It starts with people. It starts with recognizing the three big reasons why people come to work:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

as outlined in Daniel Pink’s excellent book Drive.

So what does autonomy mean and how do you achieve it?
In my view autonomy is about allowing someone to execute their role to agreed performance standards with the right level of management supervision. To achieve this desired state therefore, we need to first reject Job Specifications and instead, embrace Performance Profiles. Think of the parallel world of marketing. We’ve moved beyond features and benefits language and instead successful companies talk about outcomes they achieve for customers. Outcomes based thinking has replaced inward “features & benefits” thinking. Similarly Performance Profiles focus on what a role can achieve for the team, for the company. What outcomes are expected from the work done by this role? Secondly, to achieve autonomy we need to get the management supervision piece right. Too much oversight, and the feeling of autonomy is lost. So each autonomy situation requires judgement on the part of management. The entry level Java developer requires a different form of management from the experienced financial controller.

Now to mastery. In the context of many private companies, does this just mean putting in the hours, year after year? I don’t believe so. I think it’s a mindset to continually improve. To continually embrace new changes to your area, perhaps externally driven, such as technology or legislation. It requires a passion to get better by practice but also a curiosity as to how the task is connected to others. It requires a desire to stay up to date by reading papers, blogs, books to inform. That’s why I’m a big fan of the internal training program. I call it the university model after the famous Pixar example and you can create it at little cost in small, medium sized businesses to create mastery. My full blog post on how I did it with a small sub 100 person software group I led is here. One of the surprising benefits to building an internal university is the massive respect that is created overnight, by people realizing the difficulty of their colleague’s job!

Finally, purpose and how to achieve that for each member of staff. For me this is the key to achieving high levels of energy and passion within a team. As the leader of your company, your story should be compelling not just to prospects, not just to prospective job candidates, but also to each and every member of staff. It doesn’t have to be corny or a platitude, it just has to be real. Your positioning statement should define what you do, why you’re remarkable at it, the outcomes you achieve for customers and why that’s believable. The secret is then to connect that person’s role, their Performance Profile with the achievement of that Positioning Statement. Employees need a purpose bigger than themselves, they want a cause. I don’t care if it’s the junior payroll clerk or the COO. Everyone’s role matters.

Be embracing Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose you are well on your way to bringing energy and passion to your business and achieving a far higher level of staff engagement.

The Portfolio Partnership continues to offer practical operational support to leaders who wish to scale their businesses both organically and by acquisition. We offer complimentary, strictly confidential, “surgery hours” most weeks to help you create a remarkable business. or call 978 395 1155.