Asking Individuals to Grow beyond Their Expectations
In a high-performance work system, respect for individuals is an important aspect of treating them fairly. One way of expressing this respect is by expecting them to exceed expectations; to grow and perform beyond the boundaries of their individual work objectives; to exceed the boundaries established for them by the organization; and to do all of those things often.
In the same way, the individual in a developmental high-performance work system should perceive the enterprise as often going beyond the expected service to its employees; as doing more than is necessary to inspire employees' loyalty; and as making every possible effort to achieve a harmonious relationship.
To expect people to exceed their normal performance and achieve extraordinary things is to respect and admire them as leaders. And a highperformance work system will ind ways to celebrate extraordinary individual performance that exceeds expectations.
The high-performance work systems I have known irst-hand embrace the concept of personal developmental objectives. Grow yourself as you grow the business. This process involves asking individuals to think about and do work that challenges them in order to exceed expectations in an arena where they have capabilities that have not been fully developed. They then perform work that beneits the organization greatly and at the same time grows their capabilities. These objectives, having been met, exceed the expectations that the each of these individuals originally held.
Say, for example, that a research engineer working on a new product for a new market has challenging objectives. But this person also has a personal development objective, which is, that she will do this work within a much shorter time frame by inluencing others, inside and outside the
company, to participate on a special team of experts; and she has another personal development objective, which is to reach an understanding with a valued customer that will allow her to use its facilities to test various products before commercialization (the point being to allow faster and more cost-effective, internal development of candidate products, albeit with some risk and cost to the customer).
There is no greater inspiration for an employee than the achievement of individual-directed high-performance goals. Role model leaders need to challenge people to develop their capabilities by setting and meeting highperformance work objectives.
Asking People to Be Accountable
A virtuous business organization will have well-deined and developed accountability processes for individuals, groups and teams, and the organization as a whole.
At each of the stages of any change process designed to improve the organization's viability, clear accountability must be established. This is the right thing to do; it is also the fair thing to do. People cannot do their best when they are uncertain of their accountability and that of their fellow employees. Furthermore, when everyone understands their accountability and understands that the company has strong procedures for ensuring it, this can signiicantly improve the results of a change process.
Accountability brings structure, focus, and clarity to individuals' actions. Providing all three is necessary to role model leadership. Role model leaders understand the critical balance between freedom and order when leading people in a change process. They understand that without an emphasis on accountability, and without mechanisms to ensure it, there can be no freedom. Orderly processes that lead to predictable results provide space and time for thinking and innovation.
Without order, there can be no freedom. If a business had to invent a process for implementing a project each time it launched one, that business would be consumed by those processes and its people would have neither the freedom nor the time to engage in creative thinking to achieve extraordinary innovation.
There is a simple framework that leaders can use to organize people in a work process with deined “accountabilities” so that there is no confusion about their roles. It is called the R•A•C•I framework (or A•R•C•I, as I will call it here):
A • Accountability. Which speciic individual in the organization and work process will be held to account for the outcome of a given action or objective?
R • Responsibility. Which of the individuals will collaborate on given action(s)?
C • Consult. Which select individuals should be consulted about the action(s) or objective(s) so that the people in the work project will beneit from that consultation?
I • Inform. Which select individuals need to be informed about actions and / or the outcomes of actions so that the accountable and responsible people will beneit from that information transfer?
The people in the work project, having been inluenced and / or directed to assume one of the above A•R•C•I roles, are better able to understand their place in an accountability matrix. Using this framework, the project work team can create an orderly approach to communicating among themselves and with others. This will in turn create for them the opportunity to develop the required innovative approaches to their action plans without fear of misunderstandings and confusion. It will also be viewed as fair by all.
Let's expand on this idea of accountability with regard to taking action. Two topics in particular will underscore the importance of accountability:
• Goals and objectives
• Measurement of actions and results
First, every strategic work or project group (or subgroup) needs a set of agreed goals, as well as objectives for each individual and for the whole group. The distinction between a goal and an objective can sometimes be ignored, but in the spirit of being disciplined and systematic, let's make that distinction. A goal is a more idealized measure of a projected accomplishment, the measure of perfection achievable in a given time frame. An objective is speciic and is the expected measurable accomplishment of a value-add step. So if the strategic project is designed to reduce the number of injuries in a manufacturing operation, then a goal might be to “reduce the injury frequency this year to the lowest in the past decade,” whereas the objective might be to “reduce injury frequency this year by 20 per cent over last year.”
For the sake of accountability, it is extremely important for role model leaders to measure outcomes. That is, the goals and objectives that deine the work to be done must be accompanied by speciic promises to deliver speciic results. Every member of the strategic project team will have his or her performance measured relative to the goals and objectives. These measurements can be absolutes, ranges, inancial ratios, or something else, as long as they are speciic. They need to be numeric whenever possible so that success can be quantiied.
Earlier in this book, I urged aspiring leaders to focus on productivity, quality, and stakeholder service measures of performance.
Measurement is a precursor to inspiration and credibility. Role model leaders seek to inspire those who would be led. They help followers set aggressive but doable goals. They then work with their people to help them accomplish those goals. Role model leaders in so doing will have inspired their people to believe they can accomplish much; moreover, those people will perceive as fair the demands being placed on them. When the measurable goals have been achieved, the role model leaders' credibility and trustworthiness will have been enhanced. Role model leaders who set the direction for change, challenge their people to be accountable, help them set aggressive implementation plans and goals, and help them achieve measurable goals, will have grown their “emotional bank account” with their followers and will be perceived as inluential and inspirational leaders.
Finally, it is important that leaders regularly review the actions and results of the various groups, teams, and individuals working on strategic projects and subprojects. These “operational reviews” are opportunities for the leaders and the people in the work unit or project to communicate, to learn, and to receive feedback on their actions and results. Each operational review has an expected result, one that is often a new direction. And importantly, each one meets the needs of the individuals who are seeking feedback on the importance of their contributions.
Linking People's Work with Their Lives
The target here is to have individuals working with high energy and spirit to add value to a high-performance work system. Role model leaders inluence their employees to dedicate that mental and emotional energy to their work. The employees will perceive this as fair when they sense that the organization understands that they have a life outside the organization – a
life, moreover, with its own values. So a high-performance work system will develop ways to honour that reality. This is yet another virtue that the organization needs to develop.
A conventional organization acknowledges its employees' lives outside the organization by providing “beneits.” It makes these contributions in the form of health and insurance plans, vacation time, memberships in recreational clubs, and so on. High-performance work systems fully acknowledge that people need time and energy for personal needs. They provide beneits that add value for the business and for the employee. These beneits establish a more seamless boundary between work and life, and they often allow individuals to develop capability and competence. Some examples:
• Providing new technology – updating home personal computers, PDAs,
and so on.
• Providing opportunities, funding, and time for employees to attend university, college, and various courses where new capabilities can be learned. These need not be related to roles within the company.
• Making a commitment to promote from within the organization rather than from outside the organization.
The role model leader will seek many different approaches to providing opportunities for reciprocal maintenance between the employee and the business organization. Innovative ways to do “the right thing” as perceived by individuals often link personal values with organizational ones. Put another way, a high-performance work system links employees' goals to the organization's future-state goals. By contrast, a conventional organization offers beneits that are linked to short-term, controlling goals.