by tom on July 5th, 2012
If my model for effective leadership requires a balance between strategy and humanity, then what are the key elements of humanity for high-performing culture? And what are the roles of senior leadership to manifest that high performance?
There are three roles I believe that contribute favorably to the choices people make daily about their performance. An important clue came from the book, Influencer, The Power to Change Anything. From that book came a simple framework for performance: people decide to activate a behavior (1) if they believe it is worth it and (2) if they believe they have the skill.
My focus in this three-part series will be on the “worth it”. There are three active roles senior leadership takes that not only provide a high humanitarian framework but also satisfy timeless innate human desires. When those desires are fulfilled, performances are heightened because people choose to.
On the surface, people come to work to do a task and get a paycheck. In most cases there is an overt or virtual contract that promises that compliance with the job description is rewarded within the salary range for that task.
You can ask people to excel and provide incentives and rewards. But what if ( like in the story of Shirley, the hospital janitor in C. William Pollard’s book, Soul of the Firm ) the company leadership elevates her task by re-framing her work? In this case, they go to the trouble of explaining that her task is not just about cleaning terrazzo and porcelain. No, they make sure that she understands that her work is really an extension of the doctors and nurses … that she is a part of the healing process there.
People are wired for significance … to make a difference. Roy Spence, Jr., CEO of GSD&M Idea City in Austin, Texas, nails it with his book title declaration, It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. Their clients are high purpose companies that frame their business in a way that elevates “why”. At Southwest Airlines, a GSD&M client, people do not work there to make Herb Kelleher rich. They work there so that people can travel to their destinations for business or personal reasons. I don’t recall where the story came from but here’s how a father, a Southwest Airlines employee, explains to his daughter why he needs to work on Thanksgiving. “If daddy didn’t go to work, many families wouldn’t be able to fly around the country and be with their loved ones. Without daddy doing his job, little kids all across the country wouldn’t get to see their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, or any of their cousins. Daddy has to go to work to make sure everyone can be with their families”. The employee in this story is a Southwest Airlines ramp agent.
At Starbucks in 2007 they lost their “soul”, according to Howard Schultz, their returned CEO. Analysts, of course, blamed their demise on lower price coffee options from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. The Starbucks turnaround came after they realized that growth, at the expense of customer experience, was the real culprit. In effect they reclaimed what they “stood for”… their purpose … their “why”.
Purpose shifts a context of work. People know the truth and they respond positively to contributing to a cause beyond themselves. Purpose connects us with the emotional, limbic, part of the brain. Leadership just has to be on purpose … just like Pollard Kelleher and Shultz. Working for leadership that “gets it” makes higher employee performance “worth it”.Tags: employee inspiration, heart of leadership
Post Categories: Culture