energizing breakthrough performance

The Pronouncement

Author: ; Published: May 15, 2015; Category: Leadership, Strategic Planning; Tags: ; No Comments»

Ah, the exquisite glamour of audacious goals. Our high-ranking executive had risen from humble beginnings in the Great Plains by setting high standards for himself and then surpassing them daily.  Perhaps it’s only natural that once he ascended the ranks he set high standards for others and pronounced them to be law. However, he regularly encountered one disappointment after another as employees failed to meet, let alone exceed, his expectations as expressed by the pronouncements.


Human performance equals motivation times ability.  Yes, sometimes staff failed to achieve the pronouncement because of motivational factors. In other instances, the problem was a lack of clear mutual understanding about the meaning of the standard and/or the capabilities required to attain it. Sometimes the problem was a combination of ability and motivation, often beginning with impossibility only to find expression as a cumulative motivational deficit. One thing was clear: The Pronouncement was insufficient to achieve performance at the high standards our executive had set.


Negative impacts accrued. Collective frustration mounted as staff became numb to the executive’s expectations. Pronouncements and exhortations degenerated into ignorable background noise. Alienation from the executive, the work, and the organization itself began to snowball, careening towards toxicity. To the extent that the high standards were not translatable to the granular level, employees came to regard executive exhortations as nonsense syllables. When understood but not accepted, high standards were regarded as unattainable based on perceived limitations on freedom to act without a plethora of “Mother-may-I?” roundabouts. Other issues included organizational capabilities, available technology, the nature and extent of workload, etc., which the executive had not analyzed prior to issuing any given pronouncement. Many employees came to view employment in the organization as a losing battle to be endured until a suitable exit could be found.


What was missing? The effective executive manipulates and aligns core dimensions of the organization, e.g., strategies, systems and structure/people to enable employees to attain progressively higher standards. If our executive doesn’t pull out the big wrench to achieve this alignment, then mounting frustration and subpar performance will surely result. Pronouncements themselves are not enough; they are incomplete, if not delusional. The executive’s ability to set audacious goals was laudable, but the sound of one hand clapping was sadly laughable.  

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