Resources: Blog Post

May 19, 2016

The Three P’s

Ian's Morning Musing imageI have never seen anything quite like it in my corporate life. Every inch of every wall of the executive’s office was adorned from floor to ceiling with photographs of his staff. Every working space was completely used up with photos of his team, and even more, there were photos hanging from strands attached to the ceiling tiles. Entering his office was like walking into a psychedelic maze.

Yes, he was celebrating a birthday, but much more than that, the team had successfully launched Apple Pay in Canada and made history by becoming the first domestic (i.e. global) debit network in Apple Pay’s wallet. Other countries with head starts were not able to accomplish it, such was the feat. The process was a fifteen month concentrated, highly stressful project, requiring countless hours and sleepless nights and an achievement that many believed was impossible. Some shared that belief inside the organization too, but the executive and his key leads would not accept the notion that it could not be done.

The outpouring of excitement, relief and deep sense of pride over-flowed and this resulted in the assault on the executive’s office. Yet, do not believe for one moment that this could have been accomplished were it not for the highly demanding expectations of the executive and an incessant push to succeed. Unquestionably, there were times that staff felt pushed beyond reasonable limits. However, the exhilaration when the launch finally went public created this emotional outpouring reserved for winners. I am sure many of you have experienced a somewhat similar experience.

Likewise, we also see it expressed in the sports franchises in our city. Our emotional connection to success, evidenced by our support of the Blue Jays last fall during the play-offs, and now the Raptors, ignites our interest. Winning is contagious, and as David Rock shared with our corporate subscribers a couple of weeks ago, it is quite natural because winning triggers a large release of testosterone and dopamine to the brain. Success makes us more confident, and self-assured, and subsequent challenges are relished. Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist, has said, “success and failure shapes us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.” Winners and losers are easy to spot.

The challenge, of course, is how to replicate the magic of success throughout an organization. Most organizations have pockets of high performance with engaged employees, exciting work and a buzz in the workplace. Most of us will likely ascribe to some, if not all, of Gallup’s 12 productivity factors, but as I have observed the phenomena here, three attributes of the leader stand-out for me. I call them the 3 P’s – purpose, passion and perseverance.

We know being able to capture the emotional attachment to purpose is different for each person. While the end state of being the first to succeed, or global recognition, might be important to some, others are motivated by being able to work with smart people, or being a contributor in a strong team environment. Providing real value as an essential service to the national financial network was purposeful, but each one aligned to it differently. The leader recognized the power of purpose.

The second “P” is having a passion for the work. It is one thing to have personal passion for what you do, but being able to implant that in others was quite remarkable. Working with each team player to find out what truly “turned his/her crank,” came somewhat intuitively to the leader. It required additional effort and time, but the leader knew the importance of it. There are few leaders who make a point of spending time over dinner with players in the team, with his/her spouse, to talk about how the company was changing the payments industry. Often the result was a spouse becoming equally excited about the potential outcomes as our actual employee felt, notwithstanding the overtime and weekend hours being worked by each employee was taking them away from parental duty and/or household chores.

The final P is somewhat obvious – perseverance. From time to time this project hit what seemed to be insurmountable roadblocks, but the leader refused to accept defeat and reminded the team that they had always figured out ways to overcome setbacks. Positivity, even in the darkest times, was tough to do, but he kept the team inching forward and he was always sensitive to the prevailing mood. Seen as a taskmaster by many, it was fascinating how the team rallied around tight timelines with long days and nights. The end goal was always kept in sight.

This executive’s success required incredible intestinal fortitude and demanded all contributors to the project to accept their accountability and responsibility, and he was not afraid to have the fierce conversations when expectations were not met. Few in the organization doubted the purpose, passion began to flow when alignment occurred and progress was being made, and keeping positive even through the grinding times was imperative. It was a powerful lesson for the HR team in knowing what it takes to win sometimes. Purpose, passion and perseverance can take you a long way.

Ian Hendry headshopt

Ian Hendry is the president of the Strategic Capability Network. In his Morning Musings, he provides insight on issues facing today’s business leaders and looks at subject matter related to upcoming SCNetwork events. He is also VP HR & Administration at Interac Association.

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