Steel Performance Solutions
Our story
Our strategic intent:
To redefine workplace performance

Who are we?

We are Australasia’s foremost performance experts and creators of the Steel Performance System™.

What do we do?

We help organisations improve the performance of their people using tools that were born in high performance sport and adapted for the business world.

How was our system developed? 

Thousands of hours of research enabled our Principal, Craig Steel, to develop a breakthrough system to help elite athletes win on the world stage. This research, coupled with extensive experience assisting industry leaders, led to the formation of the Steel Performance System™ which informs our Performance Improvement Programmes.

Why are our programmes relevant?

Because your people are the key to your organisation’s success, they are your primary point of difference. For this reason, helping them perform to their potential is the most powerful way for you to improve the performance and productivity of your business.

What type of organisations use them?

Since introducing our programmes, over 50 industry leaders in science, engineering, telecommunications, banking, construction, manufacturing, education and law have used it to help them transform their performance. This includes privately owned businesses, multinational corporations and Government agencies.

Dedication to Performance

Craig Steel

Craig's life long passion for human performance led to a groundbreaking discovery that explains why some athletes win while the majority fall short.

Following numerous requests from the business sector, Craig agreed to prepare a suite of commercial programmes to help organisations apply the principles he developed for athletes in their business.

To find out more about these programmes, please refer to the video below or view the SPS timeline. 


The evolution of our Programmes

Athlete programme (Pro-Sport™) introduced
Steel Performance Consultants established
Invitation to pilot process in business (Spark)
Business testing to validate commercial application
SIP established to support business offering
Purpose-built commercial programme introduced
Train the Trainer testing to support business-wide application (FBNZ)
Productivity testing to identify drivers of workplace performance
Development of Performance Frameworks
Rebranded to SPS to support migration to product company
Full commercial suite scoped and prepared
Online Platform introduced to support business-wide use
Platform rebranded to Vantaset to support our migration to a SaaS-based business
Q&A - an interview with Craig
With all the success you've had with athletes, what motivated you to take your programme into business?

It was really the opportunity to help more people benefit from our process and ultimately, to help organisations given their importance to the nation. When businesses discover the true extent of their potential, it gives them the confidence to see they can do something far greater than what they previously thought.

So how did you get involved in business?

We never had a view of working with businesses. We were working very closely with athletes and that was our point of focus. However, we were asked by a number of CEOs who were aware of our work in sport if we would be willing to share our secrets with them; essentially to help them do for their people what we were doing for athletes. So, it wasn't something we planned; it was an opportunity that was presented to us that sounded interesting.

What was the main difference you noticed between the sporting and commercial sectors?

The main thing we noticed was the difference in clarity. As you would expect, athletes tend to be very focussed on what they're trying to achieve, however, when we went into business, it was very different because although everyone had a job to fulfil and worked hard, they didn't have any real clarity as to what winning looked like in their role.

It was interesting because we assumed organisations would be equally as clear and passionate about succeeding but it wasn't the case. Not because they didn’t care about what they were doing, it was because of the way they (leaders) appeared to think about their people. By that I mean organisations tend to think of their people as a resource they need to do business rather than the key to their success as a business.

Is this something you have been able to change?

Yes, absolutely. When we get into this conversation with Execs, it resonates as they can see the lack of clarity in their people. Further to this, when they see it's something they can change through our process, it tends to capture them because they know that it's only through their people that they can take their organisation forward. 

How are you different to other companies who work in this space?

The key differences are to do with our background and the products we offer. In terms of our background, we had over 20 years helping athletes compete on the world stage which gave us a unique opportunity to examine human performance at the highest level and, in particular, develop a much more efficient way to unlock their potential than conventional systems provide. The other point is around our programmes and the tools or system that powers them.

When we started assisting businesses, it surprised us to learn that every manager essentially used different tools or approaches to do the things the business needs from them to succeed. That meant there was no agreed way of doing things nor an agreed view as to what success looked like in the business. So although we were committed to helping our customers apply our performance improvement models, getting them in was tough because we were pushing up against systems that were focused on the management of people rather than their success as a workforce. However, those experiences enabled us to prepare a suite of programmes to help organisations transform the way they thought about their people and ultimately, the way they work.

The other thing that makes us different is that this is all we do. By that I mean we are performance specialists so we don't focus on anything else whereas most of our competitors tend to either be consulting companies who have seen a market for other services or they're accounting firms that can see the challenges their customers are facing so have elected to offer something in the performance space; although it tends to either be training or advice rather than a set of turnkey products their customers can use to transform their business.

Why do you believe your programmes are better?

The reason I believe they are better is twofold; one because they focus on the true driver of workplace performance which is people and how they operate and secondly, because they are powered by a world-leading process that can be extended out to every level of a business.

The fact is, most organisations want and need more from their people but unfortunately, conventional systems focus on trying to squeeze more out of people which get's their backs up rather than helping them perform at an optimum level in their role.

By deploying our programmes, it gives them the tools to win which their staff can then use on a personal level. This is why they have such a profound impact on staff engagement because it suddenly puts people at the forefront of the business which people love as they experience those benefits on a personal level.

What are some of the highlights you’ve had working with some of Australasia's most successful organisations?

The highlights for us are definitely helping organisations think and behave differently. This is not only about who they are and what they can achieve but about their own relevance in the marketplace. Seeing their people getting really fired up about the opportunity to do something greater, to add greater value to those they’re there for, is precious. Equally, seeing staff feeling like their company values them a whole lot more than they used to because they are delivering greater value is amazing. When we see these changes occurring because of our products, it's fantastic.

The fact is, people spend a lot of time at work but they often feel like they’re just a cog in a wheel so they never really know if their efforts are valued which is a tragedy. Whereas, if people know that it’s through their efforts that the business will succeed, it’s magic. Awakening that, and thereby creating a movement within a company that enables it to be greater than it was, is what really excites us.

What does success look like for Steel Performance Solutions in terms of what are you trying to achieve?

What we're trying to do is help organisations realise their true potential - to help them put a real stake in the ground so they can create a vision that drives their people to add greater value to those they're there for.

The way that we look at it is companies are vital to society because, in many respects, they’re the cornerstone of a nation’s prosperity. Therefore, if we can help organisations be more successful, it not only helps them, it’s of immense value to their country. Equally, on a global stage, we would like to think we can play a part in helping organisations around the world take their business to a completely different level so they can do their bit in taking their nations forward.

If we can encourage businesses to look at their results as a consequence of their people’s efforts rather than anything else, it changes things so instead of them just thinking that it’s about trying to squeeze more out of their people, they start to think about what’s possible if they put their minds to it. Getting organisations to ask themselves whether they’re relevant to the global community - or the community they work in - is enlightening because when they get it, and connect their people up to it, things change. It's very powerful.

Why did you change from a consultancy firm to a product company?

The reason we changed was because we were being asked by our customers if they could use our tools to support their wider workforce rather than only their most senior leaders as we had been doing in the past. It was also because we were being asked to work with a lot more companies than we could cope with as a consultancy firm.

Has it been a difficult change to make?

Yes, in a word, however, we've had a lot of support from customers and others along the way which gave us additional reason to stick with it. It's interesting because virtually every company we've assisted has said that they've never seen anything like it, or experienced anything that has had the type of impact on their people that it has had, so although it's taken us the best part of a decade to get our programmes right, we've always believed the results would be worthwhile. We also wanted to help our customers realise the outcomes we knew our process offered given the confidence they've demonstrated in us.

I’ve been told this is your life’s work; what motivates you to keep going?

Yes, it is my life’s work but I feel very privileged to do it - and to work with the organisations we do. In terms of what motivates me personally, there are two things. One, because I’ve always had clarity about why I believe I’m here, my purpose in life if you like, and secondly, because I believe in our capacity as human beings to make a difference.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe it’s about us sucking up oxygen for the sake of it or going through the motions for our own amusement. I think there's an opportunity for every one of us to contribute to society in a positive way and thereby improve life for others. If I can play a part in awakening the potential in a few (people), it will not only enrich life for them, it might make things better for those around them. I’m also one of these people who believe human life is important, not just to ourselves but to others, so if we can nudge a few people in a way that inspires them to believe their success matters to others; it might go some way to making the world a better place.

What do you think is the biggest mistake organisations make in trying to improve the performance of their people?

The biggest mistake I believe organisations make is underestimating the potential of their own people.

Unfortunately, executives often get into a mode where they think their only option is to try and squeeze more out of their people (because they need them to do to better) rather than helping them deliver the outcomes they’re after. If a company can see their people are the answer to their problem, rather than the problem itself, their people will resolve it. If, however, they shut them out or alienate them, it drives disengagement which ultimately compromises the company’s performance.

Secondly, I think the failure of so many people-focused investments over the years has caused organisations to not only lose confidence in their people but question their ability to change them. There are so many organisations we’ve come across who’ve lost confidence in their ability to up the ante that they’ve more or less given up. And unfortunately, it’s rife which is why I believe there are so many managers out there feeling the pinch because they’ve got no way to change things and yet they feel like they’re being blamed for the organisation’s predicament.

The fact is, every organisation knows it has to do more to remain competitive but because they’ve got no means to unlock their potential, it remains untapped. Further to this, because of the way so many consulting firms have conducted themselves over the years, there’s a lot of cynicism and nervousness about engaging in change programmes because of past experience. However, if they’re prepared to focus on the big transformation levers, they can create a completely different future for the business which is what I believe we can help them do better than anyone else.

Looking back, what are you most proud of?

What I am most proud of is the change we know our process has made to our customers and, in particular, their own people. To see individuals who we’ve never met talking about how much their life has changed as a consequence of this process is humbling and something we cherish. To have the opportunity to help shape the way people think and operate is a privilege and not something we take for granted.

As an example, I remember an occasion where one of our customers (New Zealand Police) who we had been working with for some time sent us some videos their staff had made up on the back of their programme where they were talking about the difference it was making to them with many saying it was the best thing they believed the organisation had ever done. That had a real impact on us, so much so that when I showed it to my wife, she burst into tears; simply because she knew it was the culmination of over 20 years’ work so to suddenly see it being talked about like that by people neither of us had ever met was magical. It was really wonderful.

For executives looking to leave a legacy, why would you recommend your programmes?

Because they change businesses; not only in regards to their performance but the culture of organisations in terms of how their people think and operate. When an executive changes the DNA of their organisation like this, it’s very powerful as it opens up endless opportunities you can’t facilitate any other way. At the end of the day, I believe every executive wants to go into a role and not only make a difference while they are there but leave something that has a lasting impression on their staff and stakeholders; not only because they want to be remembered, but because they want to honour the time they’ve had.

The fact is, our programmes allow them to have a really powerful impact on their people in a way that not only touches them personally but gives them a sense that they’re bigger than they thought they were and therefore have the ability to have a greater impact on the business.

I also think they want to set the company up with really robust systems that not only give it an edge but are valued by their people because of the difference they make to their daily work. I think this is why our customers really value our programmes because they see them as something that’s completely unique and entirely positive - and because they reach every level of the business and therefore impact every person. It’s interesting because when we first started assisting companies, it wasn’t uncommon for our customers to ask us to run additional programmes for the family and friends of their staff because of the way they were received. When you get something like this embedded in a company, it changes it, which is why I believe they appeal to executives.

For individuals hearing about your programmes for the first time, what would you tell them?

The two things I would want them to know is that they're something that will affect them in a profoundly positive way if they are open to it and secondly, they will transform their experience at work if they apply it.

Despite what people think, everyone wants to be successful and to know they matter to others, but the unfortunate truth for most employees is that they don't feel particularly relevant to their business because of where they sit in the hierarchy. So what we would say to every employee is be open-minded, engage in the programme, give it your best shot knowing that it’s being deployed for you rather than something the organisation is doing to you. In other words, they're designed to help you succeed not a management process designed to force more out of you. If that’s the message they receive, I’m confident they will get off to the right start and will love the benefits they offer.

How does the system (the Steel Performance System) translate from sports into business?

The reason it’s transferable is because just like sport, organisations are about people and how they operate. In this sense, it doesn't matter what sector or industry a business is in, its success is going to come down to its people and how they perform. For this reason, the translation is easy because everyone gets the fact that its ultimately people that make the difference. They can also see that if their organisation can grip our process up, it will have a massive impact on what it achieves.

How far along this journey do you believe organisations are?

Regrettably, most organisations continue to see their people as a resource that needs to be managed rather than the key to its success as an enterprise. It is still very rare to see a company that actually believes that it’s through its people that it will win - despite what they say on their website. Others know that's the case but they don't have a mechanism to change it.

Taking the analogy from sport allows us to highlight the fact that it’s not about the number of people a business has or the tactics it applies, it’s about what it enables its people to achieve. Obviously, that’s really easy to see in sport because it’s so visible but in business, it tends to get lost even though it’s every bit as important. So in answer to your question, despite what most organisations say, the majority are someway off even though it’s the message they tend to convey.

Wouldn’t an organisation feel offended if they heard you say that?

Although we accept most companies understand or even use the sports analogy, they’re rarely set up to do it hence they continue to deploy systems that are geared towards management. This, in turn, forces their leaders to focus on the management of their people as a resource rather than demystifying what winning looks like and helping them achieve it.

However, if a company can get its head around the opportunity this change can offer, they will suddenly see the difference it could make. The question we believe organisations need to ask themselves is ‘how much of their people's potential are they currently accessing?' When they view their performance in this context, they will be more likely to see that the culture of their business is their primary impediment.

By that, I mean what an organisation is currently achieving tends to have very little to do with its potential, but it is without question a consequence of its culture. If it wants to do more, it has to enable its people to be more which requires a fundamental rethink in terms of how it engages them. In other words, if a company thought about what it could achieve if it put its (people’s) mind to it, the future would look very different. And in essence, this is what our products do. They flip the relationship an organisation has with its people on its head which drives a completely different level of engagement. So instead of staff thinking they have a job they have to do, they understand their purpose in the business and how it makes a difference. If an organisation can capitalize on that, it has a massive impact on the culture or spirit of the business and ultimately, the outcomes it delivers.

In the early days you carried out research, tell us a bit about that

I saw in those early days that despite all of the advancements in sport science globally, there was still no clear or agreed way to enable athletes to win. In addition to this, I came to the conclusion that conventional systems were continuing to miss the point to the extent that they were barely worth applying. For those reasons I decided to carry out my own research to try and identify what an athlete would have to do to step up from being a national champion to a world champion; which allowed me to zero in on the factors that ultimately governed an athlete's success.

It was this experience that enabled me to produce a model (based on my findings) that, when applied, had a very dramatic impact on their success. In fact, every athlete we tested our process with produced a personal best almost immediately. Further to this, it normalised their ability to produce personal bests thereby providing them with an almost guaranteed formula for success. What's interesting is that since we introduced it over 20 years ago, it’s consistently proven to be around 10 x more effective than international best practice due, I believe, to the robustness of the modeling; the reason for this is because it puts the determinants of performance in the hands of the athlete thereby enabling them to perform to their potential.

As an example, the majority of athletes we’ve assisted during the past 20 plus years have produced personal bests between 80 and 100% of the time they’ve competed whereas similarly skilled athletes using conventional systems tend to only produce personal bests between 8 and 10% of the time they compete in major competitions.

What we found interesting during this process was what went on in the minds of athletes. Because there was no clear view as to how to produce a winning performance, most would assume they had to have better skills than their competitors in order to beat them. This would more often than not create a sense of desperation as they assumed the best they could do was ‘hope’ that what they’d done before the event was enough to translate into a winning outcome.

However, we discovered through our research that it wasn't about working harder or hoping it would come together. It was about having absolute clarity as to what they needed to be to achieve the outcomes they were after. In other words, when you examine the world’s best, the one thing you notice is that they think in a very different way than the majority of their competitors. In other words, although they might be similarly skilled, they are fundamentally different in terms of how they think and operate. In this sense, we could see the direct correlation between the way world champions thought and the outcomes they achieved versus the way others thought and the outcomes they achieved.

As a result, we decided to focus our efforts on teaching athletes how to think like the world’s best which, if they applied it, was what they invariably became. The fact is, we're all made up of the same stuff and essentially work in the same way so even though we may have different traits and personalities, our brains work in the same way - as do our heart, lungs and muscles. Because I assumed the mind was the same, I was able to identify specific factors that when applied, automatically produced better responses. This discovery led to the development of our performance improvement system which is what underpins (and informs) our programmes - which is why our research was relevant.

How do your programmes differ from motivational psychology or staff training?

They differ in the sense that they're not a one-off exercise (or series of exercises) but a process organisations can deploy to transform their performance as a business. In fairness, I think everyone understands that a quick shot in the arm so to speak can have an impact, but the results rarely last and nor are they scalable beyond those who experience it (training or motivation). Our programmes, on the other hand, enable organisations to embed a proven process in their company to transform its people's ability to perform.

Your Leadership Framework has established an extensive following, how did it come about?

The Leadership Framework is essentially an adaption of our Coaching Framework. When we were working with athletes, the biggest challenges we faced were a) how to support them when they travelled and b) how to keep up with demand. As a result, we decided to focus on coaches to help them understand how to enable their athletes to win given they were with them all the time. So we took the basis of our coaching framework and translated it to business meaning it focuses on the same things albeit they are discussed in a commercial context.

When we first went into organisations, we could see they all had these clear, well-established structures even though they weren’t typically deployed to drive performance or improve the business. Instead, we could see their leaders were being tasked with the responsibility of managing things which in many ways, prevented them from providing the leadership their people needed to excel.

Our leadership framework, on the other hand, redefines the purpose of leadership which allows a business to say to its managers that they’re not there to manage their people as a resource, they’re there to make things better. This enables the company to focus its entire leadership cohort on bringing about improvements so their people can deliver greater value to the organisation. So when managers apply our leadership tools, it not only gives them the confidence to bring about change, it gives them the means to achieve it.

The fact is, when you look across organisations, you can see that staff who report into great leaders tend to not only love their work, they’re more productive and ultimately deliver greater value to the business. However, for staff who report into poor or ineffective leaders, it’s the opposite; hence the saying ‘people join organisations but leave managers’. Our leadership framework enables every leader in a business to fulfill the role in a way that resonates with people. In other words, if an organisation can equip its managers with the tools to excel as leaders, everyone in the company wins.

A scenario we often talk about is the fact that every leader in a business is first and foremost the voice of the Chief Executive to their people. Therefore, to be effective in their role, they need to be equipped with the tools to do it justice which is why customers say that it demystifies what leadership is and how to do it in a way people relish.

What's the difference between Steel Performance Solutions and other providers?

We are performance specialists as opposed to business consultants or advisors. As a result, we don’t go into organisations and tell them how to operate. Instead, we enable them to unlock the potential of their workforce in order to improve their performance.

As you know, most organisations who compete in the same market as ourselves tend to be large scale consulting firms that generate a significant portion of their revenue by carrying out audits and reviews (in addition to providing tax and/or legal advice) or they are training companies who work around the edges. We, on the other hand, are pure performance specialists who essentially say to companies ‘if you're serious about performance, these are the things you need to do to improve your people's performance’; which we enable them to achieve through our programmes rather than training as we dont believe it works, i.e. training alone has never transformed an organisation's performance albeit it may be an important factor for some individuals.

There is a movement about purpose-led organisations, how does that fit with your programmes?

The concept around purpose-led organisations makes absolute sense because at the end of the day, people want to know the organisation they’re working for is doing something meaningful for others. They also want to know that what they're doing matters to their stakeholders and will ultimately have an impact. So, in this respect, you can see why more and more organisations are cottoning onto it. The question, however, is always to do with how well they connect their people up to it.

We often find that although organisations themselves can see the opportunity, they struggle to engage their people in the process because the systems and processes they use are diametrically opposed to what's required, i.e. conventional approaches use compliance-based processes rather than high trust, high engagement models like our programmes. As a result, the lift they’re seeking in terms of their people's performance rarely ever happens so while it’s the right approach to pursue, it requires a fundamental change in terms of the way organisations operate.

In time, however, I'm confident businesses will come to realise its the way they interact with their people that's the problem (rather than their people), meaning the opportunity to transform their workplace will be more apparent.

That said, there's no doubt that going forward, more and more organisations will realise that to step-change their business, they will need to be clearer about the value they deliver to their community in order to leverage the principle (of being a purpose-led organisation) successfully.

What does this look like in practice?

It means organisations need to have far greater clarity as to why they exist and why it matters to others otherwise it's only ever about the money it makes or how it manages its people as a resource. Once its purpose and vision etc are clear, it will then have something meaningful to connect its people and the community up to meaning it will be able to leverage the principal in a way that makes sense to stakeholders. In other words, until such time as this has been achieved, it's impossible to clarify people's purpose in the business and how they contribute to its success.

Regrettably, a lot of organisations have clarity at an executive level but no ability to connect their people up to it. As a result, it tends to be seen as lip-service as although they might talk about it with their people, until it’s real for them it means nothing even though they’re the ones expected to deliver it.

So how do your programmes support this?

Our programmes not only highlight the critical information everyone needs to know to excel as an employee, they elevate the importance of their role so they can see how it relates to the bigger picture. This means that instead of people having a job description that limits their relevance to the business, they understand their purpose in the organisation and the outcomes they need to deliver. If these dots are joined, the organisation itself becomes powered by its own people rather than thinking it has to try and squeeze more out of them in order to deliver greater value.

This is achieved through the use of our Game Plan.

How did the 5 Drivers of Workplace Performance you focus on in your Performance Transformation Programme come about?

In the early days, we would go into organisations and help them apply our performance improvement system. The reason they were keen to do this is because they would generally say to us that they had clarity around their strategy and knew what their culture etc was but they were looking for a way to unlock their potential as a business. So we would go in on this basis as they knew we could provide an answer.

However, even though they were ecstatic about the impact, we could see it wasn’t affecting the change we believed it should. So after a fair bit of soul searching, we decided to look at the whole idea around driving true organisational change in the workplace and how to affect it. This allowed us to take what we’d learnt in sport and apply it directly with the business. What was interesting was that although our customers said they were clear about their strategy, it was blindingly obvious to us that their people weren’t. Further to this, we could see that there were these functions or disciplines if you like that every company had, and every company did, but there was no agreed view as to how they interact let alone how they should be managed.

So, over time we began to take note of the things that appeared to us to be the ‘drivers’ of an organisation’s performance. After a lot of testing and analysis, we were able to narrow them down to five - Strategy, Culture, Leadership, Capability and Performance Management - being the five constants that underpin an organisation's performance. We then looked at them both independently, in terms of what they did versus what they could do, and collectively in terms of how they related to one another and ultimately, how they could be linked together.

We discovered during this later round of testing that our Capability model could be used to not only inform each of them but create a mechanism to underpin the lot. It was this discovery that enabled us to not only turn them into ‘drivers’ of performance (rather than them simply being viewed as management practices or disciplines) but link them together so they could be used to transform an organisation’s performance.

Of course, the benefit of positioning them as the 5 Drivers of Workplace Performance is it enabled our customers to use them as a set of levers to improve their performance on masse rather than seeing them as things their managers had to do to manage their particular workgroup. Although identifying them felt like a real discovery at the time, what was even more fascinating was how unrelated they appeared to be in every organisation we looked at. By that I mean organisations would typically say to us ‘look we know what our strategy is, we just need some help delivering it’. However, when we stepped them through it, they could see that for their people, they had no clarity as to what winning looked like or how their role could improve the organisation's performance.

This demonstrated that although organisations almost always have a strategy, most never have a strategic framework meaning they’ve got no ability to connect their people up to it. Equally, companies talk about culture, but it tends to be totally disconnected from strategy. So for example, they might say ‘we’ve got a set of values' (or behaviours) but again, they’ve got no mechanism to develop the mindset they need to create to bring it to life. Again, the issue we could see is organisations didn’t have a culture framework meaning they had very little ability to change it.

The same was true of leadership in the sense that it tends to be taught by leadership experts without any consideration of the strategy. This means that most organisations either send their managers away on leadership courses or bring different leadership experts in to train various individuals but, for the most part, it tends to be nothing more than personal development for managers.

Our leadership framework, on the other hand, does two things, firstly, it defines the purpose of leadership for every manager in the business and secondly, it gives them the tools to do it. Because it's positioned as a ‘framework’, it not only ties leadership into the other frameworks, it ensures managers are able to use them to deliver on their purpose as a leader. The point is unless there's a clear and agreed way of doing it, every leader will do it differently; hence there are always differing levels of staff engagement.

Anyway, it occurred to us over time that if we could link these things together, it would not only provide organisations with a business-wide way of working, it would give their leaders an Operating Model to help them excel in their role as a leader. The same is true for both Capability and Performance Management. In other words, although organisations know the capability of their people is critical, very few have a capability framework so they’ve got no way to translate their aspirations across the different roles in the business. Equally, most performance management systems in existence are not only ineffective, they cause an enormous amount of damage to staff relations whereas our process is designed to help people succeed hence most of our customers employees love it.

As I said, the secret to the whole thing is our Capability model which, without you couldn’t do it. It’s this that's allowed us to link the 5 frameworks together using a common language and set of characteristics or principles to power it. So, in essence, what our Performance Transformation Programme does is provide organisations with a set of tools or frameworks to drive workplace performance instead of having a bunch of things their managers have to do to manage their various workgroups.

How does performance management fit into your programmes?

Performance management is a practice that for most organisations is difficult to get right which is why so many employees dislike it and so many organisations have decided to ditch it. Not because they don't believe in it but because they've never found a way to make it work. However, the purpose of performance management should be to ensure people have got what they need to excel in their role which is why it's critical to an organisation's success. So it isn't a reactive process that kicks in when things go wrong. It’s a constructive and deliberate exercise (intervention) organisations should do to help their people succeed.

The way we do it in our programmes is through our Annual Performance Cycle - which is essentially a 'cycle of success' that supports everyone in the business. This ensures everyone gets the backing and support they need to deliver the outcomes the business is looking for from their role. In sport, our focus was to enable coaches to optimise the potential of their athletes so they knew exactly what they needed to do to perform at an optimum level. By translating our learnings into business, it allows leaders to apply the same formula to help their people do the same.

In practical terms, it consists of 4 steps which are carried out throughout the year; hence we call it an Annual Performance Cycle. This ensures people know exactly what they are doing, that they get the development they need to do it and that they are supported throughout the year to achieve it. It also includes an end of term or year Performance Review that ensures they know how they performed during the year and what they need to work on in the future. The fact is, if staff feel like their organisation’s (performance management) system is for their benefit, they’ll embrace it. However, if they feel like it’s simply a judgement of them or a way to get them out if things go wrong, they’ll never support it.

To sum it up, the relevance of our programmes is they allow organisations to use a single process to transform every aspect of their people's performance in a way they will love. So instead of their managers using different tools or systems to do these things, our programmes allow them to instil a world-leading solution to help them be their best in the business.

Why are you relatively unknown in the public space even though your customers include some of Australasia’s most respected businesses and athletes?

It’s probably for two reasons, one because we prefer to keep our relationship with our customers quiet and secondly because we are not particularly good self-promoters! No in fairness, it’s because the relationship we have with our customers requires total confidence so to avoid the risk of any breaches, we’ve done our best to keep out of the media. We also believe that if we focus on our customers, our work will do the talking; hence our growth to date has virtually all come about by word of mouth. As we go forward, however, we realize this is something we will have to change but right now, it’s the reason so few people have heard about us.

What can an organisation expect in working with Steel Performance Solutions?

The key thing they can expect is a shift in the way their people think and operate - and hopefully a significant one. What this looks like for the executive is a change in the way they think about their workforce and how to influence them. For their people, it's about transforming their relevance to the organisation and what they believe they are capable of as an individual.

The thing we're focused on is helping organisations create a movement in their business that causes their people to believe they can do more than they previously thought; which is what has to occur if an organisation is to reach a higher level of performance.

When we awaken people to a different view of what's possible, it’s exciting as it sets them up for a different future. It also gives people permission to push the envelope because they know the business wants them to succeed; which in turn improves the outcomes they and the organisation delivers.

How do your programmes support an organisation's HR practice?

Our programmes are designed to be integrated into an organisation’s HR ecosystem and therefore support every stage of their employee lifecycle. So instead of them sitting outside the organisation's touchpoints, they inform them. The beauty of this approach is it ensures their HR/OD teams (and systems) become ever more relevant to the business and are therefore seen by staff to better support them.

Although organisations position their HR team and process as being there for their people, the truth is most tend to be focused on the contractual elements of Employment Relations (ER) rather than acting as performance enablers to the wider business - which is why HR as a practice has in many instances been demoted from the executive.

What our programmes do is they enable organisations to introduce a cutting edge system into the business to help their HR team optimise the performance of their workforce. This allows the business to realise major changes with its existing resources rather than assuming they have to bring in different people to produce different outcomes; which is why most HR people see our programmes as a super-effective way to not only crack the performance and engagement thing, but give their managers the tools to mobilise their respective workgroups.

Having spent so many years in the thick of it, however, I would suggest HR, for the most part, is still in a state of crisis hence so few executives or board members see it as the mechanism to transform the business.

What do organisations need to do to ready themselves for an SPS programme?

The first thing they need to do is have a genuine aspiration to change. To lift the performance of the organisation and turn it into something better than it currently is. A lot of organisations assume they have to get everything right and have every position filled before they act whereas, in truth, the business will never stop changing and nor is it likely to find a perfect time when it can afford to stop what it's doing before starting a (change) programme like ours.

So what matters, is that there’s an appetite to change and that they (the executive) are prepared to rethink what they do in order to build a better business. What’s interesting of course is that when you look at organisations, most know they’ve got more in the tank but they don’t have the means to unlock it. For these organisations, our programmes are perfect as they provide a proven process they can literally plug into the company to unleash it. And when they do, they act as very powerful levers to facilitate change.

The good thing is, there’s no requirement for the organisation to do a huge amount of preparation as that’s something we guide them through at the start of a programme.

Finally, why do you believe your programmes work?

They work for two reasons; one because people are fundamentally the same so even though people tend to define themselves by their interests and personalities etc, the principles we developed for athletes work for everyone. Secondly, I believe every person wants to be successful - everyone wants to know their life matters to others and that they’ve got the ability to make a difference - which is what our programmes focus on.

For these reasons, and the fact they ignite the human spirit in a way organisations can leverage, means they appeal to everyone as they're seen by staff as something that's both fundamental and incredibly interesting on a personal level. This is one of the reason's why customers are so supportive of them as they allow them to have conversations with their people they know they could never previously have.

At the end of the day, a business's performance is a result of its people's performance so if they can find a way to unlock their potential in a way they value, it can't not work nor change the business. When people realise the business sees them as its point of difference, and that it’s deploying one of our programmes to help them be even better, it creates a completely different feeling in the organisation. We also know from our years of in-house testing that our performance models are loved by individuals hence they are easy to deploy and have an incredibly positive impact on people when they're in.

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