Any organization can and will thrive if the people are happy, motivated, capable of independent work, and have a strong passion and belief of importance. But even a formerly great organization can kick the bucket if the motivation dies or is destroyed by bad leadership.
The most important tool to build a high performing organization is leadership which focuses on removing obstacles which would prevent growth and good atmosphere. The single biggest obstacle is fear, which I wrote about earlier. And that fear should be uprooted from the organizational soil first thing. Nothing grows in a land of fear.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
In the following I have listed the other noxious elements that prevent organizations to thrive. After each problem there is a solution offered.
Lack of communication and transparency“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
Solution: Communicate! What is the direction? Where are we, what is happening, what has been decided, who has decided, who can decide and what?
Transparency should pass through everything in a modern up-to-date organization. Information that is not free creates rumors and destroys trust.
Feeling of separation
Solution: As mentioned in my earlier post, we humans are tribal mammals, and that is why it is very important for us that we feel being part of the tribe. When we feel fellowship we are more willing to help. Wise leaders tear down silos, glass roofs and help people feel being part of one big family. Easy tricks are to have lunches, parties, sports evenings and personal discussions.
Lack of respect“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything – for better or for worse.”
Solution: Every normal human needs approval. The need varies from individual to individual, but only those who are emotionally twisted (I.e. psychopaths and narcissists) do not crave for acceptance. The bigger the status of person who gives feedback the bigger the emotional reward. Simple words to increase the feeling of respect is to say publicly “thank you, you did an awesome job with that project/thing X. It really made a difference to have you in the team!” If you want to be an ever better leader, consider also hugging* the person you just praised. That will release oxytocin which is so called “love hormone” and bonds people together.
* be beware of the cultural rules, sometimes shaking hands does the job.
No rewards from high performance“Money is not the only answer, but it makes a difference.”
Solution: Every organization that aims for high performance has a reward system. This is essential, because the best players want to see in their bank account how their efforts are rewarded. This rewarding mechanism should be as transparent as possible and allow everyone to join. If there is no financial rewarding mechanism or it is unfair, trust me, high performers will leave when given possibility. If they are not leaving, they are not high performers and the organization never had one to recognize such.
Unclear goals and job descriptions
Solution: Most people value highly the situation where they know why they are hired and what they were hired to do. So it is the leader’s responsibility to communicate what is expected, set the KPI (key performance indicators for job) and agree about it with the employee. This can drastically improve the output as well as job satisfaction.
Solution: Even the best possible expert can get frustrated and unmotivated if the tools or the time for the work are undersized. There are no shortcuts here: if the organization want’s best possible results, it needs to give enough time and the best tools available. If that is not possible, it is best to scale expectations down and prepare to watch when competitors take over the market.
No possibility to improve in expertise or to develop in career path
“If you look really closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”
Solution: High performing organizations make sure they have the best people around and that those people stay the best and motivated. That is why for example Google has allowed people to use 20% of their time to make their own projects and learn new skills. That sure is one of the reasons why Google is one of the most, if not the most, innovative corporation in the world.
No feedback“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
Solution: Give feedback and learn to know how the individual is capable to digest it without turning it as a negative issue. In short there are three kinds of people:
– People who only want to hear good news. Occasionally upper level executives under too much pressure, people who have low self esteem or those few who suffer from rare personality disorders.
– People who can handle also constructive feedback if that is served appropriately and accompanied with something nice. Most people belong to this group.
– People who seem to not give a shit about positive feedback but lust for educational feedback to ensure fast growth. These kinds of people are very rare, almost non-existent, there is no big ego to prevent growth.
No possibility TO give feedback
Solution: Arrange regular (monthly) one-to-one sessions and work environment surveys with option to suggest how things could be done smarter.
It is as important to give a chance to give feedback as it is to get one. Great places to work allow possibility and a forum for honest feedback without being afraid of punishment. Never try to bury possible issues that come to your attention.
Too many and STRICT processes
“Everything that is not forbidden, should be regulated.”
Anonymous Finnish government official
Solution: Processes might make things easy, but what they also do is that they drain the creativity from the work. Sure some guidelines are OK, but they should support the work rather than restrict it. The more people are given freedom to be independent the more they are willing to give for the work. Study also say that 91% of people consider themselves to be more productive when given more freedom to decide when and where to work from. To allow remote working is one of the best ways to increase happiness in an individual.
Lack of trust
“It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.” Confucius
Solution: No human relationship can excel without trust. It is extremely important to know that there is a place to come tomorrow despite of the possible challenges. Never ever should an employee or even a leader get punished for making an unintentional mistake. That will kill creativity. Not only for the person punished, but for the entire team or even organization. Such organization will pretty soon experience motivation deprivation as well as talented people starting to look for better places to work.
In my following posts I will go into more detail on how to create trust and fellowship. These two key elements are the foundation of any great place to work.
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