Plain-spoken playwright George Bernard Shaw, co-founder of the London School of Economics once said, “There are only two qualities in the world, efficiency and inefficiency. And only two sorts of people, the efficient and the inefficient.”
A seemingly limited perspective of a world comprising so many variables, interferences and excuses. But was it such a myopic view? Simpler times, perhaps, but can the momentum of a modern-day organization continue to roll forward when it is punctured with cogs of inefficiency?
“I’d get so much more done at work if I didn’t have to manage all those people.”
Then don’t. Micromanagement. Machiavellian management. Stop it. It’s maniacal. Stop managing, and start leading a High Performance Organization (HPO). A company toppling its sales goal the past four of six quarters does not define an HPO. Nor is one who jazz-hands with flashy Prezi templates. Or boasts a state-of-the-art telephony system. Not discounting the aforementioned positives. But as standalone transient victories, they are merely lagging indicators of tactical wins. They are not holistic assessments of the health, vitality, viability or longevity of an organization.
People. Motivation, particularly of high performers, is not derived from the faded “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” arms-in-the-air finish line poster in the employee common area. No high-gloss photo of a kitty clinging from a ledge will inspire the passion required to move your organization through the difficult volatility of business cycles. In nearly every type of organization – commercial business, athletic franchise, non-profit, government agency – the most substantial balance sheet expenditure is employee costs. It is also the most dynamic, impactful, unmanageable and variable asset you oversee.
Therein lies the problem. We are people. We can be driven to accomplish unimaginable results. Conversely and regrettably, we can be managed to mediocrity. Without people, organizations do not exist. The bottom line: a financial transaction is impossible without human interaction.
As leaders, we are obliged to humanize our talent, and understand that what makes our companies great is people. Not as an initiative de jour but by genuinely caring for them. If we begin to invest in the human capital we have in our midst, without trying to quantify ROI, we have the opportunity to facilitate unqualified greatness.
Do you know which department sits three floors below you? Would you recognize them outside of their employee ID on an FTE salary report? Do they realize the importance of their roles within the company? Sitting in the C-Suite, do you know who “those people” are? Do they even know who they are? Do either of you care? Are you forcing rah-rah rhetoric on a group of clock-punching drones, or are you a high performance leader?
I fundamentally believe each person has potential they cannot unlock or even identify by themselves. But high performance is not the same as optimal potential. As leaders, coaches, parents and mentors, it is our ultimate obligation to recognize, facilitate and amplify the potential in others; they do not realize it even exists. As you walk the halls espousing a mission and core values, your FitBit recording every step, remember it is also your duty to build a culture of leaders who don’t just manage but foster the unrealized potential in others.
For that potential to be exposed, there must first be trust. Trust that is earned and afforded only to those who create an environment where authenticity can flourish. The identification and unlocking of individual potential requires tolerance, patience, an open ear and mind, and purity of intent. You cannot lead well without investing yourself in others. And not your wax figure or snazzy suit you – the true, authentic, real you. Trust does not exist without genuine caring. And genuine caring cannot exist if you are unable to be honest with yourself, first and then others. Leaders, even great ones, often step into the bear trap of “believing their genius” and discounting the power of being genuine.
Being a “fake it ’til you make it “leader in the short term can be effective but for long term greatness, there is no substitute for authenticity. But being a high-energy, optimized, performance leader can only be accomplished by a person willing to facilitate greatness in others, whatever greatness that is. That onus is on you. Organizations are merely collections of people. There are no great companies. There are good people figuring out to accomplish great things, together.
Billions, likely hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year to help companies better manage their people and people better manage their time. Workshops on team building and time management; wasteful, nearly negligent, exercises in futility. “If we just had more time.” Time is a finite resource so we attempt to prioritize our tasks, e-mails, texts, calls and meetings to be more efficient in allowing us more time to manage more stuff. And that doesn’t factor in the unexpected “fire drills” demanding immediate attention. We are all limited to 24 hours in a day. And as humans, we require rest to replenish our energy reserves and restore our mental cache.
We cannot control time. But the one resource we humans have that is not finite, that we can affect and replenish is…our energy. Our capacity to think, feel, do and be…the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual. Without these, we falter, wither and perish. And yet, we award virtual ‘hero’ medals at work to those who attempt to ignore all laws of being human by working beyond mental acuity, in spite of emotional well-being, in excess of physical capability and without regard for spiritual health. “Hero”? High Performer? Hyberbole. Hypertensive!
And certainly inefficient.