Help Employees Bring Their A-Game

By Desda Moss Jun 27, 2011
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LAS VEGAS—For successful organizations, leadership matters, and in these economic times it matters more than ever, Art Jackson, president and chief consultant of ENPM Inc., in Woodbridge, Va., told attendees at his June 26, 2011, session on “Performance-Maximizing Leadership: Getting Folks to Show Up With Their A-Game” at the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) 63rd Annual Conference & Exposition.

Jackson, who honed his leadership skills as a business consultant and as a student at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, quoted leaders such as Winston Churchill and Vince Lombardi to underscore his message that the best leaders not only realize their own greatness but also inspire others to be great.

“ ‘I can’ are the two most important words in the English language,” he said. “As a leader, you have to generate greatness in everyone you come in contact with.”

That means starting with yourself: “You show others how to be great by being great yourself,” he said.

Encouraging employees to bring their A-game to work day after day is a continual process, Jackson said, that requires constant reinforcement and positive reward. He recommended that HR leaders do this by giving employees regular feedback, acting with honesty and integrity in interactions with staff, and sharing “an inspired vision” of what greatness means for their business.

He challenged the traditional leadership paradigm that only some people can achieve greatness only some of the time and that only a harsh, hostile environment creates great leaders. Instead, Jackson posited that performance-maximizing leaders create expectations of greatness for everyone in their organization, challenge employees to perform their best work consistently, and employ initiatives that coach, empower and encourage.

Jackson told HR professionals that they play a pivotal role in their organization and can significantly influence the likelihood of its success. “You are all leaders in your organizations, regardless of where you fall on the org chart,” he said.

Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.

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