The New Year ushers a reverence for lists unparalleled with other times and seasons. Our lists typically involve some improvement strategy or strategies, which can often be reduced to stopping, limiting, or accelerating one or more behaviors. Frequently, these lists find their home in personal improvement; I want to examine one set of strategies to improve managerial performance, and, consequently, assist in building meaningful and productive work environments. In this way, with focus, the benefits of personal improvement yield gains that impact groups, teams, and organizations.
Important work happens in small groups — collections or gatherings of between three and 15 people. The work of small groups occurs within a context and the outcomes of small group performance vary. Some small groups are the envy of others — groups in which many desire membership. However, far too many other groups operate with dullness, unmanaged conflict, and other diminishing and limiting factors. Legendary small group leadership requires commitment and practice in the domains of purpose and relationships. Mastery of both domains fuels engagement, which, in turn, contributes to happiness and success.
Purpose is performance bedrock. At a personal level, purpose directs and informs career significance. For a small group or team, purpose shapes behaviors that determine performance. Some consider purpose at the onset of assuming group leadership or at the start of a new initiative or project. From time-to-time, purpose is revisited, but not often enough. Purpose, along with organizational structure, is causal to behavior. Nearly all team performance issues can be traced to purpose.
When purpose remains illusive, performance suffers. As a manager, cues to the under-purposed organization abound, perhaps indicated in remarks similar to these: I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, Nobody seems to care, Where are we headed?, or What do you do? When purpose is clear, appreciation for diverse approaches to goal attainment is both encouraged and welcomed. Engagement improves with clear purpose to which others align.
Relationships are pathways to organizational performance. The ability to form, to foster, to navigate, and to improve relationships transforms ideas to actions, desired results to positive outcomes, and contributes to discernment. While much relationship behavior is traceable to early life, the ability to build upon or to transcend life’s lessons — to learn — is characteristic of successful people. It’s never been so much about human ability to let go of the past or to embrace a new order; rather, it’s always been about ability to transition from one stage to another.
Successful relationships are determinant to individual commitment, performance, and retention — and therefore, to organizational success. Foolhardy personal improvement recipes begin with intents to have better relationships. The familiar triad of change, growth, and development demands processes of introspection, engagement, reflection, testing, and psychological integration. The value of an individual and the environment are central or inherent in these processes. Norman Triplett, an early experimenter in social psychology, observed that the presence of others “serves to liberate latent energy not ordinarily available.”
As we move through the first weeks of 2016, discussions of seasonal resolutions are likely. At work, leverage the discussions to the benefit of personal, group, and organizational performance, uniquely tailored to purpose and relationships. Command of these skills contributes to enduring achievement, belonging, and fulfillment.