What’s your Obsession?

In a complex business environment, companies are demanding more from employees than ever. Time and time again, I run across executives who are obsessed with building higher performance cultures, often to their detriment. Quiet quitting, a phenomenon so widely discussed these days, reflects the burnout often associated with performance-obsessed cultures. When quiet quitting is happening, employees don’t feel safe to engage or experiment based on fear of how it reflects on them and their performance. The benefit of saying nothing outweighs the benefit of speaking up; employees fear their ideas will be rejected (and they may be penalized for speaking up). So, they keep their heads down and their mouths shut.

However, a study by Gartner (outlined in this HBR article) shows that companies who focus on a growth culture produces much better results – and may be a quiet-quitting antidote. In a growth culture, employees can self-assess their own shortcomings, blind spots and areas for development without spending the time and energy defending their personal value. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey coined the term “deliberately developmental cultures” – in other words, growth obsessed cultures – which is founded on these key principles:

  • Creating an environment that feels safe. Our PeopleResults team has been partnering with clients to create psychological safety including training leaders to understand that enabling employees to show up as their authentic selves is more critical now than ever. At the organizational level, this is modeled by leaders willing to be vulnerable and take responsibility for failures.
  • Reinforcing an environment that values continuous learning. This can be experiential through short-term projects that stretch skills and abilities or through a more traditional capability-building learning experience
  • Creating a culture where experimentation is encouraged. In her book, Making Waves, our CEO Patti Johnson explores the common trait that sets apart great leaders (and great organizations), which is about having an “experiment” orientation and mindset to allow you to test the status quo without fear of failure.
  • Setting the expectation that feedback is essential, and continuous, across your organization. Great feedback is an essential part of any organization looking to create a growth culture. Giving feedback on a regular basis (even using simple things like a text for recognition) sets employees up to know that they can grow and develop from the experiences they have – and that it’s ok that everything doesn’t go perfectly all the time. Ongoing regular feedback has to move beyond the annual performance review to truly impact career development and growth.

The delicate balance between challenging and nurturing is hard to get right, but when you can create equilibrium between these two for your employees, it can be a game-changer.

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at sbrowning@people-results.com or on Twitter @sbPResults.