A peak performance foundation gets built by leaders who care more for people than for them to become a means to an end. These leaders bring love into the enterprise, understand that integrity and values are key, and that a strong shared purpose attracts the best talent.
To make individuals contribute, leaders have to enable them to work in their own ways and empower them to make the decisions affecting their areas, in order to bring innovation and teamwork to the workplace. In short, the peak performance foundation is built through an empowering leadership.
Talent cares. People care a lot more about the big questions than we generally assume they do. The best talent is drawn towards Massively Transformative Purposes, MTPs, a purpose which makes a real difference in the world, it becomes an opportunity for talent to make a dent in the universe.
Combine this with the idea that talent both needs and seeks talent, and we realize that the companies’ stories have to be meaningful, to make sense, and to make a difference. For it is where talent is drawn, that there will be talent (Stephen Kotler, be sure to download his guide “The Habit of Ferocity” for more on flow.
The values we share, and the stories we tell, give an idea of our MTP. These stories help make our financial figures come to live and make sense, but most of all they tell what kind of a company we are and why anyone needs to care. Many companies fail to understand their advantages from where they are in the corporate lifecycle, and try to make up stories that projects an alternative way of seeing the company. Turn the corporate age into a strength!
We need to act our company age and not try to look young when we are old, and vice versa. Our valuation hinges on it, and the alternatives available to us to finance changes we want to make in our business, examples being to scale our business, return cash to shareholders, or to just get the company started. (Damodoran)
With mediocre goals, leaders get mediocrity in return, at best. With high aspirations, a personally safe environment and bold goals, you can get the best of outcomes. People can’t perform unless they are empowered to mastery and autonomy, and allowed the freedom to work in the way and daily rhythm that suits them best (see previous article for details).
A flow-centric culture is a basic requirement for performance. Flow leads to speed and scale in human performance; our local linear brains needs flow to operate in this exponential world. The enablement of flow-based culture will define the best workplaces in the near future of knowledge work. (Kotler).
Aware leaders understand that people are wired in fundamentally different ways, the most visible differences are in our levels of extraversion and intraversion. The people in the middle, the ambiverts (people with both), have the best and worst of both worlds. Introverts sense the world much more than extroverts, and get overwhelmed more easily, but have the advantage of a much richer inner world. We live in a world with a clear bias for the extroverted, which translates to a world with too much stimuli for introverts to function well (Susan Cain).
When leading introverts, leaders have to create the necessary space, physical and mental, for introverts to tap into their peak performance modes (Cain). These modes are harder for extroverts to learn to tap into, in the sense that more practice may be needed. Flow is one of these high performance modes, and is often best experienced in solitude, unstressed and uninterrupted (Kotler).
To build tomorrow’s star performers, we should focus on strengths, rather than trying to fix weakness. It does not make sense to think that we fix the not good by focusing on it, rather we need to focus on emulating and enabling excellence (Marcus Buckingham).
Enable those that are most knowledgeable about customers, the front-line employees, to innovate as part of their daily work, and make managers accountable for ensuring innovation happens [Personal note: read the HBR - The Case for Good Jobs articles for more on underempowered front-line work].
Let employees have autonomy in how they work to allow for experimentation without need to ask for permission. Employees that have no autonomy to experiement and change their ways of working by themselves to resolve customer painpoints, will have no innovative ability either (Gary Hamel).
Real innovation happens at the fray edges of what we are aware of, in nature in the niche ecosystems, in culture in the subcultures, and in our companies nearest to our customers. Seek to empower people to be the difference that can make a difference, and create isolation when it makes sense to protect innovations at their outset (Kotler). Business exists to deliver customer and societal value; those that knows the customer best, have the best opportunities to innovate.
The content comes from my attendance at the 2018 Nordic Business Forum where I took copious notes. This is my integrated summary of the ideas that resonated with me, and that made a wider business sense. Some #NBForum2018 notes were too specific, or incongruent with the article, and were left out.
The original article is split up in five parts, and each will be shared over these three weeks:
For the speaker names in parantheses, do refer to the list of speakers at the Nordic Business Forum 2018.