John Murphy | The 3-Step Approach To Evaluating Team Performance

Adam LeanPodcast

In this week’s episode of P is for Profit, we chat with leadership expert and executive coach, John Murphy. John’s focus as a coach is to help improve the performance of teams— thus improving the ROI of one of the largest expenses that many businesses have… which is payroll.

“If teams aren’t working the right way, it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is,” says John about the importance of evaluating team performance.

We’ll talk about how to get the most from your team, as well as…

  • The steps you need to take in order to work together more effectively
  • The 3-step approach to evaluating team performance
  • How to apply John’s strategies to your own team
  • Where most teams are lacking (and how to fix it)
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Adam Lean: In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to get the most from your team. We’re going to talk to a leadership expert on how to optimize your team’s performance, reach your full potential and take your business to the next level. This is P is for Profit.

Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam Lean, and I along with the rest of the team at The CFO Project are passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is John Murphy. He’s an executive coach that helps improve the performance of teams, thus improving the ROI of one of the largest expenses that many businesses have, which is payroll. So John, welcome to the show.

John Murphy: Adam, thank you. I really appreciate the invitation. And I’m looking forward to doing this.

Adam: Yes, I mean, one of the things that we preach constantly is that at the end of the day, what matters in business is that you generate more cash than you spend. You have to have a positive cash flow. And one of the largest things that take up cash, of course, is your team’s payroll. And so I’m excited to dive in and talk about how we can get more performance and how to develop your team and how business owners can reach their full leadership potential. And I’m excited to talk with you about that. So tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got started doing this.

How John Became a Leadership Expert and Coach

John: Well, my background is in the corporate world, so I’m very much accustomed, and it’ll be music to your ears in the sense, Adam, that I’ve always been measured on bottom line. I mean, I started my career as an insurance salesman. So you were measured on results and the productivity and the revenue that you brought in. 

And, you know, the same as I kind of, you know, progressed, my career, became a sales manager, sales director, marketing director, and ultimately I was the CEO of a Pan-European Insurance Group based in Ireland. And so all of the time, I’ve been measured on bottom-line results. And I’ve kind of, when I decided to set up my own business because I enjoyed the corporate life and it was very good to me, but I really wanted to do something on my own. 

And the part of the business that I was always fascinated by was, you know, higher, bringing people into the organization, hiring people, developing people, and making teams work effectively together because I realized, you know, a long time ago that, you know, it didn’t matter what my title was, I was only ever going to be as good as the team of people that I had around me. And I certainly found that right through my career. So I’ve always been fascinated about, you know, what is it that actually makes a team work really effectively. 

And, you know, you can hire a bunch of superstars, but you’ve actually got to make them work then as a team, because if you don’t, then, you know, the output is not going to be greater than the sum of the individual parts. So I started my own business, John Murphy International, 16 years ago. And I’ve been working and focusing on working with senior executives and with leadership, cross-functional leadership teams, and really helping them to kind of, to kind of bridge that gap. 

Because we’ve all got, you know, performance, we’ve got a level of performance, but then there’s also that level of what’s the potential of that individual? Or what’s the potential of that team? And how do we bridge the gap between the current performance and, you know, the higher level that is the potential that is there? Because that’s the job we have as leaders. So that’s really the work that I do. And I’m focusing on And as I said, it’s a piece of work that I’m just, you know, always fascinated by because it comes down to people. 

Adam: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And you’re absolutely right, it does come down to people. Now, several questions that came to my mind as you were talking and I want to ask them all at once. But let me prioritize here. So you mentioned that you help, you know, leaders make their teams work more effectively, especially effectively together and be higher performing teams. So, you know, in a broad sense, how does a business owner that’s listening right now, how, you know, what are the steps they need to take to get their, to get more performance and get their teams to work together effectively?

Improving Team Performance

John: Well, I think that you’ve got to be able to look at it, and I’ll tell you the way that I work with teams, and I think anybody can just take from this the way that they need to and extrapolate from that. But when you’re looking at a team, as I said, by and large, the teams that I work with are successful to start with. They’re not, I’m not working with them because they’re failing, right? 

So they tend to be successful companies but they, there’s always more to be got from that team or from that individual. Let’s focus in on teams. So when you’re actually looking at that, you’ve got to understand and have, you know, clarity around Well, what’s the current level of performance? And then what do we see is the potential? But then you look at the team. And we look at the team kind of on three levels. 

One is the, what we call the design of the team. So in other words, you’re asking the question, you know, do I have the right people, you know, in the right jobs, doing the right work in the right way getting the right results with the right resources? And that’s very much the design piece. And that’s kind of very easy to say. But very often, what you find is that when you actually do an analysis of the team, that perhaps we don’t always have the right people, or we may have the right people, but they’re not in the right roles. 

And also, maybe they’re not working together in the right way. So that’s kind of the design piece. So you’re looking at your team at that level. Then the other part is the dynamic part of the team. And that’s around your culture, it’s around your communication. It’s around your level of trust and respect with each other. It’s also about, you know, do we all have the same view of what winning actually looks like? 

So that’s the dynamic part of it. And then the third part is actually looking at the business itself. You know, are we clearly focused on the strategy that we have? Are we aligned on the strategy? Do we have the right products or services that fit the right markets or the segments that we’re actually going after? And, you know, have we the right, you know, impetus and drive to actually achieve that? So when you look at a team, it’s, there’s multi-disciplines in there and you’ve got to look at each different part and figure out which part you’re going to fix right now. 

And that’s really the work that we do is kind of taking it and breaking it down into component parts and then saying, well, which part, if we fix, would actually, over the next three months or six months, would give us the greatest impact and improve the overall potential? But you’ve got to be able to be clear about what the, where the team is, right now and where you want it to be. But then once you actually look beneath that and say, Okay, well, is the major issue that we need to resolve right now? 

Is it on the design piece, is it on the dynamic piece or is on the business itself? And to give you an example, Adam, I did some work with a company some time ago, and where they said, you know, well, we did the work on the strategy, and they said they did it with somebody else, which is thank you very much. But they did that work with another consultant, right? And did the work and strategy. But now we want to work with you on the implementation piece. 

And the very first day I was in working with the team, I just kind of got a sense, as you know you do when you’re working with a team, Adam, that I don’t think all these people are on the same page in terms of the strategy. And so I said, after a coffee break, I said, okay, you know, everyone, you know, you’ve done your strategy piece in the past. And, you know, a couple of months ago, and I’ve actually seen the work and it was good work. I said, so could you write down, I gave kind of big post, it’s to everybody, could you write down kind of the key pillars of the strategy? You could see everyone going, Oh, dear God, right? 

Because there was kind of a blank expression on people’s face. And there was nothing wrong with the work that was done on the strategy development, right? But they hadn’t connected kind of division and the strategy and the priorities to what they were doing on a day to day basis. And so often, you see that disconnect happen. And that’s why you get, you know, people going in different directions. 

So I never assume that we’re all going to be on the same page. I never assumed that we’re going to, you know, that we’re aligned on priorities. And you’ve got to make sure that you get that organizational piece right straight out of the bat because that’s really a critical part. So that’s a long-winded answer to your question is how you actually go about it. But you really got to break it down and look and see which component part you’re going to focus on right now. Is the design piece? 

Do we have the right people? Are they in the right roles? Have we defined the right roles? You know, are they working the right way? Because if teams are not working the right way, it doesn’t matter how good your strategy is, if they’re not working the right way together, then you’re really making it, you know, delivering the strategy, really, really hard work. So it is about understanding where you need to actually apply the fix because you’re not going to fix it all in one go.

Adam: Yeah, I mean, yeah, that makes sense. So the three areas, you say design, which is the right people in the right positions. Dynamic, which is the culture, how do we know if we’re winning? What are our core values? And then the strategy which is everybody focused on the right strategies? Are we aligned? Are we selling the right products? Of the three, have you found that one is, most businesses are sort of lacking in the most?

John: Well, it’s interesting you should ask that because, you know, looking at the research, because we do a lot of data with the, data analysis with the team. So before we actually engage with the team, we get everyone on the team to give us a huge amount of data. So we actually measure about 180 different points on the whole team, right? 

Which is a lot of data. So we gather a lot of data and we would do that at the beginning, we’re working with it with the team and then we do it at the end. But, and then we look at it overall. What are the key areas? And to be honest with you, Adam, kind of the key areas tend to be in the space of, and the design part would be around are we doing the right work in the right way and have we got the right roles defined? So they would tend to be in the design piece. 

The dynamic piece is very much around the communication. And then the other part would be are we actually aligned on priorities? So they would tend to be kind of the hot spots and the hot buttons for us to kind of go after because that’s what seem to be the, kind of the main areas where there is something that needs to be, you know, a fair bit of fine-tuning to be done on it.

Adam: Yeah. Okay. You know, it reminds me of the design piece, when you’re talking about the right people. I think it’s the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, where he talks about having the right, you need to have the right people on the bus but the people, if they’re on the bus, they need to be in the right seats.

John: And that’s very, very true. And very often, what you find is that, you know, and this is where it kind of the leader comes into play. Because if you actually recognize, you know, that, you know, we don’t have the right people in the right roles doing the right work, then the leader’s actually got to make a call on that. 

And that sometimes can be a tough call to make because we tend to tolerate, you know, performance that is not up to the level that we want for too long. And I know that’s a generalization. And the impact of that, I always think that the impact of that is actually quite significant because if you have in your team, a number of people on your team that are really knocking it out of the park, are really, really performing at a very high level and then you’ve got one, or maybe two people who are not performing at that level. 

Firstly, everybody knows about it. So there’s nobody, you know, everybody knows. And also, the perception can be is that the leader is tolerating the underperformance. And then for the high performers, it’s, you know, why am I breaking my neck to actually deliver at the level that I’m delivering out when it’s, you know, it seems to be that underperformance is okay. 

And that brings down the overall performance but it also damages the leader’s brand because the leader has a responsibility to make sure that, it is their job to make sure that he’s got the right people in the right roles. So, you know, this is where the leader comes into play in terms of really figuring out what are the pieces that the leader needs to fix? And what are the things that is going to have the biggest impact on the performance of the overall team? But unless you know where your hotspots are and your problems are, then you don’t really know what you’re trying to fix.

Adam: That’s, I mean, that’s a good point. Let me ask you this. We work with a lot of business owners and one of the things that I’ve noticed in my experience is that business owners, they get started in their business because they’re an expert at the craft of the business. You know, a dentist buys a dental practice because they’re a dentist. You know, somebody that buys a bunch of restaurants is because usually, they’re an expert at food. 

Because of that, they want to work more in the craft of the role. So in that E Myth book, you know, they’re the technician and they want to do that, but they have to lead their team. So can you talk us through what, you know, is that okay, that the leader is more focused on the craft? I mean, I feel like that a lot of businesses are struggling because the owner is not effectively leading their team. Is there a way to do both?

Getting the Right People in the Right Roles

John: Well, I think you’ve got to decide. I mean, this does come back to what we’re just talking about, you know, having the right people in the right roles, right? Because very often the person, I mean, if you take the example of a restaurant, you know, and as you say, by and large, you know, it is people who are chefs who start restaurants because they have a passion for food. Because they’ve got a passion for food and they’re a great chef doesn’t make them necessarily good at running the business of a restaurant. So it’s a very different job, right? 

So I think for many owners who start businesses that they’re, you know, passionate about the subject matter of that business, whether it’s dentistry or chef or whether it’s, you know, a kind of a shop owner, whatever it might be, they’ve got to decide, well, what is their role? Are they going to be the chef or the dentist? Are they going to hire somebody to run the business? 

Because the chances are, that, you know, to be the effective dentist or the chef is a full-time job. But running the business is also a full-time job. So you don’t have the space, either mentally, physically or any other way, to actually do both, two full-time jobs. So you’ve got to really decide where you sit in the organization. And for so many people who are experts in their space, that is the big challenge is kind of when they start hiring people to do different roles in the organization and then letting go of the role. 

And you just see that far too often. And it really is, and I’ve worked with, you know, a lot of business owners where they’re in the early stage of it and the biggest challenge of working with them is getting them to be, you know, if you’re like above the nitty-gritty of the business and actually driving the business forward, as opposed to being the best chef in town. And that’s really where you got to get a shift in mindset because, you know, and this is where you actually get into what are you trying to build. 

And, you know, I also as a consultant talk about, you need to be clear about your vision because people would go roll their eyes, like, here’s another damn consultant talking about vision, right? But the fact of the matter is that you’ve actually got to have a vision because that’s the context for all your decisions that you make. So, you know, and ask, okay, what’s your vision? Do you want to be, do you want to say the chef in this restaurant or do you want to build a restaurant business that is maybe multi-location? 

And depending on what their vision is, and say, Well, okay, well, if your vision is to build, you know, a business that is, stands on its own and is something an asset that you can sell on, then you’ve actually got to take the role as the driver of the business, or you got to hire somebody to be the driver of the business. But, you know, by and large, they want to be the driver of the business, but then is actually saying, Okay, so now you’ve got to get rid of all of the tasks that you’ve been doing as the expert and you’ve got to hire people, develop people and grow people to enable them to do that part of it. 

And that, very often, is just a big mindset shift. But for many businesses, the reasons that they don’t grow and they don’t ramp up to the next level is that so often, it’s the owner that is actually holding them back. And the owner is working every hour that gods sends but it’s actually not growing the business beyond a certain level because they won’t let go and they won’t hire people to let go to, to actually start actually building a business that they could go on and sell on. And otherwise, all they’ve done is recreate another job for themselves.

Adam: Yeah, a very stressful and overwhelming job, sometimes.

John: Absolutely. And also, it’s an awful shame because there is for many, and I mean, we’ve, you’ve come across some, I’ve come across some people who are really, really competent at building it, but they just get in their own way in terms of actually delivering a, building a business. And there’s so much a mindset of actually making sure that okay, well now your role, you’ve redefined your role in the business. Your initial role may well have been, let’s get this dental practice up or let’s get this, you know, the restaurant business up, whatever it might be. But once you’ve actually got it to a certain level, then you’ve got to take on a different role. 

Otherwise, you’re actually the stumbling block and the bottleneck for that business to flourish. And that can be a real shame because then people develop bad habits about how they do things. And then also the people that you hire in, they don’t see any space for them to grow and develop. So they move on. So you’re constantly hiring people in to fill a gap, but then they grow to a certain stage and they say, Well, you know, there’s no room for me here. There’s no room for me to grow. There’s no room for me to develop my career here. I may as well leave and go somewhere else. So you get into that revolving door of hiring people.

Adam: Yeah, that’s a very good point. And you’re absolutely right. So what is, so somebody listening, would you tell them that their first step is to make sure they understand the vision they have for their business and for their role in the business? 

Why Your Business Might Stagnate

John: I think it is. I think people really need to be clear about, you know, and you can pick a time horizon. But if you say, Okay, what do I want this business to look like in three years’ time? Describe what that business should look like in three years’ time. You know, is if one out of, is a two out of three or two, what’s the revenue look? And then kind of say, Okay, if that’s what it is, well, what do I need? What role am I going to play in making that happen? And you might evolve into a role, but you’ve really got to be very, very clear because it does come back to us talking about earlier on, as a business grows, grow, develop and evolve with it. 

And if you’re going to stay the same and stay static, you’re going to be probably the major reason why the business does not develop and does not grow. And we’ve all seen that where, you know, it just gets. and you do it in your business, Adam. You talk to people say, you know, I’ve got the revenue to a certain level. I just can’t break it. I just can’t get it to that next level, right? I just don’t seem, I seem to have plateaued. 

And very often, when you actually go beneath the bonnet of that and have a look underneath, what’s happening there you see it’s actually what the leader has done as the leader as trapped themselves in a role and doesn’t actually bring in the people who can make the business grow and develop to the next stage. Because, you know, there’s a finite amount of time, there’s a finite amount of resources, a finite amount of effort that you’ve got. And if you keep that as a finite resource, well, you’re just going to get the same results. So it really is breaking through. 

And it is, you know, I mean, I’m not under estimating. It’s easy for him to say, you know, hire somebody, but the fact is, you’ve got to, and don’t wait until you’re completely drowned in work. You know, you’ve got to make the, you know, plan it out and then say, okay, in order to actually get the next stage, you know, I’ve got to, you know, invest in hiring the right people and be really clear about what sort of person I’m looking for, what type of person I want to bring in that’s going to complement what I’m doing and is going to fit in and we’re all very clear with what our roles are. 

And that, sometimes that lack of clarity around roles, you can say I would figure it out and we all do a bit of this and a bit of that, then that becomes that nobody’s accountable because we all own a little bit of everything, right? And so there’s got to be very clear accountability and measurability.

Adam: Yeah. Oh, man, we could talk for hours about this because it’s so important. But John, thank you so much for coming on today. Where can people find you if they want to learn more and if they need help, if they need your coaching to help get them to the next level?

John: Well, the easiest way is go to my website, Or they can email me at And I’d be delighted to hear and have a chat with any of your listeners, Adam. And it’s been a great honor to be here today.

Adam: Yes, and thank you so much for coming on. And I’ll put your website in the show notes so that people can click on it and go visit your website. But thank you so much for being on. And again, if you would like to see if John can help you with your business, please reach out to him. And thank you so much for listening. And remember, the goal of your business should be to make more profit than last year and turn that profit into cash that you get to keep. Thanks for listening.