October 1, 2008

News & Opinion: Guest Post - Lee J. Colan, Ph.D.

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 4:15 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy

Over the next few days, we will have a series of guest-posts from Lee Colan, the author of Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees: How to Ignite Passionate Performance for Better Business Results, recently released by McGraw-Hill. To read this post in it's entirety, click the "continue reading" link at the end of the entry.
Achieving Passionate Performance
Regardless of current economic trends, the labor shortage is still alive and well. The labor supply will continue to tighten resulting in a shortage of up to 10 million jobs. Enter the Talent War! Couple this shortage with technology advancements nearing the speed of light, there are no sustainable competitive advantages anymore... except for your people. Engaging the hearts and minds of your team is the only sustainable advantage left in today's hyper-competitive world. The bottom line - Leaders must engage their teams to win the talent war! It's the only winning strategy to get and keep your people long term. For starters, leaders must see the person behind the employee to see universal human needs at work. There are three intellectual needs (Achievement, Autonomy, and Mastery) and three emotional needs (Purpose, Intimacy and Appreciation) that must be fulfilled. The mind and heart go hand in hand when it comes to igniting Passionate Performance. Engaging the mind builds performance. Engaging the hearts ignites passion. Only together can a leader create a passionately performing team.
Your People as a Competitive Advantage?
In today's hyper-competitive market, a burning question for most companies is this: "How can we achieve a significant and sustainable competitive advantage so that we can retain our customers?" After all, keeping existing customers is five times less expensive than finding new ones. That's good business in anyone's book. Traditional competitive factors like product design, technology and distribution channels are harder to sustain in a super-fast, mega-networked world. In fact, the good old "Four P's of Marketing"--product, price, promotion and placement--are having much less impact for companies competing in today's world. However, a fifth "P"--people--has become an increasingly important competitive factor. Consider this: About 70% of customers' buying decisions are based on positive human interactions with staff. Add to this the fact that 83% of the U.S. gross domestic product comes from services and information that are created and delivered by people. The bottom line is that people buy from people, not companies. So, your people--and the performance they deliver--are the defining competitive advantage for your organization. After the jump, I will share how you can leverage the 5th P--your people--to create what I call Passionate Performance. Please let me hear what you are currently doing to create a selling situation where your customers are buying from your people, not your company.
Igniting Passionate Performance
When people are engaged in their work and feel a deep connection to it, they deliver Passionate Performance. Passionate Performance creates satisfied customers, and ultimately, value for your organization. Think of the times you've gone shopping or to a restaurant and dealt with service people who were visibly excited about their jobs and to be serving you. Their words jumped out of their hearts rather than being regurgitated from a script. They probably surprised you with the extra effort and thoughtfulness they put toward satisfying your particular needs or questions--and they actually seemed happy to do it! Now, consider how you felt when you left these establishments. Did you buy more than you had planned? Were you likely to return? Did you recommend these businesses to friends? You probably answered "Yes" to at least one of these questions. That's the beginning of a value chain that starts with engaged employees. Some people are naturally engaged in their work and consistently deliver Passionate Performance. Effective leaders know how to bring these qualities out in everyone. They invest time, energy and resources to engage their people because engaged employees are more likely to:
  • stay with the organization;
  • perform at higher levels;
  • influence others to perform well;
  • promote the organization externally; and
  • deliver unparalleled customer service. When you discover how to actively engage your people to deliver Passionate Performance, you start a powerful and self-reinforcing cycle that builds value for your organization. This creates a unique, sustainable competitive advantage. Given enough time and resources, your competitors can replicate your products, distribution channels and technology. However, Passionate Performance cannot be easily duplicated by your competition and creates a rock-solid wall of differentiation between you and the rest of the pack. Before you think about igniting Passionate Performance in your team, you have to start with yourself. So, please share what YOU do to ignite your own passion.
    Discretionary Effort--The Big Payoff for Leaders
    Passionate Performance is achieved when employees are fully engaged--when they demonstrate a strong, sustained intellectual and emotional attachment to their work. You will know when employees are demonstrating Passionate Performance because you will feel the enthusiasm and see the results. After all, at the beginning of the day, it's all about possibilities. At the end of the day, it's all about results. Your team will have more fun creating better outcomes. They will be fully present at work, in the moment, in the flow. They will perform at higher levels and be motivated to do more. They will feel like kids again--a time when they had fun doing their very best at whatever they were engaged in. In short, their work will feel like play. Can you remember a situation where you felt like this? Maybe it was a special project where everything came together perfectly. Or a team you were on where everyone did what was best for the team, creating a rare synergy. Or a certain cause you volunteered for where you felt like the best of your skills and talents flowed naturally to make a real difference. Most of us can remember a situation like this because it was such a unique experience and left us with such a special feeling. It may have been a lot of work, but we most frequently describe it as "fun." That's because our minds and hearts were fully engaged. What does Passionate Performance look like? How will you know when your employees are giving it? First, look for signs of the big payoff from Passionate Performance: discretionary effort--people choosing to do more for you. You'll know your employees are giving discretionary effort when they:
  • choose to work late to complete a project;
  • ask how they can better serve another team member or department;
  • inquire about how their actions affect another function or the customer;
  • make a connection between their decisions and the company's financial results;
  • treat company resources like their own;
  • initiate improvements in work methods;
  • look beyond their own roles for improvement opportunities; and
  • pursue self-development on their own time. You might think the instances of employees giving Passionate Performance will be few and far between, but they don't have to be. You can learn how to orchestrate Passionate Performance every day. Come back tomorrow for more from Lee Colan, or visit his website at