What's the difference between a high performing workplace and a low performing workplace? Well, a profit margin difference of approximately $40,000 Australian, per full-time employee. That's the findings of a study called "Leadership, Culture, and Management Practices of High Performing Workplaces in Australia". The study proves that an investment in quality and leadership pays dividends literally. High performing workplaces are 12% more productive and three times more profitable than their low performing peers. According to the study's findings, a standout feature of high performing workplaces is the leadership capabilities of managers at all levels of the organization. This factor has the highest correlation to productivity and profitability. High performing workplaces were found to not only enjoy better quality leadership, but they had higher levels of what Dr. Boedker, lead researcher on the study, called "authentic leadership".
So, what is authentic leadership? Well, authentic leaders do two things. The first, is they know the organizational goals for the future and they're really clear about the importance of those goals in the context of the organizational unit that they're responsible for. Authentic leaders have the ability to formulate and communicate a compelling internal communications vision to deliver on the purpose of their unit and the organization's goals. They have the communication skills to persuade their people that the direction that they're setting in order to achieve their internal communications vision, is both promising and convincing. The second thing that authentic leaders do is that they foster a deep belief in the shared values to achieve and deliver on that internal communications vision. Authentic leaders come across as credible individuals who live the values, walk the talk, and practice what they preach.
Authentic leaders articulate a collective future, where it's possible for many to participate in its realization. They encourage, they enable, and they motivate their people to contribute to their full potential. So there we have it. Whether an organization is a high performing workplace that delivers 12% higher productivity than a low performing workplace, depends in large measure on the leadership capabilities to formulate and articulate a compelling internal communications vision, and to foster a shared belief in the values to deliver on that internal communications vision. Easy. Well, no, not really. Why? Well the problem lies with those two little words, "vision" and "values". The reason is they've become words that have become token words.
The internal communications vision and the values are often emblazoned on a poster or a plaque, attached to a wall somewhere, and then forgotten about. So the Australian research findings show that it's time to change that. But, how? Well, I've focused on values-based communication in my video of the 2nd of October. So, in this video, let's focus on the internal communications vision aspect. In my experience, a key tactic to understanding the link between vision and high performance is the importance of context to give meaning. Everyday, leaders communicate many pieces of information to employees, and the challenge for employees is to make sense of that information; in terms of the job that they're being asked to do. Many employees experience information overload. They're drowning in information, and yet they're starving for meaning and relevance of their work. That's because communicating information without a context; well, it's like handing employees lots and lots of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Lots and lots of pieces of information without sharing with them the picture on the lid of the jigsaw puzzle box that shows how all these pieces of information fit together to create the desired picture of the organization's future.
Communicating the leadership vision helps bolster high performance. Because science tells us that people do what they do better when they know why they're doing it, not just how to do it. Communicating the leadership vision provides the reasons that shakes the thoughts, that drives the actions employees can take to deliver a higher performance outcome.
Meaning is the most powerful force in today's organization. Viktor Frankl, author of "Man's Search for Meaning", says, "Meaning arises when people bring together what they do with what's important to them." Communicating information within the context of the compelling internal communications vision helps employees establish the importance of what they're being asked to do.
Without a sense of the big picture context, what do all the pieces of information mean? Without a sense of purpose about where the organization is heading and how it's going to get there, how do employees know where to focus their efforts and what are the high priorities for the organization?
Well, that's my tactic for this Tuesday. Communicate a compelling internal communications vision for a high performing workplace. What do you think? Do you think that the big picture context is the critical link between and high performance? Well, that's it for this time. I look forward to seeing you next time. Until then, happy communicating.
Lorri Lennon is an award-winning advisor, trainer and author in leadership communication. She has 20 years’ experience managing communications for large global organisations.
Lorri conducts master classes to help participants maximise their communications ROI.
Mariska Mannes is an experienced communication consultant. She holds a Master of Management majoring in Communication, which allows her to bring a blend of qualification and practical experiences to her training programmes. Her expertise is in business and cross cultural communication and behaviour. For more information visit Mariska's LinkedIn profile.