True leaders take responsibility for company strategy, vision

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Don Robertson, co-director of NCC's Leadership and Executive Development Program./Contributed photo
Don Robertson, co-director of NCC's Leadership and Executive Development Program./Contributed photo

What makes a top workplace?

As Workplace Dynamics points out, it’s not about the perks.

“What really motivates employees is feeling they are part of a company that is going places,” says Workplace Dynamics, a firm that designs surveys for employees.

“This means an organization that:

• “Sets a clear direction for its future and how it conducts itself.

• “Executes well and has a culture of high performance.

• “Creates a strong connection between employees and the company by showing appreciation and by bringing meaning to work.”

Creating a culture that embodies these concepts does not happen by accident. It takes deliberate and specific measures to achieve.

Don Robertson and Donna Goss, co-directors of leadership & executive development at Northampton Community College’s Center for Business & Industry, agree.

“In the absence of clarity,” they say, “people tend to make things up for themselves, and unfortunately, because of human nature, what they create tends to be negative.”

So, if you are not intentional about the organization’s direction, expectations and culture, a culture will emerge on its own, and don’t be surprised if what emerges is not high performing.

The need to transform culture is an increasingly important step in building a high-performing organization in our accelerated business world. True leaders take responsibility for setting the strategic direction or vision of a company and the groups within it.

Since culture is a learned set of patterns of behavior that become the norm for an organization, imagine how business performance suffers if those patterns include seeing differences as a source of friction, ignoring problems and not talking about them (or blaming others) when something goes wrong – or always escalating issues to a senior level.

Management teams need to look for those patterns and recognize their leadership has to be a very intentional effort to model patterns that are desired and aligned with success. High performance is not an accident; it is nurtured by developing individuals into leaders who can think strategically and set organizational direction.

This development is a process and can easily get affected by the underutilization of human resources. Organizations sometimes hire the best and brightest and then expect them to excel based upon their past education or experience rather than developing them further.

With intentional training and setting the right culture, organizations can involve all employees in continuous process improvement, problem solving and innovation that lead to success.

Creating a culture that invites employees to engage requires strategic leadership that asks instead of tells, but still fosters accountability. Assuring organizational continuity and continually developing employees to meet changing needs add to employee satisfaction and retention, which is what makes people stay.

Giving employees challenging work, opportunities to learn and progress and a sense of belonging and being valued keeps them invested in organizational success.

Damian Dinan is client development specialist for the Center for Business & Industry at Northampton Community College. He can be reached at ddinan@northampton.edu.

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