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My fifteen year old daughter is a keen basketball and ladies football player. Beautiful and built like a swimmer, she has been encountering some back pain since she returned to training and competition this season. The visit to the physiotherapist resulted in some useful exercises that increase her flexibility and strengthen her core. When these are done in the swimming pool and combined with forty or fifty laps, the core responds and the pain lessens. She has been swimming since she was six months old and churns the pool when she gets going.

We don’t use the phrase, ‘strengthen the core’ too much in the family, but it has now become part of our vernacular. As usual, I’m dropping it in as much as I can in meetings because it causes people to ask what I am talking about. I then get a chance to expound on some of my truly, wonderful wisdom!!  Some parts of my job I really like, I get to meet really interesting people and I’m always on the hunt for examples in organisations of what is working and what is not. I’m always trying to capture the essence of Leadership.

Over the last few weeks, I have been talking to a Chief Executive, Frank and his Business Development Manager, Pat. These guys are real Leaders. The boss is recently appointed and returned from the US. He has brought an openness, enthusiasm and drive to the operation that was not there before. Pat loves it.  Their partnership is a sight to behold in terms of understanding each other and excitement for the project.

When I met them recently, I was keen to push them towards an externally, focused activity where my team would collaborate with them. Interestingly, the conversation moved in a different direction towards the internal workings of the business. Recently, Pat had a bad experience with an IT guy who unannounced, had tidied up his desktop and moved folders into places unknown. The IT guy had performed a similar job with a number of other people and job tickets and e-mails were flying in all directions. This example led to a number of statements about support services generally. Many of them were ‘nine to fivers’ and did not really align with the key purpose of the business. Nothing new there, except for an understanding and urgency to do something about it.

‘Strengthen the core’ came to mind but I resisted the temptation to use it, until now. All of my working life, I have been working on Performance Management; systems, processes and most importantly, people. I like to describe Performance Management as the backbone of the operation, linking the boss to the people and ensuring that the plan is cascaded, understood and acted upon by all.

The stronger the backbone, the easier it is to get things done. How do you strengthen the core in business? Make sure everybody has their own plan and that it connects back to the big plan. Integrating activities across functions and disciplines is critical. Breaking down the barriers that develop in business through teams is helpful. Most importantly, clearly stating expectations for managers that they will lead this and will be accountable not just for the achievement of goals but for the behavioural changes need to effect a high performing culture. Some, like Pat are ahead of the group but others need help to ‘strengthen their core’. A fitness regime of training and coaching will be needed for the more lethargic. Start in the pool; it’s easier on the back.