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Comment: On top form?

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Nick Hood
It’s not just sportsmen and women that suffer from a loss of form but also ordinary workers; Nick Hood, senior London partner at Begbie Traynor the business rescue specialists explains why businesses cannot afford to ignore the problem associated with the peaks and troughs of performance levels.


Despite recently being knocked out of the Carling Cup, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has developed a taste for winning and knows just how to do it. In a club bristling with star players reputations count for nothing and no one is guaranteed a place in the team.

Players that are on form and at the peak of their fitness are the ones that are picked by Mourinho which is just as it should be, although there are still cases of managers who maintain blind loyalty to certain favourites.

Naturally, the sporting world takes the notion of being ‘on form’ seriously. Athletes, cricketers and tennis players all hope to hit their peak when they compete in major competitions.

Accordingly, their retinue of coaches, trainers, physios and nutritionists all plan to get their sports stars in the right condition at the right time.

However, all sports professionals acknowledge that there will be times when an athlete or player is performing badly and no matter how thorough their preparation, they just haven’t got it in them to take gold on the day.

Remember Paula Radcliffe’s Olympic marathon in Athens? Notorious for her meticulous preparation Radcliffe was both off colour and off form and reduced to a sad vision huddled on a desolate kerbstone.

While the concept of form is rightly recognised in sport, it is rarely taken into account in business.

Most businesses hope to hire intelligent, well-educated, and motivated staff. They expect that with the correct training and motivation, their employees will perform to a high standard, day in day out.

Any manager responsible for getting the best out of their staff should have more than a casual acquaintance with the concept of form.

Think of all the reasons why someone’s performance may not be upto scratch – it could be anxiety over an unhappy relationship, financial concerns or a niggling illness or pending hospital visit.

Even the most reliable and consistent performers will suffer a dip in form from time to time. Managing these peaks and troughs is an essential aspect of maintaining the consistent efficiency of the business. Providing cover for a member of staff who is normally reliable but whose performance is temporarily slipping is important.

Although loss of form may not be related to overwork, lightening the immediate burden may be just what is needed – perhaps the person needs more variety, or would benefit from a higher ratio of ‘treats’ to grunt work.

Creating a situation in which the employee feels able to share and talk about the issues causing the loss of form, either with their manager or a ‘buddy’ within the workforce, is another positive step.

Sometimes it’s the blindingly obvious that is causing a loss of form. First and foremost can be failure to take adequate holidays. In busy, thriving businesses – especially smaller firms – it can be rare that staff, including managers, get to use all their annual holiday entitlement.

According to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 42% of senior managers and a third of middle managers fail to take their full holiday allowance. Sixty per cent, work abnormal hours just to meet their workload, while nearly half have their holidays interrupted by work-related questions. No wonder people start to lose their appetite for work!

Whatever the cause for the loss of form, identifiable or not, businesses should take action to try and get the staff member back to their best. Even if the actions prove largely symbolic, the very fact you are signalling your concern is all for the good.

Form, whether in business or sport, is linked to the human condition, which is subject to too many variables to reduce it to simple psychological formulas. Understanding and allowing for staff that have ‘off periods’ is part and parcel of being a caring employer.

Helping staff through these periods need not be feared because it can in turn evoke staff loyalty. After all what more could anyone want from their boss?


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Annie Hayes

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