Benjamin Franklin famously said ‘in the world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes’. Well, whatever happens in the forthcoming election, and whatever kind of Brexit we eventually negotiate as a nation, there a couple of other (very likely!) certainties too – increased pressure on the economy, pressure on the labour market, and pressure on organisations to do more with less. There will be no easy answers to these issues, but here’s another certainty – to the degree that individuals choose to give of their discretionary effort and are willing to go the ‘extra mile’ - whatever that might look or sound like - then to that degree there will be greater achievement for individuals and better organisational performance.
The key word referred to in the statement above is choice. Individuals can be required to deliver a minimum standard of service through their employment contract, and that will deliver basic, mediocre performance for the most part. Yet work that is typified by mediocrity does not inspire or raise the human spirit. Work that is unrecognised, and lacking personal ownership will never engage the extraordinary potential of each and every person to be creative, to take their own initiative and perform outstandingly well. This doesn’t mean that all work can be interesting – a repetitive task or basic job is just that. However, an individual’s attitude to that task or job will make all the difference between boredom and disinterest or engagement and initiative.
In the Brexit world of work, and to meet some of the challenges ahead, there are some critical success factors that managers must meet to be successful. Firstly, managers must lead, with a sense of purpose and inspiration. If they are not inspired, how can they inspire others? Their own achievements must be measured by the success of those working for and with them and there must be a clear line of sight from the ‘shop floor’ to the organisation’s purpose or vision – if there’s no why, then there will be no wherefore. Secondly, managers must manage, with clarity on what is needed and expected. Thirdly, managers must coach individuals how they can achieve their workplace goals because it is through coaching conversations that the mediocre may be transformed into the extraordinary. This leads to the fourth factor, namely build relationship, developing truly effective workplace relationships based on trust, equality, collaboration and mutual respect. This requires managers to relinquish some or their perceived power, and to shift usually deeply held perceptions of the management role from that of power and control to that of coach and facilitator. This leads to the fifth factor, namely create choice.
Over 250 years ago the French philosopher Voltaire said ‘Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too’. The capacity to think for oneself, to choose for oneself, and to be responsible for the results of one’s actions is profoundly human. Wonderful things can and do happen when individuals stand by their word to shift something, to change something, to achieve something. Yet in the hurly burly of the workplace, we have somehow forgotten that within easy reach is a vast reservoir of human potential waiting to be unleashed in the right circumstances. Now more than ever, it is the privilege and duty of employers to help create the conditions for choice to flourish at work by developing workplace cultures that thrive on collaboration, learning, transparency, personal responsibility, and high performance aspiration. This could be described as a performance culture, and the road to it is coaching.
Such workplaces, where managers are encouraging a performance culture underpinned by coaching behaviours, engage every individual proactively in:
This simple LEAP Model reinforces the idea that truly effective workplaces are those that lift and celebrate the human spirit, and all that it can achieve in service of a goal or ideal. High performance of course, but more than that, perhaps even a sense of personal joy and freedom.
Everyone deserves to work in organisations like this, and if they did, there would be no limit to what could be achieved in a post-Brexit Britain. The challenge is to create the will for permanent culture change and this will take time. Better start now, then.
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