Five questions with Dr Tim Baker


Executive coach Dr Tim Baker talks about developing teams, facilitating change and rethinking performance appraisals.

Tell us about the work you do at Winners at Work.

I’m in the business of assisting managers to create productive workplace cultures, whether that’s implementing change management, facilitating team development or providing 360-degree feedback. I do this by drawing on 18 years’ experience, backed by a PhD in workplace culture from Queensland University of Technology, and a BA in arts and behavioural science.

Explain your view on employee appraisals.

In my experience, very few people have told me they enjoy the performance appraisal process, or find it useful. It’s a costly exercise, and my research of 1200 HR practitioners demonstrated that people are pretty negative about the whole system, so I thought the traditional mode was due for a shake up. My new book, The End of the Performance Review, introduces the ‘five conversations framework’. It replaces the traditional annual performance review with a series of performance conversations held throughout the year. These conversations cover climate review, strengths and talent, opportunities for growth, learning and development, and innovation and continuous growth. Each conversation lasts five to 10 minutes, and as it’s a casual catch up, it balances out the power differential. A lot of the work you do is aimed at increasing engagement and productivity among employees. How can employers and HR practitioners achieve this?
It boils down to the quality of the relationship between manager and staff, and this can be broken down into four questions: what are my expectations of my employees; how are they performing to those expectations; what can I do to assist my team to meet those expectations; and are my employees committed to meeting
these expectations? I find it’s most effective to use critical incidents as the basis for these conversations – when something goes off the rails, that’s the time to address those questions. It’s a golden opportunity to address any issues, plus the chance to provide positive feedback.

You work to develop individuals, groups and organisations – what are the common threads in your approach?

The common thread is providing fresh, compelling and practical insights to assist in growth and productivity. My role is holding a mirror up to these three entities to see how they are perceived by their coworkers. For individuals, I generally use 360-degree feedback – it’s such a great tool as it gives three perspectives and adds credibility to the feedback. For teams, I use an approach that shows people where they fit in – it’s not the technical knowledge that’s important; it’s the way they interact with others. For organisations, I take a bottom-up approach, encouraging participants to say what they think management could do to improve the workforce. I see my role as a catalyst or facilitator, sharing insights from across the business. It can be confrontational, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sometimes you have to jolt people out of their complacency.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I don’t know where it came from, but it makes a lot of sense: learn from the past, plan for the future and live in the moment. Too many of us worry about the past or what might happen in the future – we can only control the present, but we can draw on the past to better prepare for the future.

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Five questions with Dr Tim Baker


Executive coach Dr Tim Baker talks about developing teams, facilitating change and rethinking performance appraisals.

Tell us about the work you do at Winners at Work.

I’m in the business of assisting managers to create productive workplace cultures, whether that’s implementing change management, facilitating team development or providing 360-degree feedback. I do this by drawing on 18 years’ experience, backed by a PhD in workplace culture from Queensland University of Technology, and a BA in arts and behavioural science.

Explain your view on employee appraisals.

In my experience, very few people have told me they enjoy the performance appraisal process, or find it useful. It’s a costly exercise, and my research of 1200 HR practitioners demonstrated that people are pretty negative about the whole system, so I thought the traditional mode was due for a shake up. My new book, The End of the Performance Review, introduces the ‘five conversations framework’. It replaces the traditional annual performance review with a series of performance conversations held throughout the year. These conversations cover climate review, strengths and talent, opportunities for growth, learning and development, and innovation and continuous growth. Each conversation lasts five to 10 minutes, and as it’s a casual catch up, it balances out the power differential. A lot of the work you do is aimed at increasing engagement and productivity among employees. How can employers and HR practitioners achieve this?
It boils down to the quality of the relationship between manager and staff, and this can be broken down into four questions: what are my expectations of my employees; how are they performing to those expectations; what can I do to assist my team to meet those expectations; and are my employees committed to meeting
these expectations? I find it’s most effective to use critical incidents as the basis for these conversations – when something goes off the rails, that’s the time to address those questions. It’s a golden opportunity to address any issues, plus the chance to provide positive feedback.

You work to develop individuals, groups and organisations – what are the common threads in your approach?

The common thread is providing fresh, compelling and practical insights to assist in growth and productivity. My role is holding a mirror up to these three entities to see how they are perceived by their coworkers. For individuals, I generally use 360-degree feedback – it’s such a great tool as it gives three perspectives and adds credibility to the feedback. For teams, I use an approach that shows people where they fit in – it’s not the technical knowledge that’s important; it’s the way they interact with others. For organisations, I take a bottom-up approach, encouraging participants to say what they think management could do to improve the workforce. I see my role as a catalyst or facilitator, sharing insights from across the business. It can be confrontational, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sometimes you have to jolt people out of their complacency.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I don’t know where it came from, but it makes a lot of sense: learn from the past, plan for the future and live in the moment. Too many of us worry about the past or what might happen in the future – we can only control the present, but we can draw on the past to better prepare for the future.

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