Discover Performance

HP Software's community for IT leaders // March 2014
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Inspiring top performance in the individual and team

HP leadership consultant Joshua Brusse discusses how to inspire the one for the success of the many.

By Joshua Brusse

The best IT executives know that their success largely depends on both how their individuals and teams perform. But in today’s enterprise, where the ways we work, interact, take time off, set goals, meet deadlines, learn, and so on are changing significantly, this is no easy task!

It is not impossible, though. The key to success lies both in inspiring the individual to higher effectiveness (through a balance of attention, autonomy, and the right challenges) and in stimulating and facilitating synergies so that the sum of each individual’s improvements contributes to overall team performance, and thus the company’s goals.

Highly successful sports franchises and their coaches have figured out very well how to inspire individual excellence and then blend these performances into team success. Take Phil Jackson, former basketball coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls, who has won 11 NBA championships—the most in history. Jackson became known for giving each player a specific, individualized book that would help the player be a better teammate, decision maker, and leader—both in personal life and on the basketball court: a great example of how individual attention creates synergy effects without much effort.

While individual performance is important, the big payoff comes when happy and effective workers can blend together as a team, even temporarily, to create breakthrough performance that is a direct result of their so-called network performance. Therefore, leaders must concentrate on how to achieve that network effect. And yet I’ve seen very often that the success or failure at the team level depends on how you recruit and engage individuals.

The individual path to group success

I have already written about individual effectiveness—for instance, that workers who are given more latitude in their roles are more productive and have lower absenteeism than those with little decision-making power. And that it is really about giving employees some level of control over aspects of their life and work—whether it’s in prioritization, or deciding where to work, or when. It’s a vital element in a nearly 24-7 global economy, in which people may be called on to work odd hours or connect with international coworkers.

Also, individuals welcome the opportunity to work on new and different things. So for IT managers, sometimes the key may be to mix things up and turn the organization on its head. Take legendary General Electric CEO Jack Welch. He knew that to push GE to new heights, he had to turn everything upside down. So he developed the idea of a “boundary-less organization,” in which everyone is free to brainstorm. Welch promised to listen to ideas from anyone in the company. Everyone got his attention, giving employees an incredible sense of purpose and fulfillment—with great results. During Welch’s 20-year tenure at GE, the company's value rose 4,000 percent.

To all this, I’d add the following tips:

  1. Recruit staff that have the potential for, or existing competencies in: autonomy, decisiveness, teamwork, problem solving, influencing, being proactive, being creative, and demonstrating self-awareness.
  2. Develop an organizational awareness beyond the employee’s current role. Employees who learn to look beyond their roles and structures, and show a high interest in the company’s goals and objectives, are more likely to improve their contributions and performance.
  3. Develop a high sense of prioritization. Employees that have internalized prioritization are more effective on their own and require less of your daily management bandwidth, because they understand what is needed for the company right now. They will be more sensitive to the need to coordinate with others if that is required for the immediate success of the program they are working on.
  4. Assure an effective work/life Integration for all employees: it improves satisfaction and effectiveness—and will be the topic of my next article.

The sum of the parts

Self-aware employees with non-job-specific competencies such as autonomy, decisiveness, influence, and problem solving, who can develop and leverage an organizational awareness beyond the boundaries of their own roles, will deliver very strong individual performance and, when motivated in the right way, will easily connect with others to form a network that will generate breakthrough performance for the entire organization.

Joshua Brusse has more than 20 years’ experience in all aspects of running IT as a business. He consults with HP enterprise customers regarding strategy, governance, service lifecycle management, and organizational design and transformation. This is the first of three weekly articles on the future of management that will be posted at Discover Performance.

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