High-Performance Organizations, the world’s most successful companies, are discovering the truth behind a simple principle:
People perform at their peak when they feel they are reaching their full potential
You may be familiar with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This system theorizes that all human behavior stems from the fulfillment of personal needs, and the related concept of ‘self-actualization.’ Self-actualization rests at the very top of the hierarchy of needs pyramid and describes a high-level human need to become the best, most capable version of the self—reaching ones’ peak potential.
However, self-actualization can only be sought once lower-level needs are taken care of, such as having adequate shelter, food, security, and comfort.
This is why leaders at High-Performance Organizations put clear focus on the most important people in the company, all value-creation employees. Those who work to add value to the products or are in touch with the customers and best understand what value means for them have their lower-level needs satisfied —so they can focus on moving up the hierarchy of needs and reaching peak performance through self-actualization.
In this sense, respect for the humanity of people at High-Performance Organizations means respecting the capability of all the people to reach the self-actualization of peak performance by:
One Toyota core belief is “Before we build cars, we build people”. This means that leadership’s goal at Toyota is to develop people so they are strong contributors who can take responsibility to solve problems and improve their work to provide superior value for the customer and prosperity for the organization.
Leaders’ real responsibility is shaping a purpose with a compelling why, with the long-term vision of knowing what to do, the knowledge of how to do it, and to develop people so they can do, learn and innovate, reaching to their peak potential.
High-Performance Organizations have proven many of the Maslow’s insights about the benefits that self-actualized individuals, and the teams they belong to, experience when reaching their peak performance:
Self-actualized people have realistic perceptions of themselves, others and the world around them that enable them to grow from their current situation to a new and better one.
Self-actualized people are concerned with solving problems outside of themselves, including helping others and finding solutions to problems. These people are often motivated by a sense of personal responsibility and ethics.
Self-actualized people are spontaneous in their internal thoughts and outward behavior. This spontaneity encourages creativity.
While they are peak performers at collaborating with others, these individuals also focus on developing their own potential to achieve full self-sufficiency in all areas.
Self-actualized people tend to view the world with a continual sense of appreciation, wonder, and awe that enable them to connect and collaborate to build ever better things.
Maslow believed self-actualized people have more peak experiences, or moments of intense joy, wonder, awe, and ecstasy. After these experiences, people feel inspired, strengthened, renewed or transformed to go further.
As Greek philosopher, Parmenides said, “Nothing comes from nothing.” Don’t just talk about peak performance with employees. Don’t just fill your walls with posters about how much you love your people. Please, lead with respect and present daily opportunities for employees to meet a challenge head-on, collaborate with a coworker, or solve a pressing issue.
Seek out high-performance leaders who are ready to mentor, lead and build, not simply manage, the next generation of leaders.
It’s simple to imagine how encouraging employees to realize their peak performance would benefit an organization. At wildly successful companies like Inditex, Amazon Apple, P&G, Google, Toyota, tapping into the human potential to deliver superior value to consumers is the core of the organizational culture.
To ensure that this core value grows organically, as it does at High-Performance Organizations, everything the company does should strive toward one thing: to develop leaders to be capable to realize the potential of all employees. And they do do so through the continuous development of self-sufficiency in problem solving, teamwork, innovation and leadership skills.
Leaders who grow by building other leaders and living servant-leadership values are fundamental to placing the development of human self-actualization at the heart of any organization.
High-Performance Leaders should be mentors and teachers to their associates, promoting continual learning and embodying the expression of a company culture that lives and breathes the principles of agile and lean.
But what kind of leader each leader should have the capabilities to develop?
As Jeff Liker explains in The Toyota Way,
“Toyota’s leaders have a combination of in-depth understanding of the work and the ability to develop, mentor, and lead people. They are respected for their technical knowledge as well as their leadership abilities. Toyota leaders seldom give orders. Instead, they prefer to mentor and lead by asking open-ended questions that give their employees the opportunity to develop and take charge of solutions. It is important for the employee to draw from their own strengths, skills, and knowledge to find a solution rather than simply receiving delegated tasks to complete.”
How can your organization learn from High-Performance Organizations?
What is your organization’s way to enable peak performance?