A person’s self image is arguably the single most powerful determinant of performance. People tend to live up to or down to their self image. Trust me, there is no shortage of literature and research on this.
Some people win—consistently. They are “always lucky,” have the “Midas touch,” and on and on. No one can seem to figure out why they are always successful. It is no mystery. They are living up to their self images. These people are comfortable with themselves, brim with confidence, and look for challenges to reach higher performance levels.
They are not winners because they win; they win because they are winners. It’s just about that simple.
Conversely, you will see some highly talented people indulge in self-sabotage. Convinced that they do not deserve or for some other reason will not attain success, they will engage in some self-defeating act just as they are about to break through.
I worked with professional athletes. I could tell almost instantly whether I was walking into a winning or losing dressing room. It was a feeling. No different from individual people, winning organizations had a self image of success. Expectations were high. Players were proud to wear the uniform and to play up to the image of the uniform. They felt a greater energy and confidence, and performed with that edge. They expected to win. Perennial losers had a different aura. Things were often mechanical with them and non-work distractions were common.
Companies are like people. We can apply many of the same concepts to them that psychologists apply to individuals. Some radiate a winning charisma. In such companies, the people feel good about their professional selves, are proud to be a part of the company, and welcome challenges. And these winners are not always big companies.
Those companies make money. Interesting, isn’t it? After slogging through the literature on everything from certification programs to ratio studies to marketing insights, in the last analysis a company’s success derives as much from its corporate self image as anything.
A “winning attitude” company will propel itself out of duress, beyond survival, and into profitability. The steps they take from quality control to state-of-the-art customer service are an outflow of their deep-down winner’s mentality. If that were not the case, then every company employing the various “proven” industry trends would thrive.
Company culture is nothing more than the corporate counterpart of personality for the individual. Company culture is that overall style of attitude and work that characterizes a given company’s workforce. I choose to call it a company’s collective personality.
Companies with a toxic collective personality rarely succeed at the cash window. Oh, they may turn some heavy bucks now and then, but eventually the poison takes them down. When people are unhappy, griping at each other, and those in authority wear out the whip from overuse, the company implodes—collapses from the inside out.
Rob ran such a company. He wasn’t a bad guy, but he had a terribly quick trigger. He would rip the bark off of some subordinate and then walk away and forget it. Good for him, but not for the person he had singed. That person did not forget it. Ever. It happened with me. One morning he sat me down and opened fire. “I brought you in here to get results, and it isn’t happening.”
Had Rob civilly told me of his displeasure I might have been more empathetic. In this context, I wasn’t. I gave him a very cool analysis of why he was where he was.
He became more rational and we worked things out, but for me they were never the same. Rob not only lost good people and lost the energy of those who stayed, but ultimately, he lost his company.
Take a look at your company. What is its personality? How would you assess its self image? Bounce this off your key people. What impact are you having on that image? If you are happy with it, you are excused from our meeting in the Executive Suite next month. If you think there’s room for improvement you will find some ideas there.