Growth, Innovation and High Performance. Part: 2 “Valour”

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Executive Leadership and Valour "Val"

The “val” in “valor” stands for valuing people and value happens when managers and/or peers value an individual and his/her contribution to the company

"O"

“O” represents sense of ownership or the degree to which employees feel like owners of their company, business unit, department, or job.

"R"

The “R” in valor represents informal and formal rewards.

"U"

The traits encompassing v-a-l-o-r provide a roadmap to improved firm performance, but it’s not complete. Successful change, growth, innovation and high performance involve a combination of sense of urgency in addition to all of the other components of valor.

Urgency – the Misunderstood Ingredient for Growth, Innovation and High Performance

The research that we conducted on organizational change and firm growth shows that “valor” without the “u” is not enough for success. It’s the balance of urgency with value, ownership, and rewards that leads to high performance. Note that combining the “u” from urgency with the more common spelling of valor gets you to “Valour,” which is the British spelling of the word.

However, we quickly learned that while firms were very good at maximizing value, ownership and rewards, optimizing urgency was not even part of their vocabularies. Urgency also is unique in that it changes frequently. Thus, as we rolled out the work, we focused on the part of the equation that was less understood – creating a culture with a high sense of urgency and then balancing urgency with the other components of val-o-r. We also learned early on that while organizations were equipped to measure and understand val-o-or, which overlaps considerably with traditional employee satisfaction and engagement, there was zero information on how to measure sense of urgency.

If an organization only measures criteria that are part of valor and only respond to issues related to value, ownership, and rewards, the company is not optimizing for growth. In fact, efforts to maximize only value, ownership and rewards (or employee engagement and/or satisfaction) can stunt growth. . This is due to the fact that creating high valor with no sense of urgency leads employees to want to maintain the status quo, to not move forward, to not grow, and to not change. Employees who resist change will drag down performance. Those individuals need to feel a high sense of urgency to move from their current state.

Figure 1: Sample 2 x 2 for sample organizations

In order to produce these graphs, questions that ask employees about value, ownership, and rewards were summed into an overall score, while questions on urgency were used to create a second score. Scores were then rated high / low, and the result was an overall high/low score on valor and an overall high/low score for urgency. We utilized multiple sources of research to derive cut points and questions. The research data plotted individual employee performance into these boxes (after running the statistical
analysis). We were able to see patterns in sales, customer service, patient satisfaction, performance review scores, bonuses and more – all to demonstrate that the 2 x 2 predicted objective performance outcomes in multiple organizations.

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Interpreting the Data

The research used to develop these scores is predictive in nature, which means the resulting data seen in these graphs gives managers a sense of things to come (if nothing changes of course). The upper left hand quadrant shows the percentage of the employee population that can have a negative effect on performance in the future. In company A, only 4% of their current employee population has a low sense of urgency but high sense of valor (value, ownership, rewards). This population feels very good about doing little. These people will resist change. The 4% is a fairly low number; thus, this is a positive sign for Company A. Also, Company A has 29% of its employee population (the upper right quadrant) in the high valor / high urgency category; these people are balanced and in the most desired direction (positive). Additionally, Company A has 32% of the population in the high urgency / low valor state. This is a condition that can be fairly easily remedied. 

When employees already feel urgency, it takes small amounts of care and attention to help them feel more valued. Simple things like communication, praise, and more can help employees move into a higher productive state. 

Company A has 35% of its population in a position that our research finds can lead to turnover, withdrawal behaviors, and other negative outcomes. However, these employees can be turned around with some effort from their peers and managers. These 35% (in the lower left quadrant) have a low sense of urgency and low valor score. Company A has significant opportunities for improving performance because the lower left and right boxes can be moved fairly quickly.

Company B, on the other hand, has 25% of its employee population in the upper left hand corner, in the low urgency / high valor state. These employees are the most difficult to influence (e.g. why should they change? they feel very valued doing just what they are doing now – not much), and they are likely to cause problems in the future by resisting change efforts. Company B still has significant opportunities for improvement because a large part of their population is in the lower two quadrants, and those people (per our research and experience) can transition to more productive states with simple interventions by management. Things like communication, feedback, recognition of road blocks to performance, and informal rewards are all effective interventions in moving these people to a high valor / high urgency state.

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Author: Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne

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