The intention of principles

How does this relate to great company culture/behaviours being congruent with principles? The difference between ‘financially successful' and ‘great' lies in the intention behind the guiding principles. Does the company exist purely to make money at whatever cost, or to do so in a way that enables people to fulfil their potential? Paradoxically, the latter makes better financial sense - colleagues working at full stretch in the creative sense will make more impact on the bottom line than those who are just doing the job. It enables the business to run smoothly, with low expense ratios and high levels of commitment.

Essentially it depends whether organisational principles are exclusive or inclusive:

  • exclusive organisational principles - The principles are ‘self-centred' in a business sense. They take a narrow focus, concentrating only on business outcomes, regardless of the cost to colleagues - ie the principles relate primarily to profits and exclude the needs of others. They also encourage colleagues to behave in a self-centred manner, looking after number one.

  • inclusive organisational principles - The principles include everyone. They reflect the business in its widest sense, highlighting the needs and development of colleagues as a strong business driver - ie the principles place as much importance on colleagues as on profits. They encourage behaviour that respects and supports colleagues, customers and the community.

People too can become exclusive in their thinking, especially when working for a company that expresses exclusive principles. They look after their immediate needs, failing to see that work is part of their development. Career promotion becomes an entirely personal task and is generally taken to mean moving companies at regular intervals to ensure a wide range of experience. Commitment to the company is rarely a factor; commitment to personal and financial development is high. Managers will hear of forthcoming moves only when the next advancement is secured and the chance to stop expertise and company knowledge walking out of the door is limited to financial sweeteners. Energy is funnelled into personal development alone, rather than personal and company development as a combined force. We have all heard those discussions - ‘It's time I moved on and extended my experience for the sake of my CV.'

This emphasis brings all sorts of knock-on effects. When a manager is not committed to the development of a colleague, confronting poor performance or counter-cultural behaviour is less important. Dealing with these issues can be a great tool for self-development, but in exclusive organisations all too often it is left to fate. The manager hopes someone else will give the necessary feedback, puts the person into a backwater job in the hope it will prompt them to leave, or expects the team to try harder and work round the problem.

In an inclusive company where people are high priority, poor performance will not be tolerated - the under-performing colleague is too important. Tough love comes high on the agenda when principles relate to work as an important part of life.

At Flight Centre they recognise that the company is totally dependent on the effectiveness of its people. They also realise that the longer people stay and the more involved they are in the progress of the business, the better they will serve each other and their customers. They want people to feel excited and fulfilled by their work, while being cared for and encouraged by the company - otherwise, why would they stay? So they have developed ‘Brightness of Future' - a theme that runs throughout the company - ensuring that each person is supported to create the life they want, even if that ultimately means leaving Flight Centre. The outcome is a highly successful business, growing 20 per cent year on year globally, even in the tough markets of 2002/2003, staffed by people who grow and develop their skills internally.

Get the right person in the right job

Ensuring that a colleague fits the culture is only the first part of the equation. The next stage is to find the job that suits them best. People do their best work when accessing their natural talents - then they will excel and thrive. Finding the right job is not always easy, and it can take a few attempts before the best place is found.

To make sure this happens, managers track progress closely, watching for signs of talent being left to moulder. Inclusive principles come into their own at this point, using ‘problems' as a pointer to understand needs and focus development. When principles are exclusive, it is easier to turn a blind eye and hope for the best.

So regular contact between colleague and manager becomes highly significant. At Asda appraisals are monthly, as they are at Flight Centre - any less frequently and issues/congratulations could go untended. Difficulties are spotted early on and tackled from the perspective of both colleague and manager - ie, is the colleague struggling because they feel unsupported by the boss or is it a matter of expertise or the wrong job? Both parties explore the issues and take part in the solution.

Compare this to an exclusive company where a colleague is not performing. Appraisal is twice-yearly at best, with little contact in between. Everyone knows there is a problem, but they are waiting for the manager to tackle it. She dislikes giving feedback and finds development conversations difficult, so keeps the appraisal short - or even cancels, because ‘something has come up'. People in the team gradually pick up the shortfall and the situation is sorted - for a while. Inevitably, resentment builds - why should others do more than their fair share? Why should the individual get away with it? Credibility of the manager drops as time goes by. The end result? High-potential people in the team get fed up and look for other jobs, while the poor performer continues oblivious to their impact on what was a good team. Sound familiar?

Taking the line of least resistance is not an option when inclusive principles are lived from day to day in an organisation. Addressing problems and underperformance is high priority because it impacts on both people and business. If someone fails to pull their weight in a team, it may be they are trying to pull the wrong load. Or it may be that they don't have the support/knowledge they need, or they are having difficulties at home. Whatever the issue, it is for colleague and manager to address together, seeking out the best solution.

Of course, the right job is not always available and there are situations that require tough action to be taken. When exiting is the only way forward, strong people-centred principles demand that it is addressed in a way that serves the business and leaves the person with as much self-esteem as possible. This is part of the paradox. The assumption is that great companies are soft and fluffy, spending time just being nice to people. In fact, they are direct and straightforward, facing up to difficult issues that exclusive companies fight shy of. If you want an easy life, do not go to a great company!

The delight is that when people are significant in the equation and helped to do their very best job, there is huge benefit to the bottom line. Those who function on exclusive principles would hate to think so, but their behaviour costs them profits, as well as high performance and self-esteem.

And where would most of us like to work? In a company that values our contribution, develops potential and promotes as soon as the opportunity arises, keeps us challenged through exciting work and straight feedback, while making every effort to celebrate successes? Or in an organisation that punishes when results are poor; refuses to give straight feedback and so covertly supports poor performance; makes no effort to celebrate success; demonstrates little appreciation unless we are working extra long hours regardless of need, and has precious little fun?

It's a no-brainer. The war for talent has been won by those who live inclusive principles day in, day out.

Becoming an Employer of Choice(c) Make Your Organisation A Place Where People Want To Do Great Work
Becoming an Employer of Choice(c) Make Your Organisation A Place Where People Want To Do Great Work
Year: 2006
Pages: 100 © 2008-2017.
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