I just don’t understand it,” the former business owner and newly minted corporate officer said to himself as he scowled and shook his head. “I used to think I had a great group of high-performing “A” players in my leadership team, but since my company was acquired they’ve all turned into “B” and “C” players. What’s the problem? Sure, there have been some changes in the environment, but we pay these guys more than ever; you would think they would be really motivated to do well. Maybe there are a couple of problems in the new company, like some “C” and “D” players in top leadership positions and a lack of candor and trust, but my guys should have been able to rise above all that.”
So what’s the deal? Were these folks never “A” players (superior performers) to begin with? If they were, wouldn’t they be able to continue to be high performing in an environment with poor leadership and a lack of openness and trust?
What do you think? Have you ever worked in an environment with poor leadership and a lack of trust? How did it affect your motivation to do your very best?
In the example above:
Skills to succeed in the old culture: intelligence, candor, trust, innovation, accountability.
Skills to succeed in the new culture: patience with poor leadership, ability to hide frustrations, ability to keep secrets, ability to accept mediocrity and less.
How long do you think “A” players are going to perform well in the new culture?
So what are the main characteristics of an organizational environment and culture that attracts and retains “A” players?
- “A” leaders who care, who lead by example, and who hold themselves and others accountable
- A clear and challenging vision that provides excitement, motivation, and focus
- “A” coworkers to enjoy and create synergies with
- Openness and honesty, which lead to trust and teamwork
- Encouragement of autonomy, creativity and innovation, including a reasonable tolerance of failure
What about money? Isn’t it important in motivating people? Yes, but mainly by the lack of it. If you pay cheap, then what you’ll get is cheap labor. However, more money past market value or slightly above in compensation does not buy you more of the kind of motivation that will benefit your organization in the long run.
Doubling someone’s salary does not double their performance. And by the way, if money is the only thing that motivates a person (in the common parlance, that’s called greed), then sooner or later you will find his/her hand in your pocket, and that definitely will reduce your organizational performance.
- Technique #1: Be an “A” player; lead by example to build an organizational culture that attracts and retains other “A” players.
Technique #2: Commit to having “A” players-your organization is only as good as the talent in it.
Technique #3: Pay for performance at market rate or slightly above, and pass on those whose sole motivation is money.