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How Do You Build a High Performance Organization?

February 4, 2015
Borderless Leadership

I was in a planning meeting; we were thinking about the upcoming decade. The question we were wrestling with was this: “What do we want to be true in our organization ten years from now that is not true today?” It was the perfect question to force us to take a hard look at our current reality and stretch us at the same time.

After much debate, one of our conclusions: we want to help our, almost 2000, independent businesses, become high performance organizations. I was asked directly, “Do you know how to create one?” My response: “I have no idea…”

That conversation led to a multi-year exploration of the topic of High Performance Organizations. The team we assembled studied world-class organizations, the best in our business and looked at what global consulting firms had to say on the topic. After all, we knew we weren’t the first attempt to build High Performance Organizations; why not learn from people who were ahead of us on the journey?

It was also important to be clear on what we were actually trying to create. If you decide to create your own High Performance Organization, you’ll want to come up with your own definition. Here’s one for you to consider:

An organization capable of harnessing the collective talent, energy and passion of their entire workforce to achieve consistently remarkable results.

After our benchmarking, we conducted a pilot in 30 independent businesses. Our conclusion – High Performance Organizations do four things exceedingly well. These four critical activities are the backbone of my new book, Chess Not Checkers. In the book, I describe each of these as “moves” (it is a chess metaphor). I’ll go deeper on each of these in future posts. Today, here’s a quick overview.

High Performance Organizations…

Bet on Leadership – Leaders in high performance organizations set the pace as learners themselves. They also grow leadership capacity by equipping and empowering leadership teams; and they build the bench of future leaders. Growing leaders grow organizations.

Act as One – Leaders in High Performance Organizations create clarity around what matters most. They staff with eagles – clearly identifying the men and women who can help them accomplish their long-term goals. Finally, these leaders affirm values in action. This strengthens the culture and creates unity. Alignment multiplies impact.

Win the Heart – Leaders in these organizations foster dreams, build community and share ownership. These efforts create a level of care and concern that moves people from merely being hired hands to fully engaged contributing members of the organization. Engagement energizes effort.

Excel at Execution – Leaders in High Performance Organizations understand the preeminent role execution plays in their success. To move people to excel in this critical arena, leaders share the score with the entire team. They also use systems and processes to make excellence predictable. And finally, to avoid complacency and stay ahead of the competition, these leaders constantly raise the bar. The old saying the best never rest is true. Greatness hinges on execution.

Knowing these four ideas were a distillation of literally decades of proven results-producing practices gave us great confidence, but the team didn’t stop there. We also identified specific best practices these organizations employed to activate the moves. I’ll write more about these in future posts as well.

Here’s the best part of what we discovered: Regardless of your current reality, you can elevate your leadership game. High Performance is within the reach of any organization!

By Mark Miller

Source: Great Leaders Serve

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