In Flat Army, Dan Pontefract outlines his take on why it’s important, today, for firms to become connected and engaged. In his view, it’s time to connect the dots between leadership, engagement, learning, technology, and collaboration as a path to improved business performance. He explains the performance advantages engaged firms have. He then champions leadership practices where employees see the need for better, have the courage to strive for it, and pursue it with the curiousity to learn how, all with the help of technologies that accelerate the path to better. Some of his key findings:
ENGAGEMENT REQUIRES EMPOWERMENT
Firms who ‘connect with and engage’ their employees achieve better results, by design. They’re not commanding and controlling their way to better. They’re coaching, measuring, adapting, exploring, and bettering. In such firms, the culture is ‘coordinate and cultivate’. It shows. Empowered employees can and will do the right thing when it counts.
EMPOWERMENT REQUIRES LEARNING AT THE SPEED OF NEED [AND CLARITY ON THE NEED]
Getting there requires ‘Learning at the Speed of Need’. He also hints at the potential for metrics, done right, to make everyone see the ‘need to learn new ways to achieve better’. In his view, scorecards aren’t just for baseball managers. Done right, they illuminate dot-connections between quantitative and qualitative; between activity and progress. It’s the antithesis of being unable to fix mistakes you can’t see.
Seeing things differently is crucial. Pontefract, quoting John Seely Brown, notes that “people learn in response to need. When people cannot see the need for what’s being taught, they don’t learn it.” When something’s seen, it’s retained. He then notes the fear-conquering impact: as Brakhage observed, “elimination of all fear is in sight.” On the learning that can then ensue, he quotes Picasso: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it”. Ponetfract suggests it’s time to start learning about something we’re not doing in order to do it.
IT’S NOT AS SIMPLE AS SOME THINK IT SHOULD BE
Efforts at creating employee engagement often fail from an unrealistic expectation that if you ‘do this’, perfect results will magically accrue. Richard Axelrod refers to it as plug-and-play activities: ‘successful employee engagement isn’t about plugging in a set of tools and techniques that you just read about then expecting engaged employees to magically appear’. Pontefract explains why it takes more than that.
GETTING THERE MAY FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE, BUT THAT’S OK
Building engaged organizations as a path to better results, in Pontefract’s view, requires: being uncomfortable with the status quo; anticipating bumps and barriers so that change can occur; seeking, relentlessly, to improve despite uncertainties; avoiding perfection as the goal [progress is perfect]; being accountable to yourself [no one will adapt for you].
Pontefract’s views on connected and engaged organizations are, in my view, a really valuable organizational development take on related sales performance challenges.*
* these include finding ways to empower sales teams and sales reps to be more adaptive
and be more certain of success by de-risking best practices.