The 2 Characteristics of High-Performance Organizations

by: Dwight Mihalicz

We know there need to be clear accountability and authority frameworks in place for work to be properly delegated down and across the organization. And while self-managed teams and flat organizations are all the rage, total empowerment could result in anarchy. Command-and-control rigidity, however, is not ideal either.


So why do people in organizations do what others tell them to do? We live in a free society where we decide what we want to do with our time, so what is it that drives people to legitimize the authority of the manager to tell them what to do and how to spend their work hours?

Key Drivers of Performance

One reason: We need to earn a living, and if we don’t do our job, someone else will. But compensation is not the only driving force, because if it were, work wouldn’t be done with the level of capability and initiative necessary for high performance.

Something else is at play – the notion of trust and respect existing between employees and their managers. Certainly, people work to earn a living, but many hope also to make a difference, and they often have a self-held belief that is furthered by doing the work. By working with someone they respect, and taking instruction from someone they trust, they can be fully engaged in their work. It’s important that employees respect and trust that the instruction they receive is consistent with the goal of producing great work.

Organization Design and Talent-Management Systems Can Promote Respect and Trust

The establishment of respect and trust in the organization is largely driven by two factors: the correct organization design and an effective talent pool system. More specifically, placing the right people (with the right skills, capability and application) in the right position enables them to earn respect and trust. If managers are not appropriately placed, chances are they will not be able to earn respect from subordinates and, as a consequence, they will be ineffective. Yet, we know from research published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), that just 29% of employees think that trust in senior management is strong at their workplace. Managers are not respected for being more capable than their subordinates, and are seldom seen as having the ability to earn the trust necessary for a highly energetic and successful organization.

If the right organization design is in place, and a good talent pool process can appropriately match managers to positions, then the complexity of work will be appropriately aligned. This helps to ensure that managers have the right knowledge and skills, will value the work of management and do managerial work, and most importantly, have capability that is higher than their subordinates. If this is in place, then when problems do arise, managers are trusted by their subordinate to resolve them, and the trust relationship is enhanced.

In terms of manager effectiveness, the concept of trust and respect is critical. Unless you have the right relationship between managers and their subordinates, and managers with the right skills and capability to fully apply themselves in their work, then it is nearly impossible to have managers that are truly effective.

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