What Really Drives Success
Before you can get value from reading this article you’ll need to make a decision: Do you believe we live in a cause-and-effect world?
This is not a trick question. Have you, at the core of your being, fully accepted the belief that:
- The heat of the sun causes the evaporation and the effect is the hydrologic cycle?
- Gravity (although invisible) causes objects to accelerate toward the center of the earth?
- Business results are the effects of specific actions?
Because if you believe those things are true you must also believe your organization (and your life) is perfectly designed to produce the results you currently experience. And if you believe that, then you just might agree that only a non-rational human (or organization) would spend time, effort and resources on activities that will not advance them toward the Purpose, Mission and Goals they’ve chosen for themselves.
So now I’ve called your organization non-rational – not a great way to begin, but hopefully now I have your attention. It is my premise that to build a great company and a great life we need to eliminate as much non-rational behavior as possible. The problem as I see it, is rooted in the human dilemma of enjoying activities that feel good in the short run even if we know at some level they will not produce the results we want in the long run. I’m not saying work can’t be fun. In fact I’m saying just the opposite. As leaders we need to find ways of making work more engaging and fulfilling. I’m saying we would be enjoying better results if we focused attention on removing those things that interfere with the naturally satisfying and engaging elements work does have to offer.
Think for a moment about the last time you had a truly great day at work. I bet you were working on something important and you made meaningful progress that day. I also bet the reverse is true on your bad days… your day was consumed by interruptions or unimportant activities or you experienced setbacks on important projects.
More and more leaders are coming to understand that the quality of a person’s results and their enthusiasm for their work are directly related to the regular progress they are able to make toward meaningful goals. This suggests that people are not the problem. Instead, the work environment, the importance and clarity of a person’s responsibilities and the availability and appropriateness of tools and support processes are the real “cause” of the results being produced.
- Do all your people know exactly what is expected of them and why it is important?
- Do they have the tools, resources and processes they need to do their job?
- Do they have an easy and obvious way of knowing when they are winning?
- Does their work environment reflect their core values and beliefs about collaboration, excellence and professionalism?
Over the past 20 years I’ve had the good fortune to work with 31 companies who consciously worked to improve their culture and work environments. They did not attempt to change their people. Time after time productivity and engagement improved quickly. In every case, people who you would have guessed were on their way out re-engaged and became productive.
Not everyone enjoys an environment where people step up, make promises to one another and hold each other to high levels of accountability. In every company I worked with there were people who left the organization to find a job where daily progress wasn’t part of the expectation, but by and large, people prefer an environment in which the way you show up matters.
To really drive success in your organization you can get started by trying these few things:
- Design your company from the perspective of functional roles and responsibilities and not by job descriptions and traditional org charts.
- Spend the time to understand why each function is important and communicate why it is important and how it serves its purpose to the organization.
- Evaluate how well the activities that drive the functional results (use leading performance drivers as opposed to lagging) are actually working. Are they effective? Do they make sense? Do they drive results?
- Give people the responsibility and freedom to improve their jobs over and over and over.
- Give everyone an easy way to keep score.
- Track the setbacks your people are experiencing and move heaven and earth to eliminate them.
- Hire people you can trust and then trust them. Checking in is OK. Checking up means something is wrong with your trust level.
- Create the environment that allows everyone to be successful and manage that instead of the people you hire into it.
These ideas are just the beginning of your journey and they all stem from the realization that it would be non-rational to place people in a poorly conceived environment without clarity of purpose, without accountability and without the tools and supports to do their job and then complain about the results they produce.
People want to be great and produce great results. If that’s not happening we have to train ourselves to see that effect and realize it is we who are the cause!
Written by Bill Mills, CEO of Executive Group
The purpose of Executive Group is to help business owners dominate their niche market by becoming indispensable to their customers.