By: Heidi Pozzo
You know that “buzz” you feel when you walk into a business where things are happening. You can feel the energy in the air. Things get done: right, quickly, with intention. That’s the feel of a high performing business. When you peel back the onion, you’ll typically find that the organization is performing well financially, people are having fun and things are clicking. It’s not an accident. Hard work and constant focus go into making the organization successful. And there’s no mistaking – business is all about people, no matter what industry, harnessing the power of the people is the key to success. To do that, three people focused aspects must be in place:
- Getting and Keeping the Right People on the Bus
- A Culture for Success
Leaders are the rudder in the organization. They set the tone and strategy. They get people excited about being part of the organization, performing their best, learning and growing and delivering outstanding goods or services to the customer.
- Leaders are responsible for setting the strategy and focus of the organization. Leaders define the who, what and how of the organization. But it isn’t enough to just define it, everyone in the organization needs to “get it” and live it every day. It must be so well understood that people know what it means to be successful – for the organization and for the person. A strong performance planning process takes the vision/strategy and links it to the goals of the organization in the short and long term and translates those goals into specific goals for each person. When done well, people “get it” and live it.
- Keeping the bar high and constantly moving forward with a sense of urgency. With the bar high, people are constantly pushing to see and capture new possibilities and opportunities. The pace and successes feel energizing to the people in the organization. And the pace keeps the organization moving at a rate to outperform competitors. Everyone wants to be on a winning team and this approach keeps the people and organization winning.
- As a leader you are responsible for the well being of the people in your organization. The decisions you make not only impact the course of the organization, but they also have an impact on the lives of the people who work there. Strong leaders understand this implicitly and always look to make the organization and the people better off, self evaluate and attempt to take their own ego out of the equation.
- Leaders are constantly visible and accessible to the organization. Getting out, walking around, connecting and hearing what people have to say are so critically important to ensuring the organization is operating well. There is no substitute for seeing a leader walking through the organization and connecting with the people. Whatever you do, make sure part of every week is devoted to walking around.
Getting and Keeping the Right People on the Bus
Attracting and retaining the right people is critical to the success of an organization. The right people can lift the organization to new heights. The wrong people can drag it down. With the right people in place, problems get fixed and the organization moves forward. It seems natural when you see it working well. But it takes a lot of work to get and keep the right people on the bus:
- The right combination of skills and attributes needs to be identified based on the focus and strategy of the organization. Each company is different – has different strategies, focus and needs. So it should be no surprise that the needs of skills and attributes is different for each company. Finding the right balance of what exists today and the future needs based on the strategy of the organization should inform who is hired and when.
- A combination of people who think and act strategically and tactically are needed for the organization to be successful. Depending on the size of the organization, the number of people needed with each mindset will vary. In all cases, it is necessary to have people who can translate strategy into tactics. This enables each person to connect their role into what the organization is trying to accomplish.
- Expectations should be set and continual feedback provided. Everyone should know what is expected from them, how they fit into the organization and how they are performing against expectations. This isn’t an annual meeting, but rather a constant dialogue between two people. If done right, it should be inspiring to all because there is positive reinforcement for what is going right, course corrections for what isn’t, and removal of obstacles to being successful. It also helps everyone participate in the direction of the company, and share and implement ideas.
- Problems should be dealt with quickly. Unfortunately, there will be people who underperform from time to time for a variety of reasons. Your people are watching how this is handled because everyone can see when underperformance is happening. How you deal with it will set the tone on what is tolerated in the organization and what is not. It also tells your people how you treat people. Getting this one right is critical.
A Culture for Success
The culture of an organization is critically important in keeping people moving toward the goals of the organization. It impacts how people get their work done, how quickly, how they feel when doing it and the experience your customers have when interacting with the organization. When thinking of a strong culture, the following dimensions should be in place:
- People are empowered to do the right thing. We’ve all had experiences going into a business where the person we interacted with took a problem and fixed it quickly. And based on that, many times it creates a long-term customer. And when bad experiences happen, a customer is lost. When the people are empowered to do the right thing, job satisfaction is higher and going to work every day is much more exciting.
- Leaders and managers sing from the same sheet of music (aka the importance of communicating consistently). Remember that game of telephone where someone starts a message through the chain and it comes out the other end completely different from how it started? This happens every day in business and is only countered by consistent, frequent, deliberate efforts to get a consistent message through the organization. High performing companies do this frequently and well.
- Innovation comes from everywhere. Good ideas can come from any area of the company, but only when the people feel empowered to bring ideas forward. Are there avenues to do so in your company? How are people treated when suggestions are made?
- A culture of learning is in place. Let’s face it, we all make mistakes or have failures at one point or another. And making mistakes or failing is ok as long as the approach was thought through and lessons are learned. The best way to have an underperforming culture is to punish people who try something new, with the best of intentions, who have given thought to risks, etc. High performing cultures encourage taking calculated risks as long as it is done the right way and lessons are learned. Does your organization have a culture of learning?
- It is easy to get things done. High performing organizations keep it simple and get rid of overcomplicated, bureaucratic stuff. The things that make it hard for employees and customers to do business are addressed quickly and streamlined to make the experience good for everyone. Not to mention, it reduces the cost of doing business. Is it hard to get things done in your business?
Business is about people. All three people related aspects – leadership, getting and keeping the right people on the bus, and a culture for success – must be in place for an organization to be successful. Is your organization all about people? Can you feel it in the air when you walk around? You’ll know it when you are there. And if you aren’t, it’s never too late to make your business all about people.
Copyright © Heidi Pozzo.
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Heidi Pozzo is a strategy and performance improvement consultant. She has helped transform businesses by connecting the people in the company to the strategy, resulting in significant increases in earnings and business value. To find out more about her services,
or call 360-355-7862.