During my interactions with executives in an attempt to understand their organizational culture better I’ve often inquired what they believe is the core requirement in driving excellence. Unsurprisingly, the responses are pretty unanimous whereby most believe performance and operational excellence is driven by a customer-focused culture, highly engaged and talented employees, a clear vision, efficiency in processes and of course effective leadership. Sure, all of these are accurate responses that indeed do impact the desire, strive and attainability of an organization to achieve excellence. But when you look closely, there’s only one true driver that stands out and is common across all organizations – and that’s leadership.
Driving excellence is dependent upon various factors, environments and circumstances that organizations experience. Every organization has its unique challenges that are linked to the industry it operates in, its core competencies and the talent it employees. However, what remains universal (irrespective of these factors) is that effective leadership is the sole key driver of greater organizational outputs and performance. It’s an unchallenged fact that’s backed by several research. And it makes sense that at the heart of an organization’s ability to attract and retain talent, satisfy its customers, develop innovative products and services and ultimately achieve exponential growth is the strength of its leadership. Effective leadership is driving excellence for organizations to be able to engage its employees, develop and strive towards a massive transformative purpose and focus on customers.
Driving Excellence Through Engaged Employees
Leaders can only truly achieve success based on the strength, ability and talent of the people that support them. The first challenge that any leader faces is to build a team of talented individuals whose skills, once exploited, will enable organizations to be innovative and productive. However, the real challenge comes next. That’s when leaders must be able to retain their talent and keep them engaged. How successful leaders are in engaging talent will directly impact their ability in driving excellence. Sure you could “get the job done” but that’s not what you, as an exponential leader, are settling for. You’re raising the bar, aiming to be a disruptor and develop a leadership legacy that resonates for decades. That can’t be accomplished with a group of dissatisfied and disengaged employees.
Effective leaders have started to understand the importance of an engaged workforce and make efforts to develop a culture that echoes this ideology. You don’t have to go overboard trying to match every benefit or environmental aspects of your competitors to engage your employees. What you need are a few simple strategies that can get the job done. Some of them are:
- Development Because skills are rapidly becoming obsolete and redundant the need for skill enhancement is more than ever before. The investment you make in keeping your talent’s skills relevant will facilitate efficiencies in your processes and operations, enhance your customer’s experience and enable your organization to be even more innovative.
- Capacity Building Develop systems that encourage transference of knowledge so that you’re not held hostage to your talent. Knowledge sharing and building capacity in your organization is the keystone to sustainability. To achieve performance outputs, don’t mistake dependency on your employees’ skills with depending on individuals in particular. It’s not the same. Driving excellence is an ideology that relies on skills, irrespective of who the individuals at play are.
- Critical Talent You may have high achievers, high performers, star performers, and your operational champions, but all those may possibly not be your critical talent. These are the innovators and creative forces that give your organization a competitive edge. Identifying and retaining your critical talent is of top most priority for your organization.
- Agility in Talent Management By accepting that not all of your talent have the same working style you’ll be able to utilize their skills optimally. How you engage with your talent needs to be tailored for each of them so that you’re able to address their unique mindsets. By leveling with each of your talent you’ll be aligning them to the organization’s purpose with much more depth.
Leadership at the Core of Every Organization
When I look at the organizations I work with and talk about driving excellence through the strength of their leadership I’m not simply talking to the “person on top”. I’m talking about to every present or aspiring leader, at all levels of the organization. That’s because to really drive performance that’s going to exponentially grow the organization you need leaders at all levels. And not just average leaders, I’m talking about exponential leaders who know are aligned with the organization’s MTP and who are so deeply rooted with it that it’s beyond simple ownership.
These are the talented individuals (the leaders) who steer an organization to become legendary brands. These are the highly engaged employees who are self-motivated and self-driven. And to truly drive excellence, you need several of them in your organization. How do you develop such a team? Here are a few essential characteristics of the culture you want to harvest to support your cause:
With these elements in place, you’ll be able to develop a culture that fuels your talent’s desire and ability to achieve much more. And the only way you can truly do that is by developing leaders at all levels who not only subscribe to these elements, but who live by them.
Once you’ve installed leaders at all levels whose core is driving excellence, your organization will be on track towards the exponential growth you desire and crave.
This article originally appeared in Paul Keijzer.