How Today’s Top Leaders Drive Growth

Shifting the Traditional Heroic Manager Mindset to Drive Growth and Performance

By Tom Roth

Every organization struggles to transform and grow its business. Whether changing the strategy, producing innovative products and services, leveraging new technology, or integrating new systems and processes, the single most important factor in successful strategy execution is the people. The critical question is: “Do you have an engaged workforce committed to growing and transforming the business?”

Over the years, we have asked hundreds of individuals to think of a time when they were energized, engaged, and working at their best. What we heard may surprise you, but it may not if you stop and actually think about an experience in which you were working at your highest potential.

Five conditions consistently surface and contribute to people working “in the flow” and at their best:

  • A challenging task—give me something important and something to accomplish that is worthwhile and worthy of my time.
  • A clear goal—I knew what I was striving for, I knew what was expected of me, and I was clear on the outcome, the vision, or the purpose.
  • Autonomy—I was given the freedom to use my talents and creativity to figure things out and take ownership of the project.
  • Accountability—the project had visibility; success or failure, I knew I was the one being held accountable.
  • Involvement—I felt connected and energized by my peer group; we motivated each other.

We asked this follow-up question: “What was the role of your leader in that experience?” Truth be told, respondents say the leader was the one who created the conditions—they were encouraged and empowered by their leaders, but they did the work themselves.

When asked, “How does your day-to-day experience align with the kind of leadership example that energized you?” most people acknowledged it did not align very well. Why is that the case? The reality is many mid-level leaders (those accountable for transforming the business) have developed a mindset that shapes what they think they need to be and do to be successful, which, unfortunately, works against what they want to accomplish most—engaging their people to produce excellence.

The biggest challenge for many mid-level leaders is to shift their mindset from ‘getting the work done through people’ to ‘getting the work done with people in a way that builds their ability to do it themselves.’

Tom Roth

Tom Roth is Chief Operating Officer of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. (U.S.) and President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. (Japan). With more than 40 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions, Mr. Roth is responsible for the strategic direction and business performance of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. operations. In addition, he leads the global marketing services and R&D solutions group, which is responsible for the research and development of all solutions and position papers. Mr. Roth assists global executive leadership teams with issues related to employee engagement, leadership development, strategy alignment, and business transformation. Before assuming his current role, he was President of the global R&D and solution development groups and also served as President of Wilson Learning Corporation.

Mr. Roth has extensive experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions. He is coauthor of the book Unplugged: How Organizations Lose Their Energy and How to Get It Back, coauthor of the book Creating the High-Performance Team, and is published in numerous business publications. Mr. Roth is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and client events, presenting on a wide variety of issues including leadership, employee engagement, change, and strategy implementation.