High performance work environments require a deep respect and trust in people. People are not viewed as extensions of machines, objects to be manipulated nor costs to be controlled but rather as thinking and feeling human beings who bring enormous energy, creativity and talent to their work. Most people want jobs that are meaningful and allow them autonomy to make decisions and contribute to the company in significant ways. Effective organizations are those moving beyond attempting to control people to trusting and empowering them with the resources, information, tools, skills and support to manage their work processes and create products and services of unprecedented quality.
Of course, lots of companies espouse a philosophy that values people and yet are not experiencing the kinds of performance described at the start of this article. That is because they are not designed to do so. Only a holistic and systemic view of the organization in which all aspects of the organization are aligned behind that philosophy will realize the true value of their people.
In high performance organizations people understand the business, are committed to getting results and are organized into self-contained, multi-functional and customer-focused business units or teams that take full responsibility for making decisions, solving problems and continuously improving the quality of their work. Everyone involved with a particular core process are members of the same team and are empowered with full authority for the success of a whole product, service or major segment of work. Roles and responsibilities are much broader and more meaningful in scope than in a traditional organization. The team is responsible for setting goals, coordinating and scheduling their work, interfacing with the customer, training, making decisions and problem solving, monitoring quality, and even measuring performance and making hiring and selection decisions. The role of management changes from that of controlling workers and solving day-to-day problems to being facilitators and coaches. They define outcomes, manage boundaries, interface with other departments and, in general, insure that the team has the resources, training, information and support they need to carry out the job.
Perhaps this movement could be summarized by four basic principles:
- People are the organizations greatest resource and need to be trusted and empowered.
- Work must be designed so that people are allowed to do "whole and meaningful" tasks that integrate all work aspects into a singular and total system.
- Cross-functional teams are the natural work units of high performance companies and are responsible for managing all of the tasks and processes to accomplish business goals.
- The role of management must change from controlling workers to providing resources and training as well as managing the environment so teams of workers can be most effective.
There is an old truism that "If you keep doing what you've been doing you'll keep getting what you've been getting." Most leaders, owners or managers have not yet tapped the full potential of their workforce, and yet they won't do so by doing more or even better of what they've done in the past. Only through a redesign of work and the structure of the organization can outstanding improvements in productivity and quality be realized.
Furthermore, maintaining trust is like walking on eggs—slow going and easily crushed. Here are some ways to maintain a high trust level within your organization.
- Your personal life is your public life.
Your personal life reflects who you really are. If you are in a leadership position, your personal life is open to scrutiny. Your ability to lead others will increase if people respect you.
- Keep your promises.
How many times has someone told you, “I’ll get back to you on that,” but never followed up? Don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep.
- Tell the truth all the time.
The worst thing you can do is not be open and honest with people. Trying to hide information will always catch up with you. Tell people everything they need to know, even if it’s bad news. It’s better to say too much rather than too little.
- Treat everyone with respect.
You may not like everyone you work with, but you must treat them as if you do. People want to feel they have value and worth as individuals.
- Show appreciation.
Surprise people by doing something unexpected for them. When you see one of your employees doing something good, write them a note of appreciation or walk up and just tell them. They will respect you and trust you more.
- Avoid favoritism.
Don’t turn to the same person for help over and over again. Train and develop all your employees so everyone has equal opportunity to prove themselves.
- Consistently enforce the rules.
Either enforce rules or eliminate them. The "selective" enforcement of policies damage credibility.
- Treat people as equals.
Because of the Enron scandal and some notable others, there will be more pressure on boards and executives to give all employees the same privileges normally reserved for executives. If executives can sell their stock options, why can’t other employees?
- Don’t tell jokes at others’ expense.
Telling jokes is a good way to lower your trust quotient. The most harmless jokes will be offensive to someone.
United States has changed more dramatically during the past six years than the previous 20 years combined. A falling stock market, terrorist attacks, and subsequent war in Afghanistan and Iran, not to mention the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandals, have redefined our mental landscape regarding how we play, live, worship, and work. Because of these sweeping changes, the expectations and demands of the workforce are overwhelmingly different.
The workplace of today must put high priority on human resources. There is one key truth superseding all backgrounds, cultures, and generations… people want to be part of an organization that means something!