“Proper preparation prevents poor performance” (British Army adage)
More than ever before, there is pressure on businesses to ensure that their respective assets (people, intellectual property, products and machines) deliver real results. As cash is not as readily available as a decade or so ago, companies are forced to refocus energy on business efficiency, sustainable processes and waste reduction to optimise business yield and maximise profits. Focus is being given to squeeze suppliers for maximum discounts. Supply chain is under constant scrutiny. Sales teams find themselves operating with mounting pressure from executives to perform. The staff complement is expected to produce more with less, with little or no reward as a motivator. The business environment is stretched to the point of being stressed, with burn-out and failure as potential outcomes.
In order to survive and even thrive, businesses need to gear up for great results. “Gear up” implies a strategy that is implemented consistently, even ruthlessly, over an extended period to change the way the company views its approach to what it does and aligns behaviour accordingly. Great results find their origins in great preparation – this preparation requires focus on the following issues:
- The development of a transparent culture – a culture built on values which managers uphold. This cultural environment is all important to set the tone for expected behaviour and to develop respect within the workplace. The culture is also a reminder and motivator regarding the performance expectations and the way employees should go about achieving the company goals.
- The establishment of an effective communications framework – the various ways that information gets imparted within the organisation, top-down, bottom-up and laterally between departments. This communication should include constant expression of the vision, mission, values, standards and goals of the company, customer feedback, recognition of achievements, progress reports, etc.
- A dedicated application of sustainability, improvement and performance systems – the implementation of systems such as: leadership standards (expected leadership behaviours), performance management, recognition and reward, feedback (two-way) and continuous improvement think-tanks. These system consistencies focus the full staff complement on what is considered important to the company.
- The design and construction of relevant scoreboards – these should be visual, preferably real-time and directly related to specific production, behaviour or customer satisfaction targets. All employees need to know how well they are doing.
- The consistent development of people – this does not only refer to training, but also involves information-sharing, exposure to other contexts, skills development plans, continuing education, job-shadowing, career discussions, coaching, succession plans, mentorship, etc.
- A rigorous discipline of being present as a leader – not just a physical presence, but the establishment of emotional connections with employees. Vision is caught, not taught – leaders need to demonstrate (live out) the company’s vision in everyday behaviour and communication. Leaders also should listen a lot to model care.
- The practice of having fun – not only organised fun events, but the ability and practice of making work fun, planning meetings in fun ways, laughing a lot, finding creative ways of thanking customers for their loyalty, showing appreciation uniquely, celebrating significant events with staff, etc. The message here is that you belong as an employee and we enjoy having you on board.
Gearing up for great results requires proper preparation by leaders – designing, creating and implementing a culture of integrity, vision, hope and performance excellence. This culture should value and reward contribution, involvement, participation, performance and innovation.