“Burning Deck” without setting things on fire


The role of leadership teams in providing motivational gravity

Some weeks back in a hugely impactful, and widely reported memo to his staff,

Nokia’s chief executive to staff: ‘we are standing on a burning platform’ http://bit.ly/ePlUgo

Mr Elop made a dramatic call to arms that I found inspirational, but which also got me wondering “how do I get my team to work in burning deck mode without setting fire to things?”

Regression to mean can be observed in that left to themselves, teams regress from high performance to the mean, normal performance. Normal is misleading, I do mean underperforming; performance is not sufficient to meet the needs of the business.

As leaders, the question we need to ask ourselves and our teams when we recognise performance as regressing is “If we carry on at this (normal) rate, how long have we got left?”

  • before we lose our market position
  • before we lose our relevance
  • before we lose our jobs?

and when the answer is “not long” – burning deck motivation looks ideal

image

I like the phrase “Job Tourist” to describe a mode we all get in and can recognise, pretty much all of the above are words we use or situations we are in where we are coasting, passing through work – normal performance.

image

These are the words and situations represented by the paradigm of standing on the burning deck of a ship and, are easy to understand as attributes a leader would like to observe in a team that is need of greater performance.

Here is where the role of the leader is to provide motivational gravity that inspires and pulls team performance from “normal” to “burning deck”

Motivational Gravity

Motivational Gravity pulls normal behaviour to exceptional through:

  • Clarity of purpose [confront difficult issues]
  • Behavioural modelling [authentic belief]
  • Consistent messaging [systemic not tactical]
  • Emotional appeal [critical path]

The leadership models I’ve borrowed from are obvious to most readers but this is where to apply that theoretical learning you’ve done to great impact.

And that is the key message here – it’s what we do that matters, not the people we have doing it for us. The role of the leader is to provide that motivational gravity that shifts performance of the team as a whole from normal to something exceptional – go, start now!

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