Where do you see your company many many many years from now? In this article, David De Cremer tells us the importance of passion, energy, company culture and more in cultivating organisational vitality. Where best to learn than from global telecom giant, Huawei.
No company lasts forever! As in life, corporate funerals are no exception. Of course, an important challenge of any founder is to create long-term visions that enable long-term survival. To sustain a motivation to survive in the contemporary complex world requires a dynamic and collaborative organisational culture. A company unable to deal with the rapid changes, while not being able to question and reinvent itself will lack this drive to contribute to its long-term robustness. Given this economic reality, it is no surprise that current debates involve discussing what leaders can do to create a sustainable work environment to meet these dynamic forces. One focus that seems to emerge from these debates is on establishing fertile ground to make one’s organisation and its employees more vital and energetic, or, in other words, focussing on promoting “organisational vitality”.
The Rise of Organisational Vitality
As a human species we can only survive if we can use sources of energy. In fact, one of the basic requirements for life concerns the availability of an energy source. Specifically, conditions have to be shaped in such a way that energy sources like sunlight can be being transformed into food (i.e. a process called photosynthesis). In a similar vein, to remain an active and living entity, organisations need to create work environments that energise rather than deplete human resources. Most of us will have experienced the difference between a high-energy versus a low-energy company. In a high-energy company you can feel the passion of the people and how it influences the way they relate and connect with their colleagues, bosses and customers. The energy seems to be in the air and feeds creativity, excitement and eventually performance. Of course, implementing a drive associated with high-energy levels is one thing whereas another equally important thing to do is to maintain this kind of energy. This challenge requires that founders can build cultures that inspire the right kind of energy, which is intrinsic, genuine and long-term focussed. The ability to infuse the organisation with this type of energy makes for a company characterised as high in organisational vitality.
Being effective in managing energy in effective ways is not an easy task to do. The fact that burnout is considered to be one of the primary drivers of employee absence and widely considered to be the number one health threat to employees speaks for itself. To deal with these health issues, companies now deliver different types of mindfulness training, which all have a focus on mindfulness meditation. These training sessions have been shown to positively affect people’s well-being and ability to deal with stressful situations. Of course, these training sessions are in a way reactive as they have been implemented after the problem emerged. A more direct and preventive way is to create leadership in combination with an organisational system that serves as an almost unlimited source of energy. In addition, leadership building the right conditions for people to blossom also requires that the purpose and ambition of the company is clearly defined and endorsed by its members. Being clear about the purpose will bring resilience when unexpected changes have to be faced. It is clear that such a work culture may succeed by beginning each new business journey with the necessary energy and at the same time work on the ability to continuously be successful in meeting new challenges to ensure stability and viability on the long-term.
About the Author
David De Cremer is the KPMG Professor of Management Studies at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK, where he heads the Department of Organisational Leadership and Decision-Making. He is the author of the book Pro-active Leadership: How to overcome procrastination and be a bold decision-maker (2013) and co-author of “Huawei: Leadership, culture and connectivity” (2017).
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