Inward and Outward

Business owners constantly look for ways to accelerate business growth. It is in their DNA. It consumes them, if not hourly, at least daily.

The search for growth, for improvement in performance, is directed inward, to what he or she needs to do differently. And, it is directed outward, to the management team and other employees. Even in times of outstanding levels of financial achievement, an owner’s targeted performance horizon is never quite accomplished. It must be a DNA thing.

Let’s look at how to accelerate business growth in more detail and focus on the employee. That employee might have an executive title or have responsibilities elsewhere in the business. They might be a seasoned veteran in the business and industry, or they might be a new employee with limited experience.

All possess certain qualities and competencies. However, if business goals and objectives are not being met, how can individual performance levels throughout the company be improved?

What are the competencies that drive performance? Let’s consider a new hire scenario.

Human Resources and hiring managers look at a resume for insights when hiring a new employee. They look for prior work experience, educational qualifications, relevant testimonials, and other clues. Sometimes it is clear that someone is qualified … or not. Eventually, decisions are made to hire. You have a new employee.

In most instances, there is some form of onboarding or active training of the new employee. They take on their new responsibilities and begin to contribute to the mission of the company. It might be in management, sales, marketing, on the factory floor, in administration … in a wide variety of roles.

Months or even years go by and you have a star employee … or maybe recognize that someone is falling short of desired performance standards. You ask why. Here is a possible way to frame what to do next.

Oftentimes, it is about restarting communication in a firm but evidence-based discussion of past successes and shortcomings. The dialogue, to be successful, needs to be two-way, with guardrails on how both parties must engage in the review process. There must be a resetting of expectations, with timelines and incremental goals that must be adhered to.

Although GAPWORX has a concept called the Sales Equation (see image below), it is also applicable in situations like a performance review, regardless of the role and responsibilities of that individual. The Sales Equation (substitute other functional descriptions, such as customer service), in its simplest form, breaks out 4 pillars of competencies to reset where there are strengths and where there are weaknesses. The four basic competencies are:

  1. SALES PERSONA (personality, style, behaviors, ambition, etc.)
  2. SALES (or insert other) CAPABILITIES

Whether it is a self-assessment of one’s own competencies, or a supervisor framing a performance review of a direct report, this “equation” can help structure that assessment. We can help.

Sum of Employee Behavior = Corporate Performance

Organizational analysis looks at businesses as whole entities—possibly shortchanging a closer look at the parts. Broad strokes of corporate mission, value statements, and strategic planning outline how the organization should conduct itself. It may be time to add a more granular level of scrutiny … looking at how individual employee behavior affects a business.

We live in a time of instant information—a form of global feedback. Just in the last few months we have seen literally hundreds of business leaders, political leaders, sports people, media artists—whose harmful personal conduct toward others was exposed. The public reaction was overwhelming, powerful, and negative—in that reputations were ruined, and careers were ended.

Some of the unintended consequences of technology innovation and social media, are seen in the alterations of human interaction, such as increased confrontation, and a decline of interpersonal courtesy. These are the new realities that affect the cultures of small and large businesses.

In a small business, any individual employee action has a greater magnitude of potential impact compared to a larger business. In a group of 10, one person stands out more than in a group of 200. The actions of each employee affect the health and growth of the business.

With increasing social challenges, there are also opportunities. A business can differentiate itself by transforming potential negatives of human behavior—into systems of positive change.

A business may need to offer additional training and development time. That may include information and facilitation about ethics and moral actions. It may be programs to build skills in the “soft” areas of communication, interpersonal dynamics, and problem solving.

Adding human performance coaching as an employee benefit, could increase individual awareness. Coaching can build individual strengths, increase emotional, social, and conversational intelligence. All of these can dramatically improve organizational well-being.

If this appears to the reader as overly moralizing or overstepping the bounds of management—there is a larger cultural sea change occurring. Awareness has been raised about how human beings should act toward each other. Business cultures that violate these evolving expectations could realize negative financial consequences.

It is not a “high bar” for a business to take a stand against harassment or bullying. Policies should outline how employees should treat each other—and particularly how to interact with customers.

The correlation between strong business cultures, and positive business performance is known and statistically proven. Leaders, managers, supervisors, and employees who conduct themselves from principles and character will serve a business well. Over the long run, investing in human assets will have a positive financial payoff.

A Workforce Multiplier

Business owners and other members of a company’s executive leadership team historically focus their attention and resources on improving financial performance … tangible “Hard-Side” results. There is an almost endless list of quantifiable measures captured on various spreadsheets, tracking both individual and team performance. Here are some.

Revenue Profit Margins Client Growth
Market Share Units Sold Cost of Marketing
Cost of Sales Production Costs … and many more


“Soft-Side” components are mostly cultural intangibles, which are harder to quantify. Here are just a few.

Leadership Committed to Innovation and Excellence

Employee Buy-in to Company Vision and Mission

Engaged Employees (Empowered to Adapt)

Organizational Transparency and Accountability

… there are many more

While a company’s culture is sometimes seen as a low priority—as far less than a pressing requirement—it really isn’t. A positive company culture—fully supported by the entire leadership team—can be a powerful force inside a company, empowering its employees to accomplish so much more.

Think of a positive company culture as a workforce multiplier.

There is empirical evidence to support that statement. Harvard Business School a few years ago, in a 11-year study of a variety of businesses with either positive or negative cultural attributes, concluded that:

Positive business cultures averaged 682% growth.

Negative business cultures averaged 166% growth.

The difference is striking. Investing in and supporting the development of a positive company culture … literally drives more growth.

Even if organizational performance measures are consistently meeting established business goals and objectives, strengthening company culture can dramatically improve those measures even more. Big change doesn’t happen overnight, but small changes can quickly establish new directions.

What cultural changes are most needed in your business?

Start From the Inside

At GAPWORX, we work primarily with small companies led by entrepreneurs—the captains of their own boats. There is an understandable reluctance on their part to take things outside. Self-reliance can be a good thing … if there is a strong organizational culture and requisite resources of talent and time. There is a lot of useful outside expertise available for companies, but often it is perceived as “you’re telling me what to do,” instead of “helping me make my company better.”

It could be helpful to think—that instead of “outside in,” it could be “inside out.” Meaning, if you want a strong business culture, employee engagement, and customer engagement—the organization must have accurate information, meaningful communication, and effective systems. All individuals within an organization must possess personal motivation, ownership, and accountability—and then act that way.

Think of it as the intrapersonal drives the interpersonal. Intrapersonal attributes are individual self-awareness, critical thinking, effective mental habits, and emotional intelligence. Interpersonal effectiveness is when self-aware, self-motivated, and capable individuals work together within the organization to accomplish collective and shared goals. Conversational intelligence among employees, which relate company stories, positive customer experiences, and problem-solving—all build shared meaning, beliefs, and the “esprit de corps” needed to keep the company moving forward. This exemplifies the socially intelligent organization.

We encourage businesses to look beyond packaged “one size fits all” programs for organizational change. There are no silver bullet or bolt on solutions that work for every business. For any change process to work it must capture the “hearts and minds” of the people who do the everyday work. For organizations that are small or closely held—the more important it is to get everyone’s input, to analyze weaknesses and problems, implement solutions, and build systems.

Intellectual honesty—as Jim Collins calls “confronting the brutal facts,” can identify the rational elements that need attention. Employee emotions must be accounted for, as well. Organizations with clear vision and mission can build intrapersonal strength with leadership, mentoring, and coaching. Strong individuals can make for interpersonally effective teams.

Outside expertise and consultation that incorporates objectivity, feedback, and facilitation can yield tremendous results. No individual, or no organization, is completely self-aware. Even though it is a cliché—you can’t work on, or change what you don’t know.


We are fans of alliteration. It is evidenced in our company’s tagline—Awareness, Action, Achievement—and in other constructs within our models, processes, and intellectual property. We recognize that alliteration is advantageous, as it supports how all of us can more effectively remember things—processes and activities—that otherwise might be too complex.

Many business processes are complex, some by necessity. They provide a means for teams and individuals inside a company to accomplish specific activities in a best practice manner. The opposite approach might be described as “winging it,” and that is rarely advisable in business. Wherever possible, we believe that business processes and activities should be clear, concise, and complete (another alliteration), and not unnecessarily complex.

Many aspects of personal lives outside of business do not have templates, and we instinctively just “wing it.” That is how it should be. There should be freedom and flexibility, as we interact with family and friends. We adopt routines around our work days, but the consequence of NOT adhering to a specific personal routine is typically minimal.

In business, however, the negative consequence of “winging it” can be significant. It can adversely impact almost every aspect of business, but especially the interactions of employees with prospects and clients. So, to prevent or minimize such negative consequences, businesses have practices, processes, and procedures, which help build capabilities in roles, responsibilities, and relationships.

But, let’s consider the added dimension of business schemas. A schema is the present capacity of AWARENESS, attitudes, motivations, behaviors, capabilities, and knowledge to effectively perform in given situations.

For example, if you hire a new sales executive to fill a vacancy, but nine months later you are questioning that hire, because anticipated predictive performance indicators are coming up short. You ask, why? Often the answer is multi-faceted.

Maybe the executive’s prior sales environment was quite different, with a variety of factors. And those factors contributed to prior success.

Maybe sales capabilities need to be more aligned to a team selling environment, or maybe onboarding processes fell short of transferring needed company, technical, or product knowledge. These are performance factors that can be readily improved in most circumstances.

Understanding that salesperson’s prior sales environment in greater detail might have changed the hiring decision, but understanding it now might help you expand your business schema. With greater awareness of attitudes, motivations, behaviors, and capabilities, you can help the sales executive to once again be successful.

It might be … something surprisingly simple.