Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

(MUSIC? It's an acronym to make leading change easier.)

Do you have team members with inefficient work habits?

Maybe they are not handling their workload and workflow as well as they need to. You know that unless they start doing things differently, they will continue to be overwhelmed and behind in their work.

So you know the problem. How do you encourage them to change?

If you try to get your team members to change all their behaviours, all at once, they will end up feeling incompetent and this will decrease their motivation to change their habits.

If you help them take small steps successfully, they will feel competent. The more they feel competent, the more motivated they will be to continue changing their habits.

You can do that by helping them develop ongoing micro-projects for themselves.

First, explore with each team member specific changes they could take to improve the way they handle their workflow and workload.

Then ask them to choose just one idea to start with and turn that idea into a micro-project using the MUSIC tool.


Make sure that there is a clear way for them to acknowledge progress and achievement of the micro-project. Identify specific ways for them to know when or how much of the micro-project has been completed.


Make sure that completing the micro-project will make a difference—that what they do will be appreciated by or add value for someone in some way.


Make sure the micro-project addresses one small improvement. Break tasks down into small, doable actions and make each action a separate micro-project. We are aiming for many improvements, not grand plans.


Make sure they can put their micro-project into action straight away and quickly achieve it. We are aiming for points on the board early to create momentum.


Make sure that the team members select micro-projects that they are prepared to commit to—that they will take responsibility for putting them into action and make themselves accountable for the results.

Once each team member has a micro-project in place make sure you support them and acknowledge success as they make progress.

Continue to help team members create new micro-projects as each one is achieved. As you keep using MUSIC to create momentum and progress, you will begin to see your team getting into a rhythm with their workload and workflow.

Let's get controversial.

It's time to ditch performance reviews.

I'm not alone in saying that. The resistance is growing. So is the evidence. For example, the survey organisation Gallup reports that only 14 per cent of employees strongly agree that performance reviews inspire them to perform better. 

So, is there a better way?

Maybe not a single way, but how about a combination of regular feedback, coaching, mentoring and job reviews?

Give regular feedback

Your employees should not have to wait for six months or a year to discover what you think of their performance. It's inefficient because of the gap between events and feedback, but also because it allows time for our employees' optimistic biases to flourish. It's only human to have a rose-tinted view of most things - certainly our skills and achievements, even our popularity, social skills and driving abilities.

Don't wait. Give feedback regularly. Praise the employee who stayed late to finish a job, made a valuable contribution to a project or stayed motivated through setbacks. Express your disappointment (privately) if necessary, though catching people doing good is generally more effective.

Your feedback should be specific. 'I liked the way you...' not 'Hey you're doing a great job!'

Make sure it's authentic. You should genuinely feel positive about behaviour you are praising or they will think it's just something you learned on the last course you did.

Coach and mentor

Coaching is focused on a task. Mentoring is more long-term and should be something the mentee keeps going.

According to a study by Hay/McBer, coaching is one of the least used yet most effective leadership styles.

Gallup has come up with 12 questions that best test how engaged employees are in their work. Those 12 include: 'Does your supervisor or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?', 'Is there someone at work who encourages your development?', 'In the past year, have you had opportunties to learn and grow?'  

Review the job, not the person

I've not seen any research on my interpretation of a job review, but used it for many years in a high-performing team. In my last nine years as MD, the staff turnover was zero (and still is more than two years later). 

Here's how it works.

The team member receives a template with questions and a few days to think about the answers. The template has an introduction.

It’s time to review your role at Skillset. It’s nothing to worry about. I’m not planning to make any changes unless you ask for them and it’s not an evaluation of your performance.
Most of all, I need to know whether the job description we agreed is still relevant to the work you are doing now, what you enjoy doing most, any frustrations you are having and anything you need from me that I’m not providing.
Please take some time to think over the issues, make some notes and answer the questions that invite a written response.

The questions include what you like most about the job, what frustrates you about the job and what we could do to overcome those frustrations.

I also want to know about the employees' workload (in case I've missed something) and whether they have the equipment to do the job efficiently.

The template includes a section on communication with an introduction...

I need to check how well I’ve communicated some key ideas. Please respond to the following questions in writing. (I’m hoping that we can pick up some issues so that I can provide better leadership – so don’t hold back.)

There's more, including checking that each person is aware of the company's values, what the company does for clients and their contribution to providing those services. (All key issues if you want to engage your team.)

Job reviews are about listening, not announcing a judgement. 

Too risky because you might hear something uncomfortable? This approach takes courage.

Too soft for you? Have you tracked how well your traditional performance reviews are working?  Have the reviews improved their performance? Are your employees more engaged and productive?