The family business had been struggling for some time. An exasperated Mr. Jones, the father and President of the company, was talking with Sue, his oldest daughter and Vice President of Marketing. “We’ve got to make some changes around here. Volume is down, profits are down, and we’re in serious danger of running out of cash. I think we should require all employees to work mandatory overtime on the weekends on an unlimited basis until we get ourselves out of this hole we’re in. What do you think, Sue?”
“Well Dad, I’d worry that after a short while employee morale and motivation would begin to drop and that our turnover rate would skyrocket and cost us a bundle. Surely there must be other options to solve this problem.”
“If there are, I sure can’t see them. These people ought to be thankful to us that they have a job at all in these tough economic times. It’s time for them to show us a little gratitude and loyalty for gainful employment all these years. Life was never meant to be a picnic anyhow, you know.”
Let’s talk about high performance values. In my client organizations, we always create a short list of “core values” as part of our strategic planning process. Many people scoff at this exercise these days, they say things like “this is just like a hundred other companies’ core values lists; it all sounds like mom and apple pie and is a waste of time for creating profits and long term success.” They’re dead wrong.
Ultimately, business and organizational life is about relationships. There can be no sustained high performance and success without strong positive relationships among employees, customers, vendors, etc. Even in the most automated enterprise someone has to like doing business with you enough to continue to buy your products and services.
In fact, the Primary “Doc”trine that I teach in my leadership training seminars these days is that “The only real source of sustained high performance is the quality of your people, especially your leaders.” A lot of the quality of your people depends on the values that shape your organizational culture and thus individual employees’ behavior.
Happy customers/clients are the lifeblood of any organization, and I’ve never seen an organization with unhappy employees that has happy customers (wow, it really does roll downhill!). Let’s do a quick values clarification exercise and agree on a couple of high performance values that do create strong positive relationships, sustained high performance, and lasting profits.
What is a higher priority in your organization, “people” or “money?” Many people would argue that money is more important because an organization can’t survive without it. Granted, but who are you going to depend on to generate that money year after year? I have found that ultimately people are more important to your long term financial success than money.
What is a higher priority in your organization, “enjoyment” or “achievement?” Once again, many leaders quickly will say that achievement is why we’re here; enjoyment of the process is something we grab along the way if we can. Of course you have to have achievement, but if all the people you count on to achieve are tired and unhappy, who will help you achieve as the years roll on? Sure you can always replace people, but have you checked out the average cost of turnover (2-3 times annual salary). I have found that ultimately enjoyment is more important to your long term financial success than achievement.
Using our example and moving our perspective to the larger stage of life, these values decisions become even more important in family businesses. I have seen many parents in these businesses inadvertently teach their children that achievement is more important than enjoyment and that money is more important than people. Then, inevitably, they are puzzled about why their family relationships are such a shambles.
Do you have to make tough “people” decisions in organizational life? Of course you do. Do you have to terminate people sometimes, either because they are the wrong people or because you are attempting to save the jobs of many other people? Of course you do. Do you have to pay attention to achievement and money to be successful? You bet. But remember, choosing values that get the best results for your organization are not always about either/or, but many times about priority.
Oh, and the leaders in our example have many options that would be much more effective in restoring sound profits than running off their work force?
- Technique #1: For sustained high performance, value enjoyment over achievement in your decision making.
Technique #2: For sustained high performance, value people over money in your decision making.
Technique #3: For sustained high performance, lead by example-live your high performance values.