Throughout the 4 previous posts in this blog series, I have spelled out critical pieces of what influences leadership, culture, and engagement. I also shared how context and emotions are critical connectors that ultimately drive business outcomes (performance). At the end of the day, business outcomes are what keeps a company in business or not. If you noticed, the focus of each post in this blog series was NOT business outcomes, however. Business outcomes were the output of how leadership, context, culture, emotions, and engagement were fitted together and how they organically work within every organization. This post will be no different. I want to put it all together so that you can holistically see how this framework functions as a single body of work, made up of many parts.
As I built this framework, I realized there was a logical order to how things played out. It begins with leadership and how leaders “show up” in the organization. How resources are allocated and the manner in which leaders manage stress and show integrity are an impetus creating a contextual framework, that ultimately results in the development of your culture. Any adjustments to leadership result in a corresponding adjustment in culture because the context created by that leadership – expectations, permissible behavior, accountability – is changed.
Whatever culture ends up being developed elicits an emotional response. Emotions are pretty much neutral, but our relationship to that emotion (framed by the culture in which it is experienced) is what gives meaning and value to it. Perceived positive emotions are productive and perceived negative emotions are destructive. Emotions give magnitude to the level of engagement; the more negative the emotion, the lower the engagement and vice versa.
As engagement fluctuates, the behaviors of people will fluctuate with it. These behaviors are recognized as performance and business outcomes are dependent upon that performance. Leadership responds to business outcomes/performance/behavior and will then adjust what they do as leaders as a means to positively impact business outcomes and the cycle begins all over again. It is a never-ending cyclical process that is at play within every organization whether you are aware of it or not.
In my experience, leaders take action to directly affect the business outcome, but tend to not recognize the attention needed by the cultural, emotional, and engagement areas in order to actually execute on providing the desired business outcome. So, the effort has a less than desired result and leadership actions change, yet again, and it becomes a disjointed effort that is unintentionally uninformed and people simply get worn out through their own ignorance.
The framework I have laid out in this blog series is designed to take into consideration all of these contributing factors and help leadership be informed about how best to approach meeting business objectives and still keeping in mind the human component that contributes to those objectives. Following this framework also helps leaders to consider how to help the humans in their organizations to flourish as a precursor to the organization itself flourishing.
How to Use the Framework to Achieve Better Business Outcomes
Start with business outcomes – This is a natural place to begin for most leaders. Focus on what the business goals need to be in order for the organization to succeed. Then, work the framework backwards from how I described the process throughout this blog series.
Define behavior – What behavior/performance will create the desired business goals for the organization? Depending on the level in the organization you are doing this planning, you may need to segment this work into functional areas. Focus on specific behaviors from specific groups that will deliver the optimal business outcomes.
Critique engagement need – This is where most organizations struggle. Ask yourself, “What does engagement need to look like for us in order to produce this kind of behavior?” Remember that some key drivers for engagement include: Autonomy, Feeling valued, Confidence in senior leadership, and Meaningful work. Can meaningful work take place under current organizational structure? Is there a need for an org redesign (or at least in a particular area)? This takes time, so don’t try and rush it.
Identify supporting emotions – What emotions do your people need to experience in order to achieve that level of engagement? Again, this isn’t a 1 hour meeting discussion. This takes time. You have to truly know your organization and the people in it. If you don’t know what emotions are valuable, you should connect more with your people.
Critique culture – Once you land on the most beneficial emotions for your people, ask yourself, “Does our actual culture – not the one you hope to have – elicit these emotions in our people?” Think about some of those cultural drivers like language, values, metrics, stories, and most importantly, work processes. Before you can actually achieve the business outcomes you want, you may need to do some culture transformation work.
Define context – To what do you want people to be held accountable? This includes every person from entry level to the C-Suite. What are the expectations regarding general behavior, decision making models, judgment? What is permissible within your organization and what isn’t? If it’s not for everyone, then your culture will reflect that. The emotions of distrust, cynicism, and indifference will impact your engagement levels and business outcomes will fall short of their mark. This area is a bit nuanced, so it is easy to overlook it. Don’t.
Assess leadership need – Based on everything you have discovered in the steps listed above, what does that information demand of your leadership? What does it say about how you need to communicate? How does it inform what you should and shouldn’t be rewarding? What does it say about how you should allocate resources? Being a leader is about influencing based on where things are as a means to get to where they need to be…this framework keeps that in perspective.
It is important to keep in mind that this framework is truly a way of operating, and not a one and done. It isn’t something you pull out, dust off and sheep dip the organization in it. This requires critical thought and sustained effort to recognize all the factors contributing to whether or not you achieve the business outcomes you want/need for your organization’s success. This framework helps you systematically support the success of the people within your organization on a human level so they are equipped to support the success of your organization on a performance level.
Long gone are the days of “Leave it at the door” thinking. We are humans interacting with other humans so that we provide value to more humans in the hopes of making money from it. On a fundamental level, this is business and so remembering the human component of business is critical to being sustainably profitable. The goal is to optimize the performance of the talent within your organization as a means to achieve business outcomes. Again, the focus is on helping the human to flourish as a catalyst to facilitate the flourishing of the organization.
I would love to hear your thoughts on either this post or this blog series and if you are thinking of using this framework to achieve better business outcomes through human flourishing. Feel free to leave a comment below.
If you would like to have a more detailed conversation about how this framework can help people flourish and improve the performance within your organization, click here to schedule a chat!