For years I’ve heard and read about what organizations have done in order to move from “good to great.” In the book with the same name, Jim Collins lays out his recipe for strategic management, which is hinged on discipline–disciplined people, disciplined thought and disciplined action. Collins also refers to “Level 5 Leadership,” and defines level 5 leaders as those who make the success of the organization their priority, demonstrate a fierceness about getting the job done and are modest. Collins essentially suggests that greatness is a result of being focused and deliberate about systems and the decision-making process.
Patrick Lencioni is another widely-respected author who is credited with establishing a framework around highly effective teams. In his most recent book, The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni defines the ideal team player as being humble, hungry and smart. It is not a stretch to recognize that both Collins’ level 5 leader and Lenconi’s ideal team player are the same person.
Each of the authors described above, as well as many others, have made worthy additions to the repertoire of organizational culture and have indeed established new benchmarks for other organizations and leaders.
Just as hiring the right people and establishing the right systems can have an effect on an organization’s success, so is strategic planning. Strategic planning is an activity used by organizations to align priorities, address weaknesses, steer decision-making and pull people together around a common goal.
The problem with strategic planning, however, is that strategic plans seldom inspire passion among the people who are actually charged with their execution. Goals are almost always a response to a challenge or weakness of the organization, and the activities are usually intended to fix something that is broken, or at least has not reached the ideal state, as determined by the authors of the plan. Further, the tasks needed to support the plan are dependent on extrinsic-motivation.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not “hating” on strategic planning. Organizations that engage in any form of long-range planning are better positioned to continually improve. But on a continuum, I believe there is something beyond level 5 leadership and strategic planning that can be a real game changer. I would like to call that level “galvanized.”
The definition of galvanized is “moved to action through excitement.” There are organizations that function at this level. Apple, Google, Amazon, and many others. However, I think we have been lumping “great” organizations in with “galvanized” ones for years and now it is time to tease out the differences.
Let’s assume that you’ve hired the ideal team player. Let’s also assume that your leaders exhibit the behaviors and mindsets described in Collins’ book. Let’s also assume that you have a strategic plan. All the ingredients for greatness at your fingertips. But are they?
Are members of your team impassioned? Are they truly intrinsically motivated to follow your plan, or are they just really good team members doing what you’ve said was important?
What if we flipped the model? What if, instead of mapping out the strategies and activities necessary to get from one place to another, you defined what the ideal “other” place was and let your team come up with activities on their own?
There’s a chance that members of your team may not reach as high or dig as deep as you or the traditional strategic planning committee would have. But there’s also a chance they could aim higher than you, or the organization, thought was possible. In fact, it is nearly impossible to know how high someone might go. So why establish a system that limits that?
You want to hear more, right?
If all the traditional ingredients for success are in place, then the sole focus of the leaders and the organization should be to cultivate impassioned team members.
Here are 3 things you can do:
Throw out the strategic plan.
Whittle the plan down to two or three strategic “priorities.” Deliberately refer to the strategic priorities at every opportunity and provide team members the opportunity to tell you what they will do to support those priorities. Team members will be more likely to make a difference because they will be intrinsically-motivated to support the organization’s priorities.
Provide opportunities for team members to figure out what inspires and motivates them.
Incorporate a purpose-defining activity in the on-boarding process and encourage team members to share their purpose with others. There is no better way to cultivate impassioned team members than to help them find ways to connect their purpose with their work.
Make it OK for team members to express themselves in and through their work.
Encourage team members to connect their creative side projects or interests with their work. It will improve morale, culture and employee longevity.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. But whether you’re leading a school or a business, a for-profit company or a non-profit, finding ways to harness your team’s intrinsic motivation can be the one trigger that takes your organization from great to galvanized.