Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

Surprising HR and management truths from the Queen’s Gambit

Yes I have been binge watching Netflix recently (you have to do something when you’re in semi-lockdown). The Queen’s Gambit was a brilliant series – about a chess prodigy who also battles drug and alcohol addiction.

In one episode they are discussing why the Russians are so good at chess. It’s because they all play each other and then analyse every game to see what the players did well, and what mistakes they made. Whereas the American players never share or discuss tactics.

It got me thinking that maybe there’s something I missed putting into Management Bites.

What if teams tried out the Russian approach? Rather than the individualistic culture of having a high performer – what if the whole team got together and discuss customer service. What if everyone shared difficult customers they’d dealt with, what they said and how they resolved it? What if they shared techniques so that everyone could sharpen their game? Everyone could improve?

Or getting a group of people managers together and asking them to discuss how they have handled a poor performance issue. Analysing what they did, what the situation was and what they could have one differently. Or how they have motivated their team through covid? Managers could learn from each other and all become better.

We focus so much in western countries on rewarding our superstar top performers – but imagine if you could create a team of all great players, rather than one superstar.

We are so stuck with a lot of our HR and management practices into doing what’s always been done. Like everyone having individual goals and bonuses linked to that. But if you think about the team approach instead – it could work very differently.

Years ago I worked in a finance company. The marketing team and the contact centre shared the same KPI’s and were rewarded only if BOTH team made their goals. Because if marketing didn’t do their job, no-one would call the contact centre. But the contact centre also had to do their job and convert those calls to sales. Together both teams made the company money. So both teams were rewarded together.

We also focus on rewarding people long after they’ve achieved their deadlines (annual bonus anyone?). However I recently read about a new study that showed that giving financial bonuses during a project, rather than at the end – boosts productivity. What if there was a bonus when you got halfways through a project, or achieved a months sales results? You got paid it straight away – making you want to complete the rest of the project on time, or get your sales results again.

This was reinforced by a case study presented at the HR Game Changer Conference in Melbourne a few years ago when a company who had been paying small bonuses often saw much higher productivity and engagement from employees, than one large bonus annually.

I think we need to rethink some of the ways we build and reward performance.  

I call it the team’s gambit (I had to put a pun in there!).

So why not take some time to look at how you build performance in your team or company. Could you use shared goals between teams? Could you pay small bonuses more often? Could you train everyone to be stars, rather than just one top performer?

And if you’re looking for a great series to watch – I highly recommend The Queens Gambit!

Angela Atkins is the co-founder of Elephant Group who now operate in NZ, Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. She is the author of the Bites series of books and the Management Bites training programme. She now lives in the south west of France, renovating a 200+ year old house. She enjoys playing chess but now realises how very little she really knew about it!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 22, 2021 by in Leadership, people management and tagged , , , .
%d bloggers like this: