The problem of "presenteeism"
There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of studies around the issue of employee engagement. Gallup and many other research organizations have concluded that most employee engagement sits around the 35% range. Today many companies and leaders deal what is now called "presenteeism" (lost productivity at work).
Ignore at your peril
Engagement is "the" issue that companies must address in this new global market place. The movement of the aging "boomers" out of the workforce along with the smaller workforce left to replace them is creating a highly competitive labor market. And how are most companies dealing with this new reality? As one study done by Towers-Watson states: "Companies are running 21st century businesses with 20th century work place practices." In this milieu companies are competing to find the right talent, build and maintain engagement and retain that core set of workers with those skill essential to their needs. The cost of not succeeding on these fronts is astronomical and too much is invested in getting a new worker functional in a role just to have them leave and go elsewhere because the company did not created the right environment for engagement.
The true depth of what we call recognition
There are key areas that have been identified as crucial to driving engagement and discretionary effort. One such area is defined as creating an environment that is energizing and that promotes the total well being of the staff. This actually goes beyond the traditional concepts that spring to mind such as wellness programs and so on. When Towers-Watson dug a little deeper they decided that this area was best described as relational. That is the sum of the many interactions that occur in an organization. Core to all of this is the time, guidance on performance, coaching and investment that leaders are prepared to put into their teams. I call it recognition.
Are you okay with "okay?"
You may think that this is an oversimplification but lets explore just a couple of thoughts on this. We have discussed in the past that most workers "guess" they have done a good job because nobody yelled at them that day. The reality is that most workers may have very limited dealings with their leadership. Everyone is busy and we fall into the trap of believing that if no one is screaming things must be going okay. Maybe it is but is "okay" what you want? What your team wants? Punching a clock is just that and it is certainly not performance or engagement.
Engagement and Recognition are not created through emails
Your taking time to engage with your team on a daily basis is really in effect applying recognition. In addition that interaction gives you opportunity to discuss performance and provide and receive feedback on opportunities to create improvement. Giving your team the scope to explore improvements and innovations is also another form of recognition as in doing so you are communicating a level of trust and confidence in your team.
Recognition is a choice to invest in your team
How are you doing with regard to watching out for the well-being of your team? This is another relational piece that is actually a form of recognition. Do you take the time to notice who is stressed or who doesn't seem to be feeling well? Have you spent enough time with someone that you have confidence in knowing their skill sets and can start coaching them along their career path in the company? All of these are relational in nature but also a form of recognition. We don't take the time to get to know people we are not interested in. Alternately time spent investing in someone is the surest way to communicate value and significance and who wouldn't want to work for that kind of leader or company.
I am sure you realize that there are many more types of relational interactions that you could be employing to generate an energized environment and create sustainable engagement. The key is to identify and practice them. It will not only enrich your team but will enrich your experience of leadership as well. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
Striking the right balance
I had a commanding officer who used to say to us "My job is to get you through this safely and alive. If by some chance we come out the other side of this friends that will be a bonus." I know the military often does not get credit for "progressive" leadership style but this man's statement really sums up the delicate balance that a leader's walk between role and relationship.
Role & Relationship
Perhaps because the stakes are always higher leadership in the military tends to be much more stark with regard to contrasting role and relationship. Role involves communicating objectives and tasks that must be accomplished and directing the group toward the attainment of those objectives. In the military there are therefore clear lines established for leadership roles. However and especially in the military, leaders know too that attainment of those objectives is difficult if not impossible without relationship.
I recall a scene from Henry V where on the night before the Battle of Agincourt Henry wonders the camp sitting at various fires, visiting with his troops and encouraging them. He knows that he is going to send many of them into harms way (his role) and yet sits with them to visit and in so doing provides a great example of how leaders create relationship with the team. In his speech the following morning Henry creates a "shared" experience or common bond with his group with these rousing words:
"But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day."
William Shakespeare "Henry V"
"Have To" vs. "Want To"
Wise leaders know that often the bond of relationship will accomplish what the communication of objectives and tasks could not. For example, only a small percentage of learners are motivated by good grades and yet how many students have responded positively to that teacher who invested in them and showed they cared? I recall working with a company where the employees held their CEO with the greatest respect. It was hard for me to make the linkage initially until one day one of the supervisors shared that during one particularly tough period in the companies history it became known that the CEO had bankrolled several pay periods out of his own pocket in order to keep everyone going. His commitment to his employees went even beyond that and included making sure the company gave to causes that were important to them. Rarely have I been in a place where universally there was such high regard for the leader and a collective willingness to accomplish the objectives set before them.
Roles strengthened by relationship
As a leader you have a role. In that role you will have targets, objectives and measures that you and your team need to accomplish. There are many methods available to you for doing this but the "gas" that makes that truly happen will be the effort you put into creating relationship with your team that is at once professional and meaningful. Professional with regard to striving to accomplish the goals set before you and meaningful in the sense that your team will know their value in your eyes and "want" to perform for you. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
SKILLED FEEDBACK - LEADERSHIP WISDOM
Knowledge is not the issue
In the realm of business and leadership that we call communication there is knowledge and there is wisdom. With regard to knowledge there are enough self help books on communication to stretch to the sun and back. Knowledge, it would follow then, is not a barrier to communication. Yet the issue of timely direction and feedback remains one of the top issues for most companies and their leadership teams. Wisdom is defined as the correct application of knowledge at the right time.
Knowing how and when to give feedback
How then does leadership apply this wisdom to deal with feedback? Joseph Folkman, a Forbes contributor and behavioral statistician conducted several studies on feedback and communication as it relates to leadership effectiveness. His findings are instructive and insightful..
Timely and honest
Not surprising in the findings was the trend that leaders who provide honest and timely feedback (direction, instruction and help) had employee engagement levels that consistently ranked in the top 10th percentile. Alternately leaders who failed to provide that feedback had employee engagement in the bottom 15th percentile.
Feedback as dialogue
What was interesting was another finding related to this study which showed that leaders who consistently sought feedback from their employees, peers and their bosses ranked among the top 10th percentile and had a "leadership effectiveness" score of 86%! What is interesting about this is that it suggests that effective leaders understand that feedback is a loop or to put it more plainly a dialogue.
You may be thinking that this is simply a statement of the obvious and you would be right. What this doesn't address is the fact that although this seems simple and obvious why isn't it happening more? Let me suggest two ideas; perspective and practice.
Perspective & Practice
Perspective is how you look at your role and the role of those around you. I would suggest that these successful leaders take the perspective that their staff, their team need to be given every chance to succeed and to ensure that is happening they provide genuine and timely feedback. Genuine feedback covers both positive and negative components of someone's performance. Tell them when they are doing the right things and correct them when they are not. Good leaders know that they are responsible for the success of their team and there is no shortcut with regard to feedback. They understand too that they need feedback and when they ask for it they are not only engaging in a dialogue but also creating a milieu of respect.
Practice is where true wisdom comes into play. The art of genuine and timely feedback is something that good leaders know they have to practice. Even the best communicators in the world know they have to discipline themselves to be present, to provide that regular communication and to build that atmosphere of respect. Many great leaders I know and have worked with have lists and schedules that they follow rigorously so that they know they are staying on top of the feedback loop. They know too well how the tyranny of the urgent can rob them of those opportunities that truly drive engagement and performance with their team.
Create a feedback schedule
Don't be shy about admitting to having a list or a schedule because what you really communicate is that your team is important enough for you to make that a priority. Feedback is like anything else, the more you practice the better you get at it. I read once that Michael Jordan threw literally hundreds of thousands of practice shots and he never stopped doing it right up to the end of his career. So practice your feedback, ensure your perspective is about the success of your team and don't stop, it will be worth it in the long run. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
KEEPING THE GOOD GOING! LEADERSHIP WISDOM
How "examined" is your leadership?
I read a quote the other day that was at once funny and thought provoking. It went like this: "Dead people don't know they are dead - its the same for fools." It got me thinking about a long held principle based on a statement by Socrates that the "unexamined life is not worth living." In a nutshell the idea is that we need to be assessing our lives with respect to what we want to accomplish, what we want to leave as a legacy and how we impact the world around us. I believe that the same holds true for leadership.
The good news is that if you are a leader and have wondered about your leadership you are already far and away ahead of the the pack. There are reams of literature around knowledgeable leadership but not many on wisdom. Wisdom is the effective application of that knowledge. What is wisdom for leading? What sorts of things make for wise leadership?
Its all about the people!
I have often joked that leadership would be great if it wasn't for the people! The reality is (in case you didn't get the joke, lol!) is that leadership is all about the people. Winston Churchill once said "if you think you are a leader, turn around. If no one is following you you're just out taking a walk." If you do have a team, if you do have someone "following" you how well are they doing? Let's take a look at a key principle of wise leadership - "keeping the good going."
No one starts out wanting to under perform.
The majority of people start a job wanting to do good work. It is hard to find anyone who purposes to come to work wanting to do poorly. (Two percent was the last number I heard.) Yet in spite of that reality people figure out what the minimum standard is and they make sure their performance does not fall below that line. Why is that and why do we settle for minimum? In a word, leadership.
90/10 does this describe you?
There are tons of analogies in business around this idea but for this discussion let's just look at a couple. The first is the 10-80-10 idea. That is that in any given company 10% are outstanding performers, 80% are doing a good job and 10% are under performing. The other analogy that seems to resonate with leaders is that you spend 90% of your time dealing with 10% of your staff - the under performers. In each case the focus is around that 10% under performing group. What we don't stop and think about is that 80-90% who are doing either a good or great job!
Focus on the good!
So here is that first piece of leadership wisdom. Good leaders know what good work looks like and they will train themselves to look for that on their team and recognize it. It may be easier to find those under performers but take the time to figure out exactly what you want from your team, look for it and let them know it when it happens. If you have children you know we can slip into that negative pattern so easily and which of us has not had this statement directed at us by our children at some point - "Is there anything in my life that I have done right?" We find it easy to spot the issues but much harder to look for the good behavior we want.
Preventative maintenance vs costly repairs
Bottom line is you can spend 90% of your time dealing with that under performing 10% or you can spend it recognizing and driving performance among that 90% who are doing a good job and who should be recognized. So while most leaders know that the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" wise leadership knows how to keep the "wheel greased" long before it gets squeaky. That is one way to keep the good going. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
WISE LEADERSHIP - KNOWING EYES ARE ON YOU
One of my favorite scenes from "Saving Private Ryan" was a discussion that Tom Hanks was having with a couple of members from his unit. They were complaining about the mission and wanted his take on things. When challenged on it his response was classic - "I don't complain to you, I complain to my superior, he complains to his and so on. I don't complain to you, your a Ranger you should know that." It was a small part of the movie but it holds a truth that leaders would do well to consider.
We have talked before about the high failure rate of people being moved into leadership. Of those who fail, nine out of ten fail because they lacked those skills required for leadership. Wisdom is one of those skills. I say it is a skill because contrary to common belief it can be learned and mastered. One aspect of wisdom is found in Mr. Hanks explanation to his subordinates - leaders don't complain down, they complain up.
Don't Confuse The Team You Lead With The Team You Are On - The Leadership Team
This is often the first trap that new leaders fall into. Having moved from being in the group into leading the group folks are often confronted with dealing with concerns or complaints about certain issues or initiatives as well as their own misgivings about those things. Our habits would have us join in on the venting and this would be a mistake. Whether we perceive or realize it or not a line has been crossed and we are no longer just one of the gang. We are now in leadership and part of the leadership team. Regardless of the level of your leadership those that report to you now look to you for answers, guidance and direction. They take their cue from you. Your response and perspective will be instrumental in the formation of the dynamic of team.
Your Team Looks To You
If you join in and express misgivings or vent with the group you are undermining your leadership. You undermine your leadership because you have communicated in a subtle way that you identify more with your team and not your fellow leaders. You will have undermined their confidence in the leadership in the company in general. This is not a recipe for effective engagement.
Lets go back to that scene with Tom Hanks. When his group pushes the issue and asks him what his response would be if he were one of them he replies: "Thank you sir, I see this as a very important mission and well worth the use of our fine resources (men) to find this Private Ryan and assuage the grief of his mother." One of the guys looks at the other and says "He good, very good!"
Know The Difference Between Your Feelings And Your Role
There are many lessons in that scene; he doesn't avoid the elephant in the room (why risk all of them for one man) but rather addresses it directly and he lets them discuss it as well. He provides a great example of how to deal with the ambiguity of these types of issues and sets an example of what he expects of them and is actually leading that example. What he is very clear about and doesn't do is join in the griping. Is he part of the group? Absolutely after all he is out there with them. However, he makes a clear distinction between his role and his feelings. He knows his role is to provide reassurance and leadership, his feelings he will share only with those it is appropriate to share with.
Whether you realize it or not, with your group, all eyes are on you. What kind of leadership do you want them to see? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
WHAT YOUR TEAM SAYS ABOUT YOUR LEADERSHIP
What does your team say about you?
If you are a student of leadership, if you have aspirations of leading one day or perhaps are currently leading either a leadership team or some other team within your company you should weigh carefully the following discussion. As the old saying goes "the clothes say much about the person" so too does the character and makeup of your team. Now before you cry foul because you did not pick your team but had it given to you or some variation thereof, you need to understand the same principles apply. But more about that shortly.
What kind of team have you assembled?
Your team says as much about you as anything else in your life. Some leaders look for team members that will follow direction and not push back. Other leaders will choose teams that get along and see the world the same way they do, we call this the "old boys club." Other leaders choose teams that will make them look good, otherwise known as the "pedestal" - all support, and all in the background. And finally, to be fair some leaders don't have any agenda conscious or otherwise for their team they just fly by the seat of their pants. Be sure about one thing, the character of the team speaks volumes about the character of its leader - every time - without fail.
Are you confident?
None of us come into leadership brimming with confidence that we have all the answers (ok some might but they typically don't last too long). Someone who intrinsically is unsure of their leadership may choose teams that won't outshine them. Their thinking is what if that person does a way better job and catches the attention of my boss? Its not that they are deliberately trying to undermine the goals for the team they just don't feel comfortable with the idea that they may have competition in the group. Sometimes the team senses this and sometimes not but people looking at the team from the outside will see it.
Friends and confidants.
Some leaders will surround themselves with friends and confidants. Everyone speaks the same language, see the company the same way and they exude a certain unity to be sure. The downside of this type of team is that they are rather homogenous in their outlook and often will lack innovation or imagination. If they are a team among many teams in a company or department they will perform fairly well but may also cover for each others weaknesses and seek to lay fault with another team when things don't go as planned. Being on that team is comfortable but rarely ground breaking.
Best supporting cast.
And some leaders will surround themselves with a cast of supporting characters whose only role is to ensure the light remains firmly on the leader. They all carry out their roles because poor performance will reflect poorly on the leader but when it comes to kudos, those go to the leader first. We see it on many teams be they business or sports, the "I am the superstar" mentality that says "you are on this team to pass me the ball so that I can score the touchdowns." Most of us can bring to mind either being on one of those teams or knowing some poor soul who was. Funny thing is a lot of the time team members think it is only a matter of time until the brass or the board see through the hype - sometimes they do, often they don't. Very often long before anyone has figured it out the "superstar" has moved onto either a new team or company leaving their old team to pick up the pieces.
"...pick for strength every time."
If you study the really enduring leaders and how they formed their teams you will glean several key traits that are common to many of them. They are first and foremost intentional about the team they are pulling together or developing - they have a vision of what that team needs to look like and how it ought to behave. They will pick for strength every time and are not the least bit timid about hiring or developing talent on the team that far surpasses their own. They will select for diversity. They will want a diversity of perspectives and skills on their team knowing that the sometimes messy interplay of those traits can produce some truly genuine innovation. In many of the findings I have researched these leaders make no bones about the fact that they saw their role as nurturing the potential leaders on the team, many in fact stating that they saw it as part of their role - to work themselves out of a job so to speak.
It may be occurring to you that this seems mighty counter intuitive and you would be right if you looked at leadership on a team simply as a career advancing move. What sets these enduring leaders apart is that the thing that drove them was not at all their own career advancement but the advancement of the company and its mission. They worked tirelessly for that goal alone and all the actions that impact the team and its makeup come from that driving passion.
But I did not pick my team!
So let's answer that nagging question that went through your mind at the outset of this discussion, what if I inherited or was given this team? What then? The answer to that is at once both simple and challenging. You get the opportunity to mold that team into something special. It is for you to look at your team and "mine out the nuggets of strength and skill" from its members and create a milieu that will allow for diversity and innovation and leave room for excellence to flourish.
Every team has that potential, so whether you create it or inherit it your team will be a reflection of the depth and character of your leadership. The next time you walk into the room with your team, take a hard look around and ask yourself the question; What does this team say about my leadership? If you don't like what you see, what are you prepared to do about it? Performance Leadership - Think About It!
What is Situational Awareness?
There are a wide range of articles and research on the quality or skill that I call "Situational Awareness". Wikipedia has attempted to define this several ways including;
"Situational awareness involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one's own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future,"
"Situational awareness is a state achieved when information that is qualitatively and quantitatively determined by given configuration as suitable for assumed role is made available to stakeholder by engaging them in to appropriate information exchange patterns. (Sorathia, 2008)"
"what you need to know not to be surprised" (Jeannot, Kelly, & Thompson, 2003).
The one I prefer is this; situational awareness is having a sense of your role and place in an organization; aligning your focus with that role, knowing how you are impacting others around you both positively and negatively and knowing how you are performing in that role.
Most Evident in Life and Death Situations
Situational awareness was first coined by the military and emergency intervention services to describe this quality with regard to making "gut" or snap decisions that had life or death consequences. Successful leaders had the capacity to gauge the circumstances, measure the risk and make the right decisions consistently. Of course in these settings a poor decision only needed to happen once to have disastrous consequences. Because the term grew out of this setting researchers and leadership coaches tend to only consider this trait within the confines of high stakes situations or high level leadership. Yet I believe that this skill is a key success indicator across any organization and any role. It is really an indicator too of high emotional and social intelligence and a key "soft" skill.
Just As Crucial Across All Settings
I have dealt with recruitment and dismissal of staff for over 30 years and I have had many discussions with fellow HR professionals and leaders across many sectors and the one thing that we agree on is that in the majority of cases where dismissal was required the personnel involved had a poor sense of situational awareness. In fact it was often the case that even after having been walked through all the appropriate levels of escalation; verbal feedback, written feedback, mentoring and education, and formal warning many of these people were totally surprised at their dismissal!
On the other hand we have all marveled at those whom we have brought into a company or organization who "get it". They get to know all the players, have a keen sense of the corporate culture, become the "go to" people for projects and for information and typically wind up leading if not through position then certainly by influence. These people have incredible situational awareness and are typically those who will climb the corporate ladder much more quickly than those who lack this skill.
A case in point is Jane. She came to work at a high tech manufacturing company in a support position. She took advantage of that role to get to know all the people in her company and was keen to pay attention to all the office "chatter" regarding process gaps or needs and was soon quietly advocating for change not only because it made her role more efficient but also because it was good for the company. She was quick to pick up on how her colleagues were feeling and always sought to provide the best support possible. In due course she came to the attention of those higher up the management chain and she found herself promoted to positions of greater and greater responsibility. In each case she brought the same approach and situational awareness. And in each case she was a success; a really good example of how the situational awareness skill can bring success within a company. But the story does not end there.
You see as Jane rose in the ranks and got to know the company well, she also got to know the key leadership players and evaluate their impact on the company and its bottom line. Over the course of time as changes took place in the "C-Suite" leadership she noted a distinct change in focus and priority in that group. After much agonizing she recognized that the leadership was moving in a direction that could be disastrous for the organization. She made several attempts to advocate for change all to no avail and so she began looking for a new company and a better fit. Three months after she moved to a new firm her old company filed for bankruptcy protection. Jane's situational awareness was like an internal GPS that directed her both within the company and away from the company to a new one.
It is Like a Muscle, it Will Grow With Practice
So my question for you is this; how is your situational awareness? Do you know how well (or not well) you are doing? Do you know how you are perceived by colleagues and supervisors? You can learn to develop this skill like any other. Practice the "Whats"; What is currently happening? What has happened before that is having an impact on this situation? And what could happen based on the decision I make in response? (Remember, no decision - is - a decision.) What is, What has, What could; use these to expand your perspective and horizons. I will add one more, how will this action align with the company mission?
Leaders are found at all levels of a company. Use your situational awareness to establish yourself as a person of influence and a leader. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
A STORY OF UNLEASHED EMPLOYEES
If you are like me you love reading about companies that have employees that always seem to be miles ahead of everyone else with regard to engagement and customer service. For example how many times have you heard stories about a certain airline staff going the extra mile and turning a potential disaster into a marketing coupe? One story that stands out for me occurred while there was a storm in Toronto and all flights were mired in delay and frustration. Now there were several carriers operating in that part of the airport but not one stepped up like this airline. Seeing the long lines and sensing the growing frustration this staff went into over drive to address every passenger concern and need. Someone even went so far as to order a huge amount of pizza and pass it out to all of their customers while they waited. It did not speed up the delay but it sure made everyone feel as if the airline cared.
That wasn't the best part! After handing out pizza to all their clients they realized that they had lots left over. And guess what? That's right they walked across the floor to their competitors and began handing out pizza to their customers! If it had not been for all the jaws hitting the floor you could have heard a pin drop!
THIS CAN BE YOUR WORKPLACE
We might be tempted to think that this sort of thing is a one off or that this can't happen in most places and that is where we would be wrong. This kind of engagement does not happen by accident and it is possible to have that sort of engagement in your company or on your team.
I might not be able to say which airline it was (although I am sure most of you have guessed by now) but I can tell you who they learned it from. Southwest Airlines pioneered this approach that has been so effective in creating employee engagement. In their excellent book "Maximum Leadership" Charles Farkas and Philippe De Backer spend some time plumbing into the mindset of Southwest founder and then CEO Herb Kelleher. With an airline that was the envy of the industry when they asked Kelleher what made Southwest so different his response is informative; "...the intangibles." By that he meant the employees. He formed his airline around a clear set of principles that put their people first and profits next. He wanted a company that would be fun to work at and he wanted people to know that they respected, valued and who could be trusted with a degree of independence in performing their roles. While this may seem counter-intuitive at first blush (after all without profit it won't matter how happy a company's people are) it turns out that this was pure genius.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE TURNED ON ITS HEAD
It would be years before the research would catch up to Mr. Kelleher but when it did two things stood out; first - happy and engaged employees actually make for a better client experience. I know this seems obvious in hind sight and yet why was he the first in that industry to do it? Second, people who are happy in their work are actually happier in their home life. Research done by Gostic and Elton and published in their book "What motivates me?" discovered that creating a sense of happiness at work actually had a side effect of increasing overall enjoyment in other areas of life. That,s right, the whole work/life balance equation had always started with the home side but as it turns out its the other way around. A happy work place actually has a big impact on home life.
THEY ARE YOUR EMPLOYEES USE THEM.....OR NOT, IT'S UP TO YOU
So here is what we can glean from Kelleher and the Southwest experience; start with people, make the effort to get to know your people and don't be afraid to give them some independence and support. Don't be afraid to lean on them and don't be afraid to give them all the room they need to grow. Who knows? You may just discover how much you like coming to work each day too! Performance Leadership, Think About It!
Managers Could Do a Lot Better at Performance Management by Chris Groscurth
When it comes to managing performance, managers have their work cut out for them. Few employees feel their manager excels at even the most basic performance management tasks.
Gallup's State of the American Manager report noted that only 12% of employees strongly agree that their manager helps them set work priorities, and just 13% strongly agree that their manager helps them set performance goals.
For executive leaders, driving organizational performance is easier said than done -- it requires everything from hiring great managers to developing a strong culture. There are so many elements to align that even the best performance strategy can get lost in the execution. As a result, executives sometimes default to bad performance management processes.
Other leaders delegate performance management responsibilities to HR, assuming that an HR-facilitated process will help improve the state of performance. Yet it often doesn't, because many HR people haven't cracked the performance management code -- great managers, effective and efficient processes and metrics, and a high-performance culture.
But leaders who are devoted to growth and performance take a different approach. For the past 40 years, Gallup has studied high-performing organizations and advised leaders on how to develop and sustain them. We've learned that organizations deliver precisely what their purpose, brand and culture support -- whether that's excellence or dysfunction. This means that leaders can increase performance by being intentional about things like organizational alignment and clarity.
Here are some steps leaders committed to building a highly successful organization can take to deliver performance:
Clarify your purpose and brand. To align purpose and brand, leaders need to clearly know and communicate why the organization exists and what they want to be known for. Clarity of purpose at all levels -- enterprise, line-of-business and unit -- is necessary for building an organizational culture that performs at top levels. For example, Southwest Airlines and Google provide rich case studies of companies that entered crowded markets and differentiated themselves among customers and employees based on their purpose and brand.
Remove cultural barriers to performance. Gallup's ongoing organizational effectiveness research has identified five functional drivers of a strong organizational culture: leadership and communication, values and rituals, human capital practices and policies, work teams and structures, and performance. These are concrete aspects of an organization's culture that leaders can measure and manage. Among these five drivers, barriers to performance reveal themselves in several ways. Here are some common obstacles Gallup has helped clients overcome:
Study your stars. Identifying top performers is one thing; studying them is another. Observing and measuring what excellence looks like in a role is the best way to define successful performance, which means it's vital for leaders to know what their best do differently. Top performers can provide a wealth of information about what makes the company attractive to talented people, how employees want to be managed and how to further each employee's success. By studying star performers, leaders can ensure that their strategies for selecting and developing employees are on target.
Use predictive analytics to hire for excellence. Predictive analytics empower leaders with insights and information for ensuring employees and managers possess the innate talents they need to excel in their roles. For example, although true manager talent is rare, it does exist, and organizations can identify and measure it. To find talented managers and employees, leaders need to develop the right strategy and use a systematic approach to scientifically choose top performers and great managers.
Align people and processes. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the father of total quality management, taught that bad systems beat good people. Yet Gallup's research shows that great managers lead differently and get better results from their employees -- even with broken performance systems. Ultimately, the responsibility for bringing people and processes together falls on executive leaders. Leaders need to take ownership of ensuring that success is built into the systems their companies use to drive performance -- and that employees at all levels understand and connect with performance-building efforts. By keeping people, processes and systems in harmony, leaders do their part to ensure that their organization's approach to performance management is the best it can be.
As highlighted in the first article of this two-part series, great managers catalyze team performance, making manager talent a crucial component of performance management. When executives combine manager talent with essential performance-driving practices and metrics, they complete the performance management puzzle. This full-scale approach can help any leader fortify a high-performing organization from the inside out and ensure that it is built to last.
Chris Groscurth, Ph.D., Senior Practice Consultant, is an expert in leadership effectiveness, individual and team assessment, and organizational development at Gallup.