Why is ‘just good enough’ acceptable?

You need to maximise effort and then strategically apply that effort to things that are critical to success

In truth, improving organisational performance significantly in a relatively short time, at little or no cost  is simple – whether within the public or private sector. Guidance on how to do so, is easily  accessible. Yet few organisations are doing so despite such a tough competitive and economic environment.

Leadership that is simply not good enough

It leads to the question – is being  ‘just  good  enough’  acceptable? Why are few doing anything about this?

Report after report over many years shows organisations are  not  developing  competent  leadership  at  all levels  as  a  strategic  imperative.

Data from the Corporate Leadership Council (which surveyed up to 50,000 employees) shows that :-

  • less than 20 percent of staff in most organisations are giving maximum effort;
  • Roughly 70 percent  ‘just  do  the  job’,  giving only  the  effort  they  have  to;
  • 10 percent affect colleagues  negatively;
  • Those who  ‘just  do  the job’  could  potentially  give  their  organisation 30 percent more ‘discretionary’ effort if they wanted to.  Even  if  they  performed  not  30 percent  but  15 percent better, it would totally transform organisational performance, and quickly.

It begs the question – why aren’t they? The simple answer is – their leadership is not good enough.

Report after report over many years shows organisations are  not  developing  competent  leadership  at  all levels  as  a  strategic  imperative.  An  individual’s decision   to   give   high   performance   is   57 percent rational  and  43 percent  emotional.  Therefore, presenting  a logical  case  for  high  performance  or  change alone –  without any emotional inspiration  – wastes half of  the  chance  for  success.

The  line  manager accounts for 80 percent of the emotional part and over 50 percent of the rational, which means that for high performance,  all line  managers, not just those at the top, have to be able to lead competently.

What  is  ‘competent  leadership’?

Eighty percent comprises the very simple day-to-day things we all want from our leaders, such as building trust and a sense of partnership, and genuinely engaging those whom they lead. This is what gets the extra commitment.

But if you want a real competitive advantage, or to be world class or the best in your field, just maximising effort isn’t enough.

For example,  fair  and  accurate  feedback  can  increase effort by up to 39 percent and line managers showing they care about people can increase how hard they work by 26 percent. This costs nothing and can be started tomorrow.

At  the  strategic  level,  these  simple  actions could :-

  • increase the  chance  of  outperforming competitors by nearly 70 percent;
  • increase revenues by up to 40 percent;
  • halve days lost through sickness;
  • increase earnings per share by up to 2.6 times;
  • reduce the risk of loss of talent by 87 percent; and
  • help in  managing  reputational    This  last is of no small benefit, as has been made clear by recent scandals.

How can you make this happen?

 You need these three things in place:-

  • within an organisation, it needs to be driven from the very top as  a  strategic  initiative;
  • it needs to be facilitated by  HR; and
  • made to  happen  in  every  team,  by  every leader.

At a team level, line managers can do it themselves  –  it’s  that  simple. In  six  months  a positive  change  could  be  seen.  In  years,  it  will transform performance.

The vital difference

But if you want a real competitive advantage, or to be world class or the best in your field, just maximising effort isn’t enough. For those trying to get to the top, the secret is to focus this effort on what really matters, and to be entrepreneurial. It is possible to maximise effort but not  strategically  apply  that  effort  to  things which  are  critical  for  success.  That’s  why  the next stage is so vital.

Senior leaders need to make sure that two or three critical objectives for the organisation are communicated   to everyone   so   everybody’s efforts can be focused on delivery. Everything has to be done in an entrepreneurial way, initially by developing entrepreneurial leaders and then  employees.  That  means  a  total  focus on   efficiently   maximising   customer   service by   encouraging   creativity   and   innovation, taking  responsibility  as  a  leader,  constantly making    improvements,    understanding    the whole  organisation  and  being  an  ambassador for your organisation.

That’s  not  just  for  those  in  customer-facing roles, it includes areas such as HR, IT, finance, risk  and  other support  functions.  There  is  no point  in  the  ‘front’  of  an  organisation  being entrepreneurial  when  it’s  being  held  back  by bureaucratic support functions.

At UBS, between 2002 and 2006, we developed the top 500 leaders to be entrepreneurial and we saw evidence of improvement in a few months and significant bottom-line benefits in a couple of years. This success led to the project becoming  a  Harvard  Case  Study  and  to  winning several international awards, such as Best Company  for  Leaders.  So  these  simple  steps really do work.  From my subsequent experience elsewhere, I know that entrepreneurial leadership adds value in all organisations from the Red Cross to top law firms, and global banks to the public sector.

The time to act is now – it’s simple, it’s quick, it doesn’t cost much and it works.

#leadership #entrepreneurial

Autumn stock photo courtesy negativespace.co

Author: Chris Roebuck

Chris Roebuck advises major global organisations on improving performance through developing entrepreneurial, engaging, ethical and effective leaders – Mach 2 leaders. This has been described by a leading Professor of Psychology as a “breakthrough” in leadership thinking and which Harvard Business Review have interviewed Chris about in Beijing. From global banks to Governments, UK National Health Service to the Red Cross and the Chinese Space Corporation to law firms, Chris inspires leaders with his insights, experience and new ideas to help them rapidly become truly effective, inspiring and respected. He is Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership at Cass Business School in London and has held senior roles at UBS, HSBC and KPMG, has served in the British Army, and is one of the top 15 Human Resources (HR) thinkers in Europe. As Global Head of Leadership at UBS, he helped deliver leadership and development strategies, resulting in one of the most successful recent corporate transformations which is now a Harvard Business School Case Study. His book “Lead to Succeed” shows leaders and organisations how achieve sustainable success.

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