In order to succeed in the business world, leaders must learn how to address the ambiguity in the workplace, navigate challenges, “win” their transitions and achieve a level of performance.
It all requires a seriousness of thought and measure of belief, the optimistic quotient again, that your future can be an even better version of your past and that you have some measure of control on what it will look like. In other words, there are no accidents when it comes to your desired future performance state. It is purposeful, well defined, and actionable. Most leaders embrace this ideology — or they wouldn’t be leaders. They have confidence and experience to know that their inputs matter and define the ultimate outputs and results of the company. Again, it goes back to purpose and intentionality. It is not doing something just to do it, but doing something on purpose with the end game in mind.
Through our work and research, Deutser has identified 11 levers that together will shift the organization toward positivity and drive performance. We work with leaders to identify the best ways to pull these levers to make an impact inside their unique organizations.
These 11 levers have power and bring results. Yet, it is not only the lever itself that brings about positive change, but it is also the calibration in the deployment of the lever. There is a level of work that looks pretty good, but is merely an effort that is being compliant. In other words, they are “fine.” Things go along and don’t cause problems. They bring results that are “good enough.” They check the boxes of requirement and they mostly keep things humming along with occasional high fives. But good is the enemy of great and if you want a lever to bring change, you have to move from being compliant with efforts that look or seem like the effort is there, to committed, where your very being is invested in both the endeavor and the expectation of impact. Although to the rest of the world, compliant looks like you are accomplishing something, we identify it for what it is — checking boxes and underperforming. Whereas, with commitment, we appropriately recognize it for creating impact.
Below are the 11 levers that drive impact. Each lever includes a description of what it looks like when you are only in compliance with them. The key is to understand the impact you can and want to achieve. Are you being compliant or being committed?
Compliant companies are conducting annual surveys to assess organizational awareness, understanding, and engagement. However, more and more, leaders believe conducting the survey is enough — rarely sharing the results back to their employees in a meaningful way. Employees invest the time, but are not sure their voice is heard. Other companies choose to invest efforts on the front end of the research process by incentivizing employees to participate, rather than the back end where they are genuinely interested in the employee insights and then sharing results.
Compliant companies and leadership teams set a vision for the organization. However, the vision is rarely articulated clearly, defined, or shared with the organization, or aligned with its mission and values. It is often a lofty set of goals that are disconnected with the organization’s core.
Compliant organizations place emphasis on the creation of an often-robust plan. It becomes a once-every-one-to-three-year exercise, often for compliance or board requirements. The plan, rather than the planning, becomes the focus, leaving the organization with a static document rarely tethered to organizational goals and actions. Many compliant plans have limited accountability measures attached.
Compliant organizations believe in their people and invest energy in the furtherance of their values. They use the values in posters and messaging, and many times carry badges listing them. Compliant companies often weight knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) over behaviors in their hiring and development processes. Some companies unintentionally allow competing models across the organization and do not link behaviors and values.
Compliant organizations believe in structure and work to create clarity around the reporting relationships throughout the company. However, in many companies, organizational charts don’t match people’s roles, responsibilities, or influence. Many org charts are constructed on top of an inherited organizational structure creating a “frankenstructure,” with little organizational understanding or clarity. Compliant organizations build boxes to fit the people and their skills.
Compliant organizations work to ensure employee performance through a series of tools, including some among the most sophisticated software programs available. These companies confuse the systems and software with the act of truly driving and measuring employee performance. Some organizations mistake performance management for an annual performance review and traditional top-down processes.
Compliant organizations work to recognize and reward employees on a regular basis. There is talk among leadership about recognition and reward, with much of it tied to general performance. Many companies provide end of year bonuses based on unclear metrics or overly complex structures. Many of the most compliant companies place greater emphasis on reward over recognition. Other organizations limit their efforts because of budgetary constraints (often not included in the annual budget).
Compliant organizations invest in creating an office environment to support its external brand and engagement efforts. They are often well appointed, more generic spaces. These spaces are often disconnected from the culture and more focused on the customer perspective rather than the employee experience. These spaces, which are often less than authentic from an organizational perspective, have generic artwork and some even employ motivational messaging for the back- office employees. This creates inconsistency and a divide in the organization.
Compliant companies place great effort into communications. They have newsletters, videos, and other web-based tools. They focus on delivering the message du jour, rarely linking it to organizational strategies and priorities or taking into account the manner in which it is received by employees. They value communicating over engaging. They focus on different messages to different audiences, often with an obsession on the external customer.
Compliant companies focus on the customer experience with a variety of tools. Many place a heavy emphasis on one or two key touch points at the expense of all others. There is a lack of focus on the totality that a touch point on a customer, internal or external, will have with the organization. This produces an inconsistent understanding of the customer, an uneven narrative, and an unfulfilled experience.
Compliant leaders spend time and effort spinning a positive story, regardless of the facts or situation. They go out of their way to incorporate lines and key phrases in memos, presentations, and speeches. Their words and energy can be perceived as disingenuous if not embedded in their actions, organization, or leadership style. Compliant organizations have C-level leaders who embrace positivity, while others below them do not. Gratitude is not encouraged or practiced throughout the organization.
These 11 levers together will have a demonstrable impact on moving your organization toward positivity and propelling performance. In fact, this is one of the areas, as a leader, that you have a choice between being compliant or being committed. Where you land on this spectrum goes a far way in the ultimate impact you can drive. The intentionality of impact is real — and so too is the leader’s role in achieving it.Excerpted fromLeading Clarity: The Breakthrough Strategy to Unleash PEOPLE, PROFIT, and PERFORMANCE (Wiley, April 3, 2018).