Performance or growth? (inspired by Tony Schwartz in HBR)
In a competitive complex business environment, companies demand more from their employees than ever before. But those same forces are also overwhelming employees, jeopardizing their resilience and abilities.
No wonder so many leaders are focusing on the pursuit of a high-performance culture. The irony is that building a performance culture may not be the best, healthiest or most sustainable way to nurture results. Instead, it may be more effective to focus on creating a culture of growth.
Building a culture of growth requires a mix of individual and organizational components:
- An environment that feels safe, primarily nourished by the top leaders who are willing to set an example in vulnerability and dare to take personal responsibility for their shortcomings and failures. This is essentially about knowing and recognizing your most important values. That is about having confidence in yourself and in each other.
- A focus on continuous learning through research, curiosity and transparency, instead of judgement, security and self-protection. That sometimes requires looking at things differently, or shifting your paradigms.
- Doing time-bound, manageable experiments with new behavior to test our unconscious assumption of the status quo. Is that status really “dangerous” and will it have a negative impact?
- Continuous feedback – back and forth and throughout the organization – based on a shared commitment to help each other grow and get better.
In contrast, a performance culture often exacerbates people’s fears by creating a zero-sum game in which people either succeed or fail and “winners” are quickly separated from “losers”. Results are also important in growth cultures, but in addition to rewarding success, they also treat failures and failings as critical opportunities to learn and improve, individually and collectively.
These are easy words to say, but they are much more difficult to practice. Instinctively, we all tend to hide, rationalize, minimize, conceal and deny our weaknesses and failures, because they make us vulnerable, risky and unworthy. These fears narrow and limit our perspective rather than extend it – at a time when the complexity of the problems we face often stands in the way of execution and thus performance.
A performance culture asks: “How much energy can we mobilize?” and the answer is: only a finite amount. A growth culture asks: “How much energy can we mobilize?” and the answer is: infinite.
How much energy do you want to release? That requires leadership. In our Being on Mission Program ‘building high performance teams’ we guide you through the 10 habits that contribute to mobilize energy. A sneak peakl: high performance teams arise when members take responsibility and choose for the well-being of the team. They are willing to do whatever it takes to make the team extremely successful. Have we made you curious about the other 9 habits? Find us at beingonmission.eu.