The anatomy of productive organisations

National productivity has steadily declined since the late 1990s, and at its peak, productivity growth has averaged at 2.5 per cent. However, in the past decade this growth has decelerated to an average of just 1.25 per cent, even dipping into negative growth during the mid-2000s – to what has been described as “the nothing era”.

As the Productivity Commission highlights, there is other compelling evidence that Australian productivity is hindered by poor management practices. Australian businesses in particular, lag significantly behind the global frontiers of good management. More recently, the Treasury’s Economic Roundup identified an optimistic growth in productivity over the last year. Though, authors Simon Campbell and Harry Withers warn that “there would need to be a sustained lift in average annual productivity growth…to allow living standards to continue to improve at the long-run historical rate.”

What if that silver bullet everyone seeks to lift productivity and performance is through leaders actively leading wellbeing in their organisation with connection and care, rather than flu shots and fruit bowls for individuals?

Peggy O Neill, president at Richmond Football Club, was recently presenting at a business breakfast I attended. When I asked what underpinning factor contributed to the success of the club, one powerful word resonated with me – “connection”.

Peggy described the multiple ways they focused on connection as building connectivity between coaches and players, players with players and having the right people on the bus just to name a few.

They built a focussed strategy together and executed it. Peggy described the strategy as being built on “what we did have” and not on “what we didn’t have”. Game time was about focusing on unselfish play, and about rewarding and recognising those players.

A powerful way of connecting as described in the new book Yellow and Black: A season with Richmond by Konrad Marshall, was through authentic leadership shown by the players. Brandon Ellis was the first player to open up and share a personal story with his team mates about his hero, a hardship and a highlight in his life. Ellis described the challenge of baring his soul, the reward through the personal connection he built with his team members and the care that they shared between each other. Known as the “Triple H” method, authentic leadership was a part of how they related to each other by getting to know each other as people. This created the possibility of relating to each other differently and brought out the best in what they had together. Quoted in The Age Sunday 28 October Ellis said, “We don’t want to be fake. We want you to know who… I am. We’ve taken a massive step forward this year in how much we care. We’re connected now. I feel like we are forming a brotherhood”.

Richmond Football Club brought out the best in their people and won the Premiership of 2017. Productivity was a part of their DNA.

Interestingly, when thinking turns to organisations and productivity, productivity and wellbeing of people are often thought of as two separate entities. Wellbeing is about individuals, and productivity is about organisations and GDP.

So what can organisations learn from the Richmond Football Club taking better care of their people?

What if it was about leaders actively caring for their people and working together on creating a workplace where people are connected together?

What might building a culture of care and connection do to enable workplaces to boost productivity?

Leaders can create well workplaces by creating opportunities for people to connect – connect with the purpose of their organisation and their own, with each other, between leaders themselves and also with their teams as people.

Five simple ways for leaders to boost productivity and create a well workplace are:

  1. Find ways to connect your senior leadership and your people, and get to know each other as people. Try the “Triple H” culture technique in a supportive environment – share a story about a hardship, hero and highlight.
  2. Build trust by working on a challenge together that everyone cares about, like safety or wellbeing.
  3. Ask for and really listen to your people’s ideas and views – innovation can happen organically if you let it.
  4. Build a strategy that is focused on what you want to achieve and then have the discipline to execute it.
  5. Reward unselfish team play to drive genuine collaboration. Set KPIs that reward this rather than individual achievement, and celebrate success.

We can help you move from information about building cultures of care to targeted practical action. Learn more about our services.


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