Part Six of ten blogs using films to illustrate what you’d want employees to feel in a high performance organisational culture…..

Number 6 – Challenged
A mistake some organisations make is to pursue an employee engagement programme to produce ‘happy’ employees.  Of course it’s a good thing to have happy employees but there’s a real risk that without focus a programme like this could produce a ‘nice’ place to work – in which performance is poor.  Organisations that don’t challenge people to perform at their best risk creating a culture of mediocrity.  If a high performance culture is the desired outcome – actions are required to ensure that high performance becomes an expectation, and poor performance is challenged and managed.

It’s also important to provide challenge to motivate high performers, to provide them with work with stretches them and provides wth a sense of achievement.  They want to be stretched by difficult objectives because they develop as a result of the experience they go through in succeeding.

Of course, it’s also true that some extreme organisations are too full of challenge and they can become places in which people are fearful of failure and as a result are unwilling to step forward and try things.  It’s just too much of a risk to step forward because of the damage to the individuals reputation if they fail.  So it’s very important to balance challenge with support to remove the fear and enable failure without dire consequences for that failure.

Leaders of course play a pivotal role in getting the balance right between challenge and support.  Whether the organisation creates the right balance and thereby the right culture is in large part down to the way in which they lead and manage people on a day to day basis…..

The film I’ve chosen to illustrate challenge (and support) is ‘Coach Carter’.  It’s another true story, this time of Ken Carter, a successful sports shop owner who, in 1999, accepted a job as basketball coach at his old high school.  Challenge is a theme throughout the film.  Dismayed by their poor attitude and performance, he set out to improve his players performance on and off the court.  He immediately imposed a strict regime in written contracts that included stipulations for respectful behaviour, a dress code and good grades as a pre-requisite to being on the team.  Results immediately turned round and the team was undefeated on it’s way to the 1999 State Championship.  However, when he received the news of poor grades for a number of players Coach Carter locked the gym and stopped the team from playing.  It was a decision that received national attention – and much criticism.  And yet ultimately, whilst the team lost the state final, the students went on to achieve much more individually with many more attending University than would otherwise have been expected.

See the film trailer here:

Part seven tomorrow.

Twitter: @accordengage
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