Managing the performance of our organisations is very often at the top of the agenda for most leadership teams; the numbers, metrics, league tables, targets, forecasts and plethora of other measures often dominate board reports and discussions. Is this the best approach for you and your team?
The importance of any organisations ‘numbers’ should not be underestimated, focusing on revenue, managing costs and improving customer satisfaction are essential for sustained and profitable business in any sector. So when a new leader takes up position should they prioritise the quantitative measures above the development of their new team? Increasingly, research as well as my own experience, is demonstrating the power of a Developmental Mindset and how this might trump the more traditional Performance Mindset.
It would be easy, if not anticipated, that a new leader will focus on the numbers first…specifically the areas which are broken or breaking to put short term fixes in place whilst planning for more permanent action. However, jumping in to action too soon can often lead to disappointment, failed change and a repeat of the results seen in the past. Preparation for change is often an overlooked stage in organisational change and project management, we respond best when we have both the will and the pathway of change matched with a belief in our ability to deliver…so how do we build that belief in ourselves and in our teams?
One approach is to focus on the development of our leaders, managers and team members. A simple and telling question we can ask is ‘how much of your ability does this organisation allow you to use?’ If you get a response of greater than 50% you are doing better than average…but there is still room for growth and improvement. And it is available without the need for more resources…it is about making the most of what you have.
So where does it begin? In my experience and repeatedly seen in my latest research project, it begins with really caring for your organisation and then listening intently to the people who know your organisation best…your staff. “The wisdom of an organisation is in the team” reported one executive, we took time to be visible, walk the walk and really listen to the ideas of those on the frontline. Sometimes great ideas had been tried, and failed, before…so these leaders asked why they stopped doing the ‘great idea’…nearly always the answers was the lack of leadership commitment to the change. So guess what happened…the staff stopped speaking up and suggesting improvements.
‘We cannot do everything, we just don’t have the time or budget’ reported one leader, but he continued ‘we always report back and explain why a decision has been made and thank staff for the contribution’. “Seeking feedback, generating ideas and most importantly, understanding what great performance looks like” has been central to our development reported another executive.
When asking how to create the conditions for a Developmental Mindset to take hold I heard time and time again how listening was at the heart of it. Listening to the stories and describing the moments when our staff were most proud of themselves we identified the things we needed to do as leaders to support the team. The leaders’ challenge is therefore to create the conditions and environment where people can be proud and find meaning in their work. The results, numbers and metrics then follow behind.
In short if we strive to achieve results above all else then we may lose meaning and fail to bring our staff with us. However, if we strive for meaning and develop our people we will find that results follow in orbit.
Action Learning: Listening wholeheartedly takes practice, who can you give your undivided attention to today?
Avoid: Waiting can often be a substitute for listening, where we are waiting to speak rather than really listening
This blog is being written as I analyse and explore the components of wholehearted leadership as part of a research project based on positive organisational performance. If you are interested in wholehearted leadership or how organisations can achieve positive performance in vulnerable times then I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reading & References:
Bolier, B., Haverman, M., Westerhof, G.J., Riper, H., Smit, F. and Bohlmeijer, E. (2013) Positive psychology interventions: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. BMC Public Health 13:119.
MacBeth, A., & Gumley, A. (2012). Exploring compassion: A meta-analysis of the association. In Neff, K.D. & Dahm K.A. (2014) Self-compassion: What it is, what is does, and how it relates to mindfulness. Mindfulness and Self-Regulation. Springer
Prochaska, J. A. & Norcross, J. C. & Diclemente, C. C (1994) Changing for good: A revolutionary six-stage program for overcoming bad habit and moving your life positively forward. William Morrow
Snyder C, R. (2000) Handbook of HOPE: Theory, Measures and Applications. Academic Press
Weller, D (2015) Positive Organisational Performance in a Vulnerable Context. In production, completion expected September 2015. Bucks New University MSc Applied Positive Psychology.