotel address and contact details ready to add to the luggage by 5pm on Monday.
  • Check hotel booking.
  • Make sure the hotel has my booking by 5pm on Tuesday.
  • Check iPod.
  • Charge iPod.
  • Ensure iPod is fully charged for 9am on Wednesday.
  • Make sure the material I want to listen to is on my iPod by 5pm on Tuesday.
  • Write the communication skills course outline on the train.
  • Ensure I have all the notes for the communication skills course synced with my laptop by 5pm on Tuesday.

The New Doctor Who


An objective recruitment process

I first saw Peter Capaldi in Local Hero, one of my all time favourite films. He plays Oldsen, a slightly odd character who speaks many different languages. I thought he was brilliant in the role. So why is it I don’t like the idea of him being the 12th Doctor Who?



The new Doctor Who

As a great fan of Dr Who since it started, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the

The Tardis

The Tardis by Dave Nicol, keen recruiter and Doctor Who fan

announcement of the 12th Doctor.


My family had been making suggestions as to who the new incumbent should be since we had heard that Matt Smith was leaving.


We were hoping for Rupert Grint, Olivia Coleman or Benedict Cumberpatch. But instead it was Peter Capaldi. We were not happy. The trouble is in these situations, most of us don’t like change. Let’s be honest, I didn’t like it when  Christopher Eccleston was replaced by David Tennant – and I now admit that I was completely wrong on that score. (Yes, I still prefer David Tennant to Matt Smith, but I’ve warmed to him now.)



Recruiting and promoting

It can be very difficult to see people in a different role, or to imagine someone in a role that is comfortably inhabited by a colleague you are used to. I think it can be a particularly difficult when you are deciding whether to promote from within or recruit from outside.


How many times have you seen people leave a company, go off and work elsewhere and then come back into a much more senior role? I’ve seen this many times and it often makes me think that it is very hard to be objective when you are recruiting.


So often people have skills that you are completely unaware of, skills that remain wasted in their current role. You see people through the lens of who they were years ago when you first met them, forgetting that they have grown and learned much since then.



Father of the bride

This is best illustrated by another film “Father of the Bride” (The Steve Martin version.) Steve’s daughter is getting married. She says to him something like “You still see me as a child.” As he strenuously denies this you see, through his eyes, a young girl in pigtails.
If you are a parent, you will know this situation only too well. You don’t want your children to do things you don’t think they are ready for. The fact that you did those very same things at their age or younger does not matter. The excuses pour into your head (“There were fewer cars on the roads in those days”, “Things were safer then” “The world is a more dangerous place…”).


No doubt these were the very same things your parents thought.



An objective recruitment process

So when making very difficult decisions on promoting and recruiting, the key is to make absolutely sure you know what you need.


Once you know this, you need to be as objective as you can in testing the skills and behaviours of your candidates. If you can test blind, all the better.


You need a process you can trust, that will enable you to make the correct decisions based on facts, not your possibly outdated view of any of the candidates.



Peter Capaldi


So let’s hope that Steven Moffat and the rest of the Dr Who team have got it right again, just as they did with Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith, not to mention the wonderful John Pertwee (now I’m showing my age).


For more help on recruitment have a look at our service. If you are a vet, Dave Nicol and I run a special recruitment service just for you: Recruit Right for Vets