Strategic People Management Model – AKA: How to get people to do what you want them to do.

As a Strategic Small Business Owner [SSBO] you already know that significant, sustainable success demands mastering a multitude of simple yet intricately complex components. It is a whirlwind out there! One such component is managing people [employees, staff, the “Team”]. This article will address this critical leadership & management issue and offer real world tips, tools, tactics and strategies that flat out work!

Let’s look at the “6 Levels of Compliance”, pioneered by Franklin Covey, as well as our Strategic People Management Model from my Coaching Passport System, which are intended to help you get the very best out of your people.

The following is an extract from “The 8th Habit” by Dr. Stephen Covey:

So what’s the direct connection between the controlling “thing” (part-person paradigm) that dominates today’s workplace and the inability of managers and organizations to inspire their people to volunteer their highest talents and contributions? The answer is simple. People make choices.

Consciously or subconsciously, people decide how much of themselves they will give to their work depending on how they are treated and on their opportunities to use all four parts of their nature. These choices range from rebelling or quitting to creative excitement.

Now consider for a moment which of these six choices listed below you would make under the scenarios that follow.

  1. Rebel or Quit
  2. Malicious Obedience
  3. Willing Compliance
  4. Cheerful Cooperation
  5. Heartfelt Commitment
  6. Creative Excitement


First, you are not treated fairly. That is, there are a lot of politics at play in your organization; there is nepotism; the pay system doesn’t seem fair and just; your own pay does not accurately reflect the level of your contribution. What would your choice be?

Second, let’s say you are treated fairly in terms of your pay, but you are not treated kindly. That is, you are not respected; the treatment you receive is inconsistent, arbitrary, capricious, perhaps largely dictated by the mood of your boss. What would your choice be?

Third, let’s say that you are paid fairly and treated kindly, but when your opinion is wanted, it is given to you. In other words, your body and heart are valued, but not your mind. What would your choice be?

Fourth, now let’s say that you are paid fairly (body), treated kindly (heart), involved creatively (mind), but you are asked to dig a hole and fill it again, or to fill out reports that no one ever sees or uses. In other words, the work is meaningless (spirit). What would your choice be?

Fifth, now let’s say that you are paid fairly, treated kindly, and involved creatively in meaningful work, but there is a lot of lying and cheating going on with customers and suppliers, including other employees (spirit). What would your choice be?

Now, notice that we went through all four parts of the whole-person paradigm – body, mind, heart and finally spirit (spirit being divided in two parts the meaninglessness of the work and the unprincipled way that it was done). The point is, if you neglect any one of the four parts of human nature, you turn a person into a thing, and what do you do with things? You have to control, manage and carrot-and-stick them in order to motivate them.

I (Dr. Stephen Covey) have asked these five questions all around the world in different settings and almost inevitably, the answer falls into the bottom three categories – people would rebel or quit, maliciously obey (meaning they’ll do it but hope it doesn’t work), or at best willingly comply. But in today’s Information/Knowledge Worker age, only one who is respected as a whole person in a whole job – one who is paid fairly, treated kindly, used creatively and given opportunities to serve human needs in principled ways – makes use of the higher three choices of cheerful cooperation, heartfelt commitment or creative excitement.

Following commentary by Ray Pons “Strategic People Management”:

To run a highly successful business your primary focus must surely be to become an impressive leader and effective manager. Beyond the day to day demands of managing the “whirlwind”, all of the real-job pressures and demands that comes with entrepreneurship, it is vital to address important [not urgent] elements. This includes gaining powerhouse people skills capable of getting people to do what they were hired to do.

You must learn how to motivate people who don’t want to be motivated.

You must develop strong abilities to create a culture of excellence and execution. Become an “Influencer”; an influencer of exceptional performance capable of elevating those around you from the lower three levels of compliance and toward the higher, more enthusiastic three levels.

Thomas J. Watson, Jr. expresses it this way: “I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can be very often traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.”

Harnessing the great energies and talents of the people and moving them higher on the compliance ladder can be made more likely, and more easily achieved, if you have a system.

Our 6 Step Strategic People Management Model can be an integral part of your system.

Blog_Strategy Diagram_v2

Step 1: Assess Current Performance

It is first essential that you accurately Assess Current Performance. Being precise, and correctly identifying the present level of functionality will more easily accomplish behaviour modification. Ignoring less than acceptable levels of performance encourages continuation of the poor behaviour.

Two phrases to consider:

  • Behaviour not confronted will never change.
  • Repeated behaviour is rewarded behaviour [or, at the very least, reinforced behaviour].

Mistakes commonly made at this starting point of assessing current performance are “halo effect” and “gruesome bias”.

Halo effect is forgiving poor conduct in one area because of counterbalancing excellence in another. For example: salespeople who are getting great sales results from customers are forgiven for blunt, unkind or even harsh treatment when dealing with staff, internal support or operations personnel.

Gruesome bias is the exact opposite: having a basic dislike of a person to such a deep degree that you see everything the person does in a negative light.

Accuracy in assessment is vital. Both halo effect and gruesome bias are either stimulated by emotion or can be a trigger which will stimulate emotion. Emotional control is critical. Keep your emotions in check. Be aware of pre-existing paradigms, positive or negative, in order to keep any emotional judgments to a minimum. Make a fact-based evaluation of current performance on the exact conduct at hand.

Steps 2, 3 & 4: Coach – Mentor – Counselor

Your second decision is to select which of the three business management approaches has the greatest likelihood of achieving performance improvement – Coach, Mentor or Counselor.

Coach is the better approach for the ‘above-standard’ performer when the person needs to be inspired and motivated. Mentor is the better approach with ‘at-standard’ when the person does not have the required skills and abilities and needs to be trained, guided or taught. Counselor is the better approach with ‘below-standard’ and the conduct needs to be confronted.

Become familiar – and proficient – in all three approaches and choose the approach most likely to get the desired cooperation and compliance.

To assist, what follows is a cursory overview of each approach [keep an eye out for the book currently in process].

Coach: To Inspire & Motivate

  • Clarify expectations. Be very clear about end result expectations. Focus not so much on the how, the process, but the what, the goal, the outcome, the end result. With a clear expectation of what they are expected to accomplish, with application of the principle of empowerment [they get to figure out how to get it done] you are engaging much more of the whole person.
  • Probe [for understanding of expectations]. You’ll want to be aware of the pitfall experienced by many SSBO’s when checking for understanding [probe] and avoid a commonly asked probe question: “Do you understand what I want you to do?” It’s a dumb question! Invariably you can expect only one answer: “Uh huh” [or “yup” “you bet” or some other variation]. Closed-ended questions stifle discussion because of their Yes or No limitations. Nobody wants to say no to the boss, so if they don’t understand they’ll still say yes. Instead of using a closed ended stifler use the following:

Open-Ended Questions. Most often these will begin with one of 6 W’s or 1 H: What, Which, When, Where, Why, Who and How. Sometimes however, open-ended questions can be more like open-ended instructions: “Tell me more” “Explain that to me”. Cautionary note: merely taking a closed-ended enquiry and adding a W or H will not help you attain mastery as a Coach nor will it engage the whole person being addressed, quite the opposite. My supposition is that you already know that “Do you understand?” is not much help. But “What do you understand?” is not much better. What they actually “hear” is: “What do you understand? … … You idiot!” You don’t have to say “You idiot!” for someone else to imagine they heard it. And remember, in a coach role you are intending to inspire and motivate not damage self-esteem. You are seeking to probe for understanding not looking for someone to blame for not understanding. Be willing to take responsibility for any misunderstanding, whether you deserve to or not. Far better to say something like: “To be sure I expressed myself clearly, run by me your understanding of what I want you to do and if I’ve confused any of the details we can get us both on the same page.” The more expanded open questioning being used and accepting of responsibility for any misunderstanding takes the pressure off them and encourages dialogue.

After asking an open-ended question you must do two things:

1: Shut Up. 2: Listen.

Both are entirely and totally under your control.

When in any business discussion resist the natural human tendency to want to speak, to be heard, and, instead, shut up – be quiet. Speak less. Listen more. Move beyond “hear” and toward “listen”.

Hearing is easy. Hearing is auto-pilot.

Listening is hard. It takes effort.

Active, empathic and deep listening takes extraordinary effort.

Invest in the effort. It will be well worth it.

[For more information on coaching, training and keynote speaking provided on this specific topic “Becoming A Kickass Listener” e-mail or call 905.713.7815. Mention this article to get a preferred rate or even a free introduction].

  • Give Praise and Challenge. Look for opportunities to compliment. No one ever gets too much praise. This is true in your personal life and even truer in business. Catch them doing it right; notice it and comment on it with sincere specific praise. But don’t leave it at praise alone. Masterful coaches also challenge. Believe in them and their ability to go higher. Perhaps believe in them more than they believe in themselves. Coaches of world-class athletes are always striving to help the star go higher and higher, even though they are already performing at world-class levels. Offer up this same striving for higher levels of excellence in your business coaching. “That was a great idea you offered up on using social media for stronger brand awareness. Now how are you going to take the concept from idea to execution?” “The way you calmed down that angry customer over the phone was impressive; professional and very effective. What will you do now to make sure she remains a happy?”
  • People tend to put up with a boss. They tend to embrace a coach. Use insights above to gain leverage and become known as someone who inspires and motivates.

Mentor: To teach, instruct, guide.

  • Teach: Teach the person to develop skills and abilities that are required on the job generally and the task at hand specifically. Train them in real-world, practical talent development. Help them move beyond training to actual learning.
  • Instruct: Instruct the person about policy and procedures, generally accepted ways of getting things done. Help them know “the way things are done around here” without impeding creativity or holding back innovation by limitations that often flow from “the way things are done around here”.
  • Guide: Guide the person along the way. Even though you are the SSBO roll up your sleeves, work shoulder to shoulder, in the trenches as a colleague, a guide, a co-“worker” showing how the job is done not merely to do the work but to guide the other person how they might do the work.
  • Be a role model. Role model excellence. Role model compliance. Role model cheerful cooperation, heartfelt commitment and creative excitement. Walk your talk. If you do not possess the skills required as a “worker” to be the mentor yourself then delegate the responsibility, the task to someone else. However, when delegating the task, it is vital that you participate in the process. When the staff member is being mentored by the co-worker you must be there for at least some of the interaction as an involved observer. Your staff are mentoring, or being mentored, and you are there as their coach. You can, and should, share your observations and get feedback from both employees. But not during the session! Even if the session isn’t going very well do not step in, that comes later. Soon after the session you’ll want to have a meeting with the mentor in your Coach capacity and use open ended questions to maximize effectiveness: “What worked well?” “Which part seemed easier than expected?” “I was impressed at how well you explained the sequence of the process. Now what?” “How well do you think she got it?” “What’s your plan for following up?” In addition, you would also ask in a ‘Coach approach’ the staff member being mentored: “I asked Mary to work with you on this issue as she has high regard for your abilities and expresses great confidence in your work ethic. Way to go. Keep it up!” “What did you find most helpful in the suggestions she made?” “What was surprising?” “What action will you implement first?”
  • Mentor: teach, instruct, guide, lead by example, walk the talk.

Counselor: To Confront

  • Give information. Specific, factual information that cannot be disputed – period! Opinions matter but do not have nearly the leverage of hard facts. Deal in facts not opinions. Build your case in detail and present plenty of evidence, information, to support it.
  • Give suggestions. Avoid giving advice. The counselor model is most frequently used with an under-performing employee and if the person is at level 2 of the compliance ladder it can prove dangerous to dispense advice. They might follow your advice maliciously, to the letter, hoping it will not only not work but not work because of you. He gets off the hook by blaming you when it goes off the rails. Suggestions have a stronger legal footing as well as functional practicality. So after giving out information [the problem] give out suggestions [possible solutions for the problems] allowing the person being counseled to make choices about picking their preferred solution.
  • Get Information & Get Suggestions. After give be open to get. Get information and get suggestions from the under-performing person. Get their perspective, their “side” of the story and take in all the information that you possibly can with your listening ears firmly affixed and utilized. Seek out insight from others; get information and suggestions from co-workers and colleagues of the person being counseled; ask union representatives; consult with peers, strategic alliances; do some research on ideas from industry experts etc. Caution: when getting input from others be careful not to violate employee privacy; discuss the issue not the person. Business organizations, Governments and industry associations in many sectors are having hissy fits about possible privacy violations in this area. [I admit this could be overactive paranoia on my part. Or, it might be reflective of the harsh reality of business in today’s litigious climate. Exercise great caution]
  • Referral to resources. Avoid the arm-wrestling futility “you versus them” by referring to resources. The most important resources and ones that must be in place and current are:
    • Employee Handbook
    • Job Description
    • Performance Evaluation System

    Many SSBO’s are lacking these 3 critical resources. If you and your business system are deficient, well… fix the deficiency!

    They are not the only resources. Other valuable resources to be referenced include generally accepted industry standards, government regulations or laws, health & safety rules, union guidelines, employee contracts, articles in business periodicals, newspapers, magazines or blogs, business books, CD’s, training events, industry experts, etc.

  • Referral to consequences. Consequences are naturally occurring negative results of continued sub-standard behavior. Or they are naturally occurring positive results of improved behaviour. You cannot impose, introduce or implement consequences. You can only refer to consequences. Make direct reference to consequences that will naturally follow [negative or positive]. Yet another cautionary note: become masterful at distinguishing punishment from consequences [Punishment gets resistance and resentment. Consequences get results].
  • Counselor model to confront

Summary of Coach – Mentor – Counselor:

Armed with these three management models you are far better equipped to achieve or intensify mastery of leadership, people management and influence. Everyone tends to favour one model over the others as their preferred style. You need all three. Select. Make the choice and do not be nudged off too quickly [see below]. And it is worth mentioning that while each model has distinctively different purposes the overall goal is identical: To help the person improve their performance in the future.

You must be fully committed, as a SSBO, as a leader, and, heck let’s be honest, as a person to become masterful at bringing out the very best in others.

If all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. Think of these models as tools that are essential to have in your professional toolbox and stop trying to hammer people into compliance, never mind excellence. Hammering people does not work! Exercise choice to Coach Mentor or Counselor.

  • Coach: to Inspire & Motivate
  • Mentor: to Teach, Instruct, Guide
  • Counselor: to Confront

Common Mistakes

Before we move to step 5 let’s quickly address certain mistakes made at the Coach, Mentor and Counselor stages. There are far too many potential mistakes to be able to cover them all in this overview article but I feel compelled to at least mention the three most common:

    1. Not being aware that there are three distinct approaches to Strategic People Management
    2. Applying a “wrong” approach hoping for a “right” result
    3. Applying all three models on any and all staff performance issues.

Item #1: Awareness is the catalyst for excellence. You are now aware that there exist three strategic approaches. Deepen your knowledge, practice your craft and become a powerful influencer using each of the three distinct approaches in a proactive, decision-based manner. Recognize that you may be highly accomplished in one area while needing to improve, marginally or dramatically, in others. Awareness is the mother of skill. Be aware.

Item #2: Every SSBO [and every executive, manager or supervisor] tends to favour one approach more than the other two. But no one approach is the cure-all for every performance problem. Being excellent as a Coach is useless if the conduct requires Counselor. Impressive talent as a Counselor is futile if the performance calls for Mentor. Superb Mentor skills cannot fulfill the goal that calls for Coach. You get the idea.

The good news is that if you select the “right” approach and do it “poorly” you will get better compliance [body, mind, heart and spirit] than to select the “wrong” approach and do it “excellently”.

To repeat: The right approach done in the wrong way will work better than the wrong approach done in the right way.

The very best news is that the right approach done in the right way just might astonish you. No kidding

Item #3: Using all three approaches on all performance problems will have you working three times harder than you need. Also, if your effort is rewarded by increased compliance you will never be quite sure which particular part of your interaction brought about the desired improvement. Do a little of Coach and Mentor and Counselor at every interaction and you’ll forever be condemned to “throw enough mud against the wall and some of it will stick”.

Many, and maybe all interactions, will require transitioning from one approach to another which is why you must master them all. Don’t switch too dang-blasted quickly. Strategically decide which approach has the greater probability of getting buy in from the person being influenced and stick to it for enough time to allow them to get it. If you discover that the first selected approach is not getting the expected outcome, then of course you will want to switch your approach. Just don’t give up at the very first sign of difficulty! Sometimes all it takes is a little “stick to it-iveness”. That said … …

Balance persistency in harmony with willingness to change. Temper “I’m right” with flexibility. Be firmly assertive while open to another’s point of view. Perspective: it can be tricky. Welcome to the world of leadership and strategic people management!

Don’t wish it were easier. Have a plan to be better.

Master all three models and reap the rewards in enhanced reputation, stress reduction and money [effective leaders who bring out the best on others do make more money. No bull! The data, the evidence is compelling].

Step 5: Get feedback

Remember what was written by Dr. Stephen Covey earlier in this article about when your opinion is wanted it is given to you? Failure to engage the mind of the other person can have long lasting negative impact.

A common mistake of very well intentioned people is to dole out oodles of information, advice and ideas and get very little or nothing in return. Not you. No matter which business approach was used by you in stages 2, 3 and 4, each involves giving out information plus getting back information. Sound strategy. Don’t leave it at that. Get feedback on the process itself.

Go beyond getting information on the issue and get feedback on how you dealt with the issue. What worked well? What didn’t work so well? How could the meeting have gone better? What did we learn? What can I do better next time? Where do we go from here?

Masterful influencers engage in true conversations, genuine dialogue and professionally follow the give and take that engages the other person at a deeper level than just being talked at. Talk with them not at them. Get feedback. Not only about them, not only about the conflict, problem or issue but also about you. Put on your listening ears, don’t be defensive and keep an open mind as you transition, either in the meeting or most likely after the meeting to the final stage.

Step 6: Team Involvement

Team Involvement is the final step in the process. It is yet another area that can be tricky.

This final step, like so many basic fundamentals, is again simple and sure ain’t easy.

Long term SSBO’s, seasoned veterans, as well as new entrepreneurs often do not fully utilize the incredible leverage that can be gained from team involvement.

Peer pressure is huge and you are wise to fully leverage it in a non-pressurized manner for maximum impact.

Educate your entire team on the 6 step Strategic People Management Model, especially Coach, Mentor and Counselor approaches. Get input from all. Utilize no-nonsense, practical team building activities and diminish or eliminate team destroyers. Zero tolerance on gossip is a good start. Professionalism at all times. Share the load of leadership and have team member help team member. Know when to boss, when to lead and when to get out of the way. Utilize your team to build your team.

Team involvement begins with you, the SSBO. It doesn’t happen by itself or by accident. It must come from you. Ram Charan in his wonderful book “Execution – the art of getting things done” puts it this way: “70% of strategic failures are due to poor execution of leadership; it’s rarely lack of smarts or vision.”

Take responsibility for you and your leadership execution and allow you and your business to become part of the 30%.

When you master the 6 Step Strategic People Management Model you will be far better equipped to address the many issues of body, heart, mind and spirit and get anyone and everyone in your business to the top 3 levels of compliance.


No one can predict with absolute certainty what the future might hold but one thing is sure: much more will be required of businesses and in businesses of tomorrow. You are not paranoid it is a jungle out there!

It’s a whirlwind, white-water world of storming turbulence. We live in a world of rampant, rapid and relentless change. Today’s business world is fiercely competitive, with competitors around the corner and around the globe. Customers are more knowledgeable, more demanding more sophisticated, more informed and less loyal.

And yet, in all this change there is one constant: the need for exceptional leaders. The need for powerful leaders who can create a culture of execution on critical goals and high priorities. The need is strong now and will continue to become increasingly needed long into the foreseeable and distant future.

As a true SSBO, whatever your present or future endeavours might involve, you must become at the very least capable, or, dare I say, exceptional at maximizing the people side of business.

Gain mastery of the 6 Step Strategic People Management Model and you can contribute to all four areas of body, heart, mind and spirit; theirs as well as yours. Implementation of each step with strong, diligent professionalism and skill will elevate them from the lower levels of compliance and bring out the very best they have to offer. This will, in turn, elevate you also to much loftier levels of excellence and allow you to better dedicate yourself to high-level vision, mission, purpose and values and pursue not only success but significance.

Manage things.

Lead people.

You can do it! You can’t do it alone!

Engage the whole person in everyone in your business, even if, especially if, your organization has only one, two or three employees.

People skills is often called a “soft-skill”. It is simple. Nothing written above is deeply complicated. Reading this you get it, you understand it, because for the most part it’s common sense. It is not, however, commonly practiced. Why? Because it is simple but it is not easy. Don’t back down when it proves difficult. Put in the effort. Practice discipline, dedication and kaizen [continuous improvement]. You’ll be glad you did.

To your success!