PETER Hunter's 'eureka' moment could not have been any further from his bath.
It came as he balanced on a dog sled, racing through the icy expanse of the Canadian Rockies.
Just minutes before, the team of reluctant and disinterested dogs had refused to budge. Now they were flying — and Peter knew why.
It was a life-changing discovery for this management guru whose revelation is now helping to transform work places throughout the world.
Life changing because, as Peter says, it is simple — so simple that many still believe it just cannot happen.
But Peter knows it can and he is on a crusade to prove that if people care, there's no stopping them.
Peter, of Portincaple, recently launched his new book Breaking the Mould, which gives some amazing insights into what can be achieved when people are, according to him, "allowed to be all they can be".
For at least one firm in Venezuela, that has meant an incredible 800 per cent performance improvement in just three weeks and just as importantly, it allowed hundreds of workers not only to hold onto their jobs, but to take a new pride in their work too.
Time and time again, in his work with industry, former Royal Navy man, Peter encountered management styles which trapped the workforce into destructive negative behaviors.
Standing on a sled runner in the snow, he suddenly saw the solution.
"I noticed the guide was being very vocal with the dogs," recalls Peter. "She was talking to them all the time, praising them, continually giving feedback.
The team behind us was the exact opposite, it wasn't working.
I asked if I could have a go with them.
"I got on the sled and began to do exactly what our guide was doing, continually praising each dog individually and collectively as a team.
I saw their ears prick up and they just took off.
The feedback I was giving the dogs was like a physical fuel.
Those eight dogs were the engine and the words I was using was what made the engine work..”
The lesson was as stark as that.
“Standing there on the runners, I realised that the same lesson applied to the human team.
It was a revelation."
What turned a bunch of confused, hostile and unenthusiastic dogs into a dynamic racing team was not some special skill on the part of Peter.
His recognition of the animals' own abilities — and the way in which he unleashed them—created an environment in which they were allowed to perform to the best of their ability.
The result astonished everyone — dogs included.
His dog sled experience taught him two lessons.
"I realised you have to find out what you're doing wrong and stop doing it," he says. "I also discovered that cracking the whip does not work.”
“The traditional manager who cracks the whip by so doing is responsible for creating the environment in which people are not allowed to perform. I created the environment that works by not telling people what to do."The book tells stories about how people were
allowed to start caring again. It's a deliberate
process that allows people to be proud of what
they do. When people start to become proud, they
start to perform out of their socks because no
one is sitting on their shoulder annoying them'
Peter has seen the results of a workforce which is held back through traditional management styles which put short term profit and power before people.
"When things happen that stop people doing a good job it is very frustrating for the individual,"
“Two things can happen.
First, people get angry, this leads to stress.
Stress on a long-term basis damages our body.
Physical problems lead lo time off work, then it becomes a Catch 22 situation, as soon as we come back to work we get more stressed because the situation that caused the stress still exists.
The other reaction is that people switch off the stress by becoming apathetic.
If they don’t care about what they do then they cannot become stressed.
We have to stop caring or we will not be able to continue.
So we are forced to stop caring about what we do in order to avoid the stress that it causes.
This is where Breaking the Mould comes in.
"The book tells stories about how people were allowed to start caring again. It's a deliberate process that allows people to become proud of what they do.
"When people start to become proud, they start to perform out of their socks because no one is sitting on their shoulder annoying them all the time.
"These stories are aimed at the victims of management.
They are about ordinary people being allowed to care about what they do, and what that happens to them and their performance when they do.
When people care about what they do you cannot compete with them."
Peter has seen the results of that caring.
In Venezuela he helped bring about an amazing turnaround on an oil rig which was on the verge of closure.
"The company was told that if the rig performance did not improve, it would be shipped back to Germany.
I was asked to go out there and turned up to be introduced to a man who had been managing oil rigs for 10 or 15 years.
He was hostile, because he thought I was there to tell him what to do.
"I told him that all I was going to do was ask his crew for ideas about how lo improve the rigs performance and that all he had to do was tell me what ideas were good or bad and why.
I would give that feedback to the person who came up with the idea.
"Three weeks later, the rig had made an 800 per cent performance improvement in the time it took to move the rig between wells.
It used to take them eight-and-a-half hours to move the rig 15 metres, and now they were moving it the same distance in 55 minutes.
"People ask how that happened.
Peter said, “I simply changed the dynamic.
Instead of telling people what to do we allowed them to care about what happened."
Peter, who is in the process of writing a second book, has now established a company which has a team of more than 30 specialists trained to implement Breaking the Mould techniques to companies and organisations, as well as public speaking, seminars and presentations.
The book, he emphasises, is not an instruction manual.
"I tell the stories and let people take their own lessons,"
He says. "1 don't go to people and offer to Break their Mould — most managers just won't believe it works.
People need to be curious, they need to realise for themselves that it does work and be prepared to understand that there is another way to manage people.
That way can be learned and it produces repeatable results.
"My main motivation is to release the power of ordinary people.
People who know how good they are but who are not allowed to do a good job because of the way they are treated.
When they are allowed to become powerful the results are astonishing to everyone."
The transformation includes getting rid of the blame culture of buck passing and of criticism when mistakes are made.
"Even mistakes are a positive," Peter says.
"The person making the mistake is alerting the company to a situation that needs to be dealt with, so instead of looking for blame we ask 'how can we prevent that that happening again'.
When the workforce starts to care about what they do there are no limits."
Caring, pride, ownership, empowerment, being all you can be — Peter is the first to admit it all sounds a bit "pink and fluffy". The reality is anything but.
"If you want to know about the power of pride," says Peter, "just try to remove a football supporter's scarf.
If you unleash the power of pride in your organisation then you had better stand back because your team will be running for the horizon and your competition will never catch them."
• “Breaking the Mould” is priced £11.99 and is available from the website, http://www.breakingthemould.co.uk/
or direct from the publisher at http://www.librario.com/