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Optimum Performance

May 13, 2015
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Having the pleasure of working in Corporate America for the last thirty plus years, I have been conditioned and trained to think about ways to get to the next level of performance. Much of this mind set can be attributed to the role that I play in Global Sales Strategy at my current place of employment. I have also been very fortunate to have worked for other outstanding organizations over the years in a strategy capacity that clearly had dominant performance cultures. That made it easy to focus on increased productivity and better results. Every moment of every day at these businesses we were trying to figure out how to innovate, motivate, positively disrupt, and exponentially impact the industries that we were participating in. We were endlessly trying to determine and uncover those insignificant nuggets lying just below the surface and beyond our grasp that could revolutionize what we do and make us better. In his book, “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell goes into great depth on this subject.

In our executive meetings, we often contemplated things like coverage models, human relations approaches, go-to-market strategies, pricing strategies, distribution, product innovation, building brands, and a host of other good common sense practices (Business 101). All of these discussions are essential to business survival.

Then, we would move into the realm of teamwork, collaboration, and the importance of growing the next generation of leaders; developmental approaches of how and what our organization could do to move from “good to great” and beyond. These senior management types of discussions are also vital to overall performance and the lifeblood of any organization. Examples of questions that were asked are:

  • What does our succession planning look like?
  • Who do we have in the leadership pipeline?
  • What promotions and/or job rotations have they done?
  • Have they had an assignment overseas?
  • What do their performance reviews and results look like?
  • Should we designate them as a leadership “fast track” type of employee?

As I look back over the years, I always felt there was something missing in the approach. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew that there was that little something that we were not holding ourselves accountable for that could take us to the next level; that little something that could help us reach optimum performance thresholds.

Then it struck me! We were “perfuming the pig” as it were to modify and/or project an image of leadership. We were focused on the strategies, tactics and developmental issues that allowed us to check the boxes of all of those “experiential” elements of leadership without digging into the core of leadership itself. We worked hard at staying away from morality, core beliefs, and spiritual matters that made us who we are as leaders. We have never been willing to “take on” the fundamental conditions of what makes great leaders; to talk about those things that impact the soul, or to enter into that “politically incorrect” space of building the soul components of leadership vs. building the façade.  That is the issue that I want to elaborate on today. How do we “build the soul” for effective leadership tomorrow?

So let us make clear what I am not talking about. I am not talking about having a list of do’s and don’ts in a corporate policy handbook or sending someone away on a two-week trip to New York City to get a better appreciation for the plight of the homeless. All very worthy activities. What I am talking about is a fundamental change in who we are as human beings interacting in a social corporate setting with employment responsibilities. We must understand that the real work of developing leaders lies at a much deeper level; a level that trains, conditions, and matures a Christian leadership worldview. Please do not misunderstand my point here. Gaining additional work experiences with various job rotations, getting plugged into the latest and greatest leadership training, working on an MBA, or even being assigned to a high profile project all help us build context and business acumen over the long-term. But isn’t that what every other great corporation in the world is doing? Are you really going to be any different than the 99.9% of other companies who focus on the same thing? How will you separate yourself from the rest of the pack?

Servant leadership is the answer. Corporations around the globe who want to get to the optimum level of performance must embrace a framework of servant leadership. Can you imagine what a corporate setting would look like where there was a self-less focus on doing the right thing for God? Hmmmmm………….I will now go into a little more detail of what a servant leadership framework looks like by asking some simple and thought provoking questions. Fortunately, we have Christ Jesus and the Word of God as our guide.

SERVANT LEADERSHIP:   

  • Could we be a better organization if we were focused on others and their well-being more than we were focused on ourselves and our career development?
  • What if employees were promoted based primarily on their ability to mentor and develop people, and impact the lives of others?
  • What would happen if any type of behavior that was self-promoting and/or self-aggrandizing is immediately “called out” and left at the door?
  • What if our decision-making process was void of pride and who gets credit for what, but rather a sincere collaboration of what is in the best interests of the organization? What type of tone would that set for your company?
  • What if a hiring process was put in place that attracted servant leaders? Do you think that over time your corporate culture would change for the good?
  • How about the things that we measure for success? What if we started measuring performance indicators primary related to servant leadership and people development?
  • What would happen if our mission and vision statements clearly articulated a performance culture dominated by servant leadership?
  • What would your organization look like if the mean-spiritedness, win at all costs, and “I am the smartest guy in the room” were removed from your meetings and boardrooms?
  • Can you imagine with me for a moment a situation where the corporate boardroom was full of executives who were humble to the core?

I believe that many in the corporate world today greatly misunderstand this phenomenon called servant leadership. They believe the phrase is synonymous with weakness. They either do not believe or think that it would be too much work to build a team of servant leaders. The fact is that you can be both hard charging and a servant leader at the same time. When you identify the character traits of someone who is hard charging: personality, commitment, dedication to a cause, you realize that these are not isolated traits and separate from what makes a great leader. They are in fact complimentary to what makes a great leader! The fault lies in a focus and end goal that is intrinsically self-serving. Great leadership cries for the correct focus and balance to have both traits in equal measure. What good is a servant leader who doesn’t stand up and lead, and what good is a hard charger who doesn’t practice servant leadership?

This brings me back to what corporations must do within their organizations to achieve optimum performance. They need to work on their employee’s spiritual development. They need to dig in and believe that the Bible has all of the answers to leadership. They need to embrace a management philosophy where “building the soul” of their employees is the only clear path to optimum performance. Taking that issue on, will require some grit, determination, and intestinal fortitude from key senior leadership positions.   

 

2 Timothy 2:2 – And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

John 13:4-5 – He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

Proverbs 27:2 – Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

Proverbs 25:6-7 – Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:

For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.

Deuteronomy 8:17 – And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.

Ezekiel 16:15 – But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on everyone that passed by; his it was.     

Finally, lest anyone in the corporate world thinks that I have totally lost my mind about “flipping” the primary focus area to what some would call the softer issue of spiritual development, we must stay equally engaged in overall organizational performance. Yes, we need a balance. We need to be both hard charging toward key financial metrics, while leading change in the human development front.


Comments

Michael LaPierre June 18, 2015 @ 7:38PM
Thanks David!

David White May 15, 2015 @ 7:48AM
well put, Mike.

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