A High Confidence Culture
Do you want a High Performance Culture? The way to really get it is to create a High Confidence Culture instead.
The term “High Performance Culture” has been in circulation for a pretty long time now with probably a dozen consulting firms offering strategies to create one. Most of these are very good.
What I want to do is to view the need for higher performance as a management-response problem, one that is created by leaders to take the organization to another level. We’ll have to define what we mean and how to measure it, and there are many components to this.
For example, at one client, they adopted an HPC that involved 15 key components, and many of them had subcomponents for further clarification. It is an excellent package, but there weren’t any measures of performance actually tied to HPC. It was more of a “reminder” to leaders to behave according to the values described.
Based on my research, organizations want cultures of engagement. They might call them Problem Solving cultures, or continuous improvement cultures, or even high performance cultures, but the desire is the same: we want our people to show up, do good work, improve that work whenever they can, and achieve our goals. So we have 4 key measurement areas: Attendance, Productivity, Improvements, and Results. But the way we measure and respond is far more important than what we measure.
Are we measuring these things at work? Most places I’ve been aren’t really. But let’s say we’re not getting what we think we want. If that’s a problem, let’s look at the root cause. In the years that I’ve been working on this with people, I believe the single most important root cause for failure in all four of these areas is that our workforce has low self-efficacy for engagement.
Self-efficacy is the belief in our ability to influence events that affect our life and our sense of control over the way we experience events (Bandura, 1997). [From Self-Efficacy and Leadership Commitment During Lean Strategy Deployment by Angela D. Pearson. November 2019 PhD Dissertation.]
Another way to think about it is our individual confidence in our ability to perform a particular task in a particular setting. I think it is particularly relevant in a work environment. Performing the work is typically taken care of during someone’s on-boarding and on-the-job training.
We expect people to have to work up to a level of competence over time. But how much time to we spend reflecting on why that competence is really important? In most cases, managers will tell you that competence is important only for how it affects the results; not how it affects the person.
Competence is the most critical builder of self-efficacy for that job. Competence leads to mastery. Mastery leads to innovation. When you’re an expert, you don’t burn cognitive energy on actually doing the work – you just work. Your brain is free to think about ways to improve the work – but we, as leaders, need to make that a clear expectation. We want you to achieve a level of competence because it will allow you to find better ways to work and that benefits both the worker and the company.
I’ve hit this in a few videos I’ve made, and in the future, I’ll go into a lot more detail. But for now, I’m going to shift gears a little over the next couple of weeks and talk about some historical developments that have shaped the way we think about work. Hopefully, if we understand what shaped that thinking, we can change things and reshape or reframe our thinking.