High Performing Organizations Go Deep

By Andrew Jennings, CCO – Recently, we have been thinking about what we really do for our customers. Like most businesses, we spend a lot of time thinking about the latest trends in our field. We develop new offerings that speak to those trends, and then find customers for our new offerings. These things, after all, are the essence of developing a business, along with managing the finances and people side of the company.

Go DeepWhat often gets lost in this process are the answers to “What exactly is it that we do” and Why do we do it?” After some deliberation, we realized that what we do is help our customers Go deep.  This deep dive goes beyond adopting the latest ideas, or providing training. It’s about creating a different mindset — one that focuses on building high performing organizations that are ready to meet challenges as opportunities and continue to grow, long into the future. As to why we do this . . . actually, that became fairly simple to identify. We see too many organizations struggling with a multitude of issues relating to their people, everything from hiring top talent to developing that talent once it is in place. Without the people, organizations will never realize their full potential.

So, why am I sharing this? Great question! It’s to encourage you to think about your own organization. Where do you go deep and where are you neglecting to go as deep as you need? Typically, as business leaders we spend a lot of time on the tangible parts of our businesses — finances, competitors, market trends, customer needs and feedback, new product development, proposal writing . . . you get the idea. We have identified the three most common areas that require deeper focus for high performing organizations.

High Performing Organizations Focus on These Three Areas

Go Deep into Hiring

All too often, hiring practices are stuck with the old tried and true process: resume reviews, phone interviews, narrow down and select, face-to-face interviews to check for skills, and then make an offer. None of these activities help us understand the candidate’s motivations. Going Deep here involves developing a robust hiring process that includes a well proven hiring assessment, and the extensive use of behavioral interviewing. Hiring will be more data based, which allows the interview process to focus much more on character and values, allowing a better assessment of cultural fit. Hiring for attitude over skill always results in a better fit for the organization, and ultimately, higher performance from the employee.

Go Deep into Policies and Procedures

Do your policies and procedures look like a long list of “thou shalt not” statements? All too often, this is true and only serves to focus people on the minimum acceptable standard. Going deep in this area changes the focus to values, or rather, the highest expectations of the organization. If people are upholding the organizational values, they are much less likely to violate any policy. Another way to look at this is to ask, “Why do policies exist?” Could they be changed to better reflect their intent? For example, GM’s CEO Mary Barra changed the dress code to two words: “Dress Appropriately.” What this did was put the onus on individuals and managers to own what it meant, giving everyone a greater sense of buy-in and accountability.

Go Deep into Talent Development

Or as some organizations call it, “training” — which is red flag #1. All too often, we see a lot of money being spent on training with no effect on the success of the organization. Typically, this is due to the training not being part of a cohesive talent development focus but rather, more of a “check the box” exercise. Did we provide training for our employees this year? CHECK! Going deep with talent development requires a strategic view, how is performance assessed? What mechanisms are in place for high potential employees? What does a well-rounded leader look like for this organization? Done well, talent development creates an environment of transparency for what it takes to be successful. It provides opportunities for every employee to develop the skills they need to be the best at what they do — whether that’s maintaining the workspace, leading a team of engineers or being CEO. Development never stops.

Going Deep Isn’t Easy

Now, none of this is easy. In our world of instant gratification, limited time, and the desire to always be in action, taking the easy route and doing something visible and defendable (even if it is not very effective) is very tempting. However, I challenge you to think beyond that. Go deep and simply ask yourself, “Why?” more often. Why am I sending my team on a team building day? Why am I not going with them? (Yes, I have seen this happen before.) Finally, What do I expect to have changed afterwards? You might be surprised at the answers and how that changes what you actually do.

When you need a partner to help you dig a little deeper, we’ll be here. In the meantime, do what high performing organizations do . . . Be Fearless!

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