Superior Book Productions

February 9, 2012

Managing for Performance:
Building Accountability for Team Success
Theresa Callahan
Aviva Publishing (2011)
ISBN: 9781935586500

New Book is a Manager’s New Best Friend

Managing for Performance: Building Accountability for Team Success by Theresa CallahanIn a past life, I had a job managing a call center, and I constantly had to deal with employee issues, from hiring employees, to motivating them, to moving them around to the right positions, and sadly, sometimes firing them when they weren’t suited for the job. While all managers want to be leaders who motivate and inspire their employees, sometimes the workload and the employees’ attitudes, and sometimes a manager’s lack of awareness about what he is doing wrong or how he is getting in his employees’ way, can interfere with sustaining a productive and enjoyable work environment.

I have read several books about employee motivation and the workplace, and I know from experience a lot about what does and does not work. Sometimes a manager even knows what he should do but lacks the motivation to do it, or he simply needs another person on the same level to talk with about what needs to be done. Theresa Callahan would be that ideal person, that angel on the shoulder I would have liked to have had around to discuss my employee and management issues with. If I had read this book years ago, I think I would have been a more effective manager. While Callahan does talk about employee motivation, for Callahan it’s more about putting the right people in the right jobs, and while she is never negative, this book isn’t a flowery, feel good motivational book that ultimately doesn’t work. Instead, it’s a realistic, practical look at how to manage employees—not necessarily to make them happy, although that is important—but how to get the job done and how to get your employees to do it well because they want to perform and succeed.

Callahan, as a longtime leader and coach, offers plenty of practical advice in fifteen concise chapters along with a resources section and exercises so managers and their employees can analyze their work situations, what motivates them and their employees, what they enjoy about their jobs, what makes for a perfect work day, how to conduct performance reviews, and how to hire the right people for the right jobs. Based on the most critical elements of her coaching program, “Managing for Performance,” Callahan outlines the key components she has learned from working with great leaders and the elements needed to build and maintain a high performance team. The team concept is really important to Callahan and she focuses on it extensively, because if the team doesn’t function, the business can’t.

Furthermore, Callahan emphasizes why a boss needs to focus on the business’ needs before the employees’ needs. Callahan doesn’t pretend a business is there for the employees, but that the employees are there for the business. She refers to this priority as “Honoring your business” and it is important because:

If you aren’t taking care of the business, and the business falls short, you will never be able to take care of your people. You see, they are counting on you to get it right. If the business’ needs are not being honored, and the business fails to achieve the desired results, no one on the team will truly be able to feel like he or she is part of something great.” You need to see the big picture, not the daily activity, to do this.

Callahan is also realistic about how you can’t make your employees do something they don’t want to do, to make them go against the grain. “Working against your grain is exhausting, mentally and physically, and costs the company a LOT of money.” I admit that too often I was the kind of manager who knew when employees were unhappy and weren’t going to perform, but I kept giving them second and third chances, trying to motivate them, only to have to fire them in the end anyway. Callahan points out that we don’t have to be “nice” to our employees, but we can be “kind” and sometimes the kindest thing to do in these situations is to let underperforming employees go. They will be better off finding work they like, and so will you, your business, and your employees.

The bottom line is that people who want to be successful have to find the kind of work that makes them happy and they are good at. While some of Callahan’s talk may seem tough, it is very realistic and comes from a deep knowledge of what really motivates people:

Crafting a job that brings you happiness and a sense of gratification is what I call a non-negotiable for getting it right when it comes to leading people. And without clear intentions about who you are and where you intend to go, how can you expect to get there?

Creating intention, in all leadership concepts, requires the creation of a roadmap for your success. This process doesn’t have to be lofty or difficult, but it does require, as I so candidly say to my clients on a regular basis, having a talk with yourself.

Overall, “Managing for Performance” is a straightforward, honest, and insightful exploration of what makes a successful workplace, written by someone with years of experience and a lot of common sense. I highly recommend it for all managers.

For more information about Theresa Callahan and “Managing for Performance,” visit

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and author of the award-winning “Narrow Lives”

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