There’s another excellent article in this month’s Harvard Business Review on harnessing the power of highly engaged people. Professor of leadership, Douglas Ready, and PhD student, Emily Truelove, report on how companies like the beauty retailer Sephora, luxury hotel chain Four Seasons, and French food giant Danone, came through hard times stronger than ever.

In Collective Ambition“The Power of Collective Ambition” report on their three year study of 45 companies, dozens of senior executive, manager, and CEO interviews, and workshops to construct a model summarizing why these companies defied conventional logic.

What emerged is “what we call collective ambition — a summary of how leaders and employees think about why they exist, what they hope to accomplish, how they will collaborate to achieve their ambition, and how their brand promise aligns with their core values. These companies don’t fall into the trap of pursuing a single ambition, such as profits; instead, their employees collaborate to shape a collective ambition that supersedes individual goals and takes into account the key elements required to achieve and sustain excellence.”

The authors include this very insightful and useful seven scale quiz that flow from their study:

  1. “Does your company have a clear and meaningful statement of its core purpose — why it exists?
  2. Is your company’s vision compelling and aspirational yet achievable, motivating employees to contribute their very best?
  3. Has your leadership team gone through the hard work of identifying targets, milestones, and metrics that ground the vision in reality?
  4. Has your company ruthlessly prioritized the choices it will make to build the capabilities required to win on a sustainable basis?
  5. Does your company’s brand promise capture the experience you intend to deliver to stakeholders (customers, communities, investors, employees, and business partners)?
  6. Do your company’s articulated values represent what you stand for as an enterprise and as a group of people working together?
  7. Do senior leaders’ day-to-day behaviors reflect the leadership behaviors that you say are critically important to your company’s success?”

This article adds yet more evidence to the mounting research on what it takes to build a peak performance culture. This is summarized on my Leading a Peak Performance Culture webcast and the follow up implementation webinar on The CLEMMER Group Practical Leadership and Culture Development Services.

Katie Taylor, CEO of Four Seasons, summarizes how the company has thrived through one of the worst business slumps in decades; “we have 34,000 employees who get up every morning thinking about how to serve our guests even better than the day before. So while all of this trouble is swirling around us, our brand promise of providing the most exceptional guest experience wherever and whenever you visit us is instilled in the hearts and minds of our dedicated employees. They are the ones who fulfill that promise day in and day out.”