Studies continue to demonstrate the benefits of having a corporate culture centered around things OTHER than wages and perks. Sure, these things are important, but they do not inspire and probably should not be the focus. Of course, things like trust and respect go a long way as well, but if we truly desire an inspirational and productive organization, we need something else.
That special something revolves around three basic ideas. It is all about competence, autonomy, and connection. It is critical to give the employee the autonomy necessary to get their tasks completed, the time and training required to help them master their craft and prepare for advancement, and above all else, to ensure that they are intimately attached to both the purpose of the organization and the importance of their roles. However, this is usually a process and must be achieved in steps.
Competence is the ability to do something effectively or efficiently. There is no doubt that having competence benefits both the worker and the organization. However, organizational leaders must remember that such competence often derives from continual development, failure, and practice. This is especially true for new leaders. To expedite this part, I will always advocate the importance of professional leadership development conducted by a true leadership professional and the time needed to practice the skills learned during such programs. After all, a trained and practiced leader is a better leader. However, while necessary, we must understand that competence merely sets the stage for the other components.
For example, autonomy is often earned as it is usually the result of competence. When workers are skilled, properly trained, and practiced, they are more apt to be trusted. This trust usually results in more autonomy. Or, at least, it should. Conversely, it would make little sense to place blanket trust and autonomy into the hands of a worker who is not properly trained and practiced.
Motivation is often a mystery for organizational leaders. However, the motivation element does not have to be the enigma it is usually made out to be. We just have to understand what inspires our teams. Having or establishing a strong sense of purpose is vital for proper motivation, but this is also often overlooked. Understand that connection, or purpose, helps to achieve the necessary motivation to train, practice, fail with grace, and continue moving in the desired direction despite any setbacks.
Ask yourself the following questions. Why does the organization exist? Where is the organization trying to go? What does success look like when we get there? Does my team understand what we are trying to accomplish? Do they believe in what we are trying to accomplish?
When an organization has a strong focus on the vision (or purpose) and then hires, trains, communicates, and operates in accordance with that vision specifically, then cultures change, and productivity increases across the board. Best of all, and when approached this way, those unnecessary things that we often do are soon replaced with things that “move the needle,” and those who do not believe in the vision tend to go away and are replaced with those who do believe.
When our organization is comprised of people who support the vision, we get higher degrees of motivation and productivity. If you move the needle, you get things done. If you are getting things done, you are making significant progress. When such progress is made, people feel great about their efforts, and the organization wins.
As leaders, we just have to remember that “progress” should be measured against the vision. When the emphasis is on the vision, changes are better endured, innovations are embraced, and organizations are more apt to reach the desired destination. However, this approach also requires workers to fully understand the strategic importance of their role in pursuing that grander vision. From top to bottom, every worker must have a strong understanding of why their role is critical to achieving the vision. The benefit of making this clear to the worker is practically immeasurable.
Like a pro athlete or team who desires the championship, employees who understand their role’s strategic significance tend to want to improve or perfect their performance (competence). Training and development efforts are embraced. The importance of practice is understood, and that practice is pursued – even on their own time. Moreover, employees who connect with that vision work harder and will often work outside their job descriptions because they believe in where the organization is going or what the organization or team is trying to achieve. Using the football analogy, the lineman will pick up the ball and run with it when it lands at their feet, despite not being a running back or receiver. Why? Because they know where the goal is and want to achieve the win just as much as everyone else.
Conversely, the athlete or worker without the necessary training and without a clearly defined vision will merely go through the motions and only work so hard because the reward is the paycheck or perk, not the destination. Think about what that might result in. Average or mediocre performance results in a reduction in autonomy and trust, which often results in increased compliance measures by the organization. The long-term impact will likely be unhappy and unfulfilled workers who receive mediocre reviews and an organizational culture revolving around compliance instead of vision. Such a culture would result in higher turnover, reduced productivity, and slower progress or even stagnation.
Leaders choose which result becomes their reality. Unfortunately, too many organizations make the mistake of focusing almost entirely on the mission (the how). I would caution against this. Remember, vision is where we are going, and mission is how we get there. In my opinion, your mission is worthless without a solid vision.
When driving to a destination, you often do not dwell on the vehicle you are driving. Instead, the focus is on the destination itself. Knowing the destination allows you to navigate the detours, the rough roads, the pit stops, and the overnighters. Moreover, when you have a destination (vision) and get lost, it is much easier to find your way back, ask for directions, or even choose other means of transportation to get you there. However, if you are driving with no destination in mind or find yourself focused entirely on the car itself, then you are simply cruising, and any inconvenience makes you want to quit and go home. The same is true for our people and organizations.
Be vision-oriented. Hire, train, communicate, and operate in accordance with that vision. You will find more accuracies, more efficiencies, and more consistencies in the pursuit of that vision. Seek to ensure competence, autonomy, and connection for your people. If you do, you will inspire both your teams and the communities your organization serves. Best of all, you might actually reach your destination and realize your vision.