In business, we can reach a state of FLOW wherein our People, Processes, and Technology efficiently work together.
Achieving optimal FLOW requires that you seek out and cultivate the potential in each of these areas. But, it always starts and ends with activating the potential in people.
In my career, I have worked with 3 influential leadership gurus that have influenced and shaped how we activate the potential in people at EIT. Their expertise is not isolated to a management style, rather they focus on enterprise solutions that affect how your business activates people on three different levels.
- The Culture. Hubert Joly teaches us why defining your company’s mission as a, “Noble Purpose,” engages and energizes your employees, and gives meaning to their work.
- The Leadership. Bill Adams tells us how leaders can encourage their workers, and invest in their personal and professional development, to activate the whole person.
- The Individuals. Craig Ross assures us that people want to be great and explains how teams can create an environment that fosters greatness in themselves and others.
Discussions around a business’ culture tend to focus on behaviors and mindsets. These discussions are important, and we’ll talk about them later. However, your time is often better spent defining your company’s mission and purpose.
The way a company talks about its mission reframes the way people think about that company. Former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, discusses this in his book, The Heart of Business.
Before his tenure as CEO, Best Buy framed its mission around selling electronics. This makes sense on its face, Best Buy is a consumer electronics retailer after all. But, shortly after Joly entered the company, Best Buy reframed its mission. Best Buy now strives to, “enrich customers lives through technology.” Joly refers to this as Best Buy’s, “Noble Purpose.” It is the way the company benefits people and the ultimate reason why it exists.
This change may not seem significant at first. Yet, Joly was able to harness this Noble Purpose to energize Best Buy’s employees. This ultimately helped pull the company from the brink of bankruptcy.
Why was this so successful? Because re-framing the company’s mission gave meaning to employees’ work.
According to Joly, “A clear purpose is not just a strategic tool. To be effective, it must also inspire and guide.” Best Buy’s Noble Purpose inspired employees to engage with their work, enabling them to reach their full potential.
In short, giving people a meaningful mission positions them to achieve their potential. That begins when a company has a culture dedicated to pursuing a purpose beyond profit.
Many companies claim that their goals lie with real human interests. Yet, that message will fall on deaf ears if leadership sends a different message through its actions.
Many employees have horror stories of working for companies that were people centric in theory, but toxic in practice. This is why leadership that lives out the people-centric culture they espouse is a necessity.
In Mastering Leadership, William A. Adams, along with Robert J. Anderson, argue that:
“Employees expect that leaders will draw forth their inherent potential- the hidden talent, discretionary energy, and passion that people put into their work – by creating a culture where people thrive, strive to contribute, and are valued for their contribution.”
This first involves making it clear to employees how they contribute to the company’s Noble Purpose that we discussed earlier. Let’s return to Best Buy and consider a salesperson. What if they haven’t connected their work in the showroom to the company’s mission of enriching people’s lives through technology? They may default to simply pushing the most expensive product for the sake of better sales numbers.
Even if they manage to make the sale then, those customers will likely buy from somewhere else in the future. Worse yet, after the thrill of a few big sales wears off, they will likely disengage from their seemingly pointless job.
However, imagine that the salesperson’s manager explains how their job is all about helping people find technology that meets their needs. Not only are you going to have satisfied customers, you will have a salesperson who shows up to their job excited to help others.
Besides this, leadership must prove that they value their employees. This goes beyond affirming words and handing out bonuses at the end of the year (although both those things are important as well). This involves committing to helping your employees achieve their goals.
This might look like sitting down with a young professional and helping them improve their resume. It might look like going to HR with a soon-to-be parent to ensure they are getting the most benefits as they venture into a new chapter of their lives.
In brief, leaders who care about the whole person, activate the whole person.
People-centered culture and leadership go a long way towards activating people’s potential. But ultimately, individuals must commit to creating an environment where they and their colleagues can meet that potential.
In Do Big Things, Craig Ross, Angela V. Paccione, and Victoria L. Roberts, identify this as, “Commit(ing) to the Human Imperative.” The Human Imperative are the actions and mindsets that team members agree to adopt every day.
While this may just sound like a less-formal version of a behavior or conduct contract from HR, it’s not. It involves teams sitting down together to talk about how each of them can help each other succeed. This gets individuals invested in how they can achieve their full potential. More than that, it also gets them committed to supporting the people around them!
Ross, Paccione, and Roberts argue that teams who discuss and commit to their Human Imperative, “put (their) organization on a schedule to realize (their) impact sooner.” In other words, when team members align their practices and mindsets, they are in a better position to achieve their full potential.
Optimizing your business’ FLOW requires that you activate the potential of your people on 3 levels.
On a cultural level, you must re-orient your business’ mission towards a “Noble Purpose.”
On a leadership level, managers must help employees see how their work directly contributes to that purpose. They must also invest in their employees’ personal and professional development.
Finally, on an individual level, team members must commit to shared behaviors and mindsets that will set each other up to succeed.
EIT has an impeccable track record of helping organizations activate the potential in their people. For more information on how we can help you activate the potential in your people, click here.