“It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess.

Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”

– Jackson Pollock

Jenny and Jane go to their identical offices every day and have identical workloads.  After initially starting off with equal enthusiasm, one is now miserable and gets the minimum done, the other is happy and has high levels of productivity.  So why the difference in productivity and happiness level?

As leaders we play a crucial role in providing a setting that nurtures and supports our teams.  And that’s not about having bean bags and coffee machines.  It’s about having a great culture which is then diffused throughout the organisation – standards consistently applied to every aspect, so that each element is in alignment.

Why’s that important? Well, a great employee and a poor company culture do not mix well.  Attitude spreads like the flu – it’s catching. Even if your employee starts with a great attitude, if they are surrounded day in, day out by culturally negative or culturally neutral colleagues, they will be infected. And if elements of the organisation – for instance how performance is measured – aren’t aligned, then the organisation isn’t walking the talk.  And that has a direct impact on the business bottom line. 

So as well as team members making sure they have a great attitude and bring the best of themselves to work, as leaders, what can we do to encourage our teams to have a great mindset around work and bring more than the minimum? How can we adapt so we do “walk the talk”?


Happiness is an advantage

Experience (which Gallup research backs up*), suggests that people are engaged most when you address four key areas:

  • what will I get?
  • what will I give?
  • how will I belong?
  • how will I grow?

 Get the foundational levels right (the essential tools to do the job and a supportive manager) and they will be engaged enough to do the role. At least for now.

But what if you can engage heart and mind? What if you can engender a greater sense of belonging, and growth? This is one of the keys to happiness in the workplace, and as Shawn Achor’s research** suggests, happiness can lead to:

  • 37% more sales
  • 31% more productivity
  • Up to 10 times more engagement
  • 39% more chance of living to age 94
  • 3 times more creativity
  • 40% more likely to receive a promotion
  • 23% lower fatigue symptoms (leading to fewer mistakes and fewer sick days)


Paint them a picture

During my interviews with executives and business leaders who have focused on creating great company cultures, there was one thing I was hoping to find … and it came up time and again:

  • They helped the employee link their role to the big picture
  • They got their employees to tap into a Big Why

In essence, they got their team out of “implementation” mode, looking at the detail and only their role, and expanded their awareness into the bigger “environment”, and changed their time horizon from now (and maybe next week) to now … and the future.

So how did they do it? Well they aligned their systems and performance metrics with their culture.  And part of that process was to get rid of communicating essentially meaningless productivity metrics (x number of widgets sold or shipped for instance) and instead give their team a concept that they could really connect to. They connected their team with a vision, a picture which they painted in their minds, and which they could feel pride in.


“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” – Simon Sinek


Here’s two quick examples:

David McQueen shared with me that at NAB he replaced a home loan productivity metric with a new and inspiring one: “How many people did we help into a new home today?”

As a result, he can easily cite examples of team members who went above and beyond, including one who personally helped a family – who were on a deadline to finalise the paperwork for their move – by hand delivering documents to them. Would a metric of “x home loans”  or “$ in sales” have engendered the same response?

And likewise, Warren Bingham at Clinical Genomics doesn’t talk about how many bowel cancer screening kits have been shipped. He talks to his team about the difference they have made in the world and asks them “how many lives did we save today?” Perhaps this is why his team will willingly work on weekends to solve a problem, collaborating on a solution so their clients aren’t impacted.  Each team member knows that their actions have the potential to help save a life.

Jenny and Jane go to their identical offices every day and have identical workloads.  After initially starting off with equal enthusiasm, one is now miserable and gets the minimum done, the other is happy and has high levels of productivity.  The difference that makes the difference is the culture.

So what metrics can you transform by painting a picture for your team? Involve them in the conversation and see what masterpiece emerges.  

Your business will thank you for it.




#leadership #companyculture #culturechange #performance #employeeengagement

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