Does It Really Take a Psychologist?

I have been serving organizations and leaders in various capacities my entire career.  My training, education and work experience have all been focused on the growth and development of people, personally, spiritually, physically, socially and organizationally.

When I transitioned from ministry and psychology to business, I envied the folks with the MBAs, until one of my clients, who had his MBA and was also well positioned in his organization, expressed envy for my training in psychology, and said, “I think it takes a Psychologist to lead an organization these days.”  That was when I came to understand how much all of us, regardless of the educational discipline and work experience, can learn from each other and must rely on one another to build great organizations, that produce great products/services, and great people.

I came across research recently that indicated that only 17% of employees report contributing high levels of discretionary effort, meaning that they go above and beyond the daily demands, pull more than their share of the load, and tend to be the hardest workers in the work group.  That same research indicated that only 70% of those same workers intend to stay with their organization.  In other words, 30% of the hardest workers are considering leaving for another opportunity!

With the war for talent being at its peak, and promising to stay at this level for some time, leaders must engage their business and their psychological thinking to attract and retain this workforce and answer the question, “What are high performers looking for from their workplace?”

In no particular order, here is what I believe these high performers are looking for:

  • Compensation – that is a given. Do your homework to ensure that you are paying (total comp package) market value for good talent.
    • Compensation that’s a reflection of their effort (the reason I love bonus and gainsharing types of programs)
  • Respect
    • Demonstrated by leaders valuing their ideas, listening to their feedback, and honoring their work/life needs.
    • Respect that gives them greater and greater autonomy to do what needs to be done (I.e. not being micromanaged).
  • Feedback
    • Subjectively: Directly from their supervisor that tells them how they are doing in the job
    • Objectively: Visible metrics that show them and the team how they are performing against the goal.
  • Discipline that ensures that the “high performer” pool is growing, i.e. that you are challenging the low performers to step up or move out so they can be surrounded by others like themselves who are committed to their own and the company’s success.
  • Pride in their work and in their company. The realization that they work for a great company that does great things, makes great product, and serves a noble purpose, to the degree that they are willing to recommend it to their likeminded friends.
    • Pride in the fact that they are playing on a winning team, or that is the vision everyone is aspiring for.
  • Optimism about the future. Confidence in the future of the company and about the opportunity for their growth and advancement.

This is where the multiple disciplines come together.  Blending the financial and business metrics with the leadership and organizational culture to co-create a high-performance workplace designed by, with, and for high performers.

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