Archive for December, 2011

Rowing Together

December 16, 2011

For most people, who you work for and how engaged you are at work matters hugely.

Anyone who has ever worked for a mature, skillful manager-leader fondly recalls and longs for that relationship, again. In contrast, people deeply dissatisfied in their jobs frequently report to someone who is simply misplaced, unethical, or vastly inexperienced.

 Collective Commitment

The “right” people in important roles make a vital difference. They can be particularly effective when paired with the unified and concurrent energy of your entire workforce. A thriving organization has robust employee engagement. I don’t mean corporate volunteerism, successful United Way campaigns or authentic celebrations although those can be useful indicators of vitality. I do mean everyone rowing in the same direction to achieve a specified result. We know alignment and integration are important but they require commitment or engagement – first.

 Glue & Grease

If you want your enterprise (or community) to thrive, new research by Doug Ready and his colleagues at the University of NC describes something they call “collective ambition.” Ready says two priorities are essential in generating collective ambition: the “glue” or collaborative engagement and the “grease” which is disciplined execution. Glue provides the culture and grease ensures positive change occurs.

Collective ambition has seven elements

  1. Purpose
  2. Vision
  3. Targets and  Milestones
  4. Strategic and Operational Priorities
  5. Brand Promise
  6. Core Values
  7. Leader Behaviors

It’s important that these are carefully integrated. In a circle, Ready puts purpose at the center and leadership behaviors on the outside “rim” to guide progress. The others occupy, equally, the space between purpose and the rim with relative targets and milestones for each.

Why should people come to work at your organization?

How can people pull forward – together – to build a future?

Answers to these questions inform collective ambition. They describe a compelling story of the organization’s future and the processes to build capabilities to achieve it. They ensure engagement translates the organization purpose as a personal agenda for your employees. A collective ambition forms the umbrella which allows individuals to fully participate.

 Make Like Montana

There’s no question that contributions of functional areas in any enterprise are meaningful and most potent when everyone sees and acts with the perfect power of synergy. A talented wood artist recently gave me a great example of the shared urgency and focus collective ambition can yield. He was describing the culture he appreciates in Wyoming and Montana. “Everyone there, he said, “runs towards the fire – to help their neighbor – and put it out.”

Employee engagement is a responsibility of capable managers who lead well. So, “Make like Montana,” it can ensure your organization soars in its performance.

 –Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See :

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