Hearing the phrase “I’m just doing my job” should bring heartache to every leader. It will tell you that your leadership efforts are failing to engage with those working within and with your business. Talent and energy are not being drawn to the forefront, and potential performance is being wasted.
Active Knowledge Question:
Does there exist in your business an expectation of participation and contribution enabled by the competitive engine of your business?
How would you describe the culture within your business when it comes to participation and contribution? What expectations exist throughout your entire business?
An everyday cultural norm around participation and contribution is that it is determined by remuneration, which usually relates to seniority and role. The higher your position, the greater your reward, therefore, the more the business expects from you. However, in many industries those persons at the lower end of the pay scale are expected to contribute more effort than those in far more senior positions; the effort-reward formula is not necessarily equitable.
Of course, ‘effort’ is a broad term and must include such elements as hours worked, responsibilities assumed, stress (physical, mental, emotional), risk, qualifications and experience required, and many other factors. The balancing of which elements should attract greater rewards is one that could be strongly debated. But in business it typically comes down to perceived contribution to profit.
The key point being that culturally effort is related to $. The downside is that money is a very poor performance enabler in businesses. Money as the prime reward tends to bring out all the wrong traits in people and degrades rather than uplifts business performance.
Business performance is not just what profit you made this year, against budget, but is better considered in terms of capability to perform. Did your business perform at its best, or did it drop the ball? Was it competitive?
When thinking about competitiveness, always bear in mind that core competitive strength lies in the combined effort and talent of everyone working within and with your business. And the role of leadership is to muster that core strength to the forefront.
What cultural expectation would support leadership’s task of mustering support? Maybe something along the lines of ‘the best working with the best at their best’, ‘better every day’, ‘every person’s contribution valued and important’.
If an attitude of ‘well what else can you expect’ exists when it comes to participation in your business, then you can be assured that performance will never reach its potential. There may well be many capable people with great ideas and a lot more to contribute, who simply won’t bother.
To create a culture in which everyone feels invited to contribute their best requires an uplifting of the individual over bureaucracy, self-interest, and what I would describe as paradigms or mindsets.
You need to change the culture within your business, and the starting point is to remove the barriers that tell people do not bother to contribute, it won’t be recognised nor rewarded:
- Bureaucracy can be a tool of command and control and designed to empower top-down authority rather than uplift individual participation.
- Self-interest refers to the leader or person who places their interests ahead of others and the business.
- Paradigms can be described in many ways but are simply mindsets, beliefs, managerial frameworks, conventional industry wisdom or assumptions; not all paradigms are bad but all must be regularly challenged.
Simple guiding principles succinctly expressed and empowered within your business will guide every person to contribute to the performance of your business consistent with the strategy you have set.
As you move along the journey of opening the doors for people to really contribute and participate in the performance of your business, you will find yourself changing expectations, removing barriers to contribution and finally establishing what I would describe as a calling to others to take up a challenge.
And the keyword here is ‘challenge’; the opportunity to contribute, participate, give something of yourself into something worthwhile, succeed, and feel pride in your effort.
If you truly want to allow your business to perform at a level you never thought possible, then you need to allow every person to contribute their best, and that will only occur if expectations are set, barriers are removed, and the offer (the calling) is made available.
In every business, there is a competitive engine that sets the floor and ceiling to that business’s competitiveness and its performance. Here is a brief outline of some of the elements of that engine, which will unleash performance in your business:
- Purpose And Motive – if your business’s purpose is to serve a customer need and your motive as a business is to compete, and not to profiteer, then your entire rationale for existence fights against barriers forming and calls for everyone to contribute.
- Worthy Leadership – Worthy leadership by definition places the customer and the business ahead of any aspects of self-interest. It seeks to select leaders whose character traits push back against the emergence of bureaucracy, self-interest, and paradigms.
- Culture And The Identity Of Success – The culture of the business and the way it has defined success will, if correctly set, encourage everyone to contribute their best efforts.
- Customer Focus – Customer focus places the customer first, which sets the benchmark for all decisions and narrows the space for someone to promote themselves forward if they are not the best or right choice.
- Strategy And Simple Guiding Principles – The simple guiding principles emerging from your strategy reflect the ‘basic laws’ of your competitive posture, which, if set correctly, will guide everyone’s efforts and contributions.
Imagine your business if everyone knew exactly how to invest in making that business more competitively fit. And they knew that their contribution and participation was not only welcomed, recognised and acknowledged but openly called for. The performance of your business would lift to a level you never thought possible. Stop accepting what may have become the norm, remove the barriers and allow individuals to bring success into their lives by being enabled to contribute to the success of the business in which they work.
An entirely new level of performance.
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All the best in the success of your business,