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Unlocking Employee Performance and Commitment, Quickly
Harvy Simkovits, CMC — Presented at Inc. World Conference 1996

Today's faster-paced organizations are learning to pass down greater work responsibility and decision-making authority to all employees. This is because work gets slowed down too much if employees, in dealing with internal and external customers and suppliers, need to check in with managers on every decision. Yet, what's in it for those employees to take on more work on behalf of the organization? What will prevent staff from seeing this just as " doing more work for the same pay?"

Jack Stack, in his book, The Great Game of Business, speaks about how he transformed the mindsets of all his company’s employees by teaching them about the intricacies of h ow his business works and what it takes to make a profit. He also made it worth their while by linking company performance and employee pay.

Steven Covey1 suggests that one of the goals for leaders of today's organizations is to capture employee's hearts and minds, not only their hands and backs. He reminds us that we need to bring out the best in everyone if we are to succeed in today's challenging business environment. In line with this notion, here are three keys for unlocking employee commitment:

Key #1: The Big Picture: Sharing the Business Game and its Outcomes

Authors Jack Stack2, Ed Deevy3 and John Case4 have written that all employees need to know and fully understand the nature of the "business game", its customers, products and economics. They must be able to "keep score" of how well the company is doing (through publicized performance statistics). They must also have "a stake in the outcomes" through a reward system that is, in part, based on overall company performance. People can feel entrepreneurship in their jobs when they:

  1. identify with the business, and see how their job relates to the bigger organization picture,
  2. continually seeing how well they and the company are performing, and
  3. getting rewards commensurate to the game being well played.

With these in place, they can collectively and magically rise to new highs.

Key #2: The Little Picture: Helping People Feel Pride and Ownership in Their Work

People develop commitment to their job and coworkers when they:

  1. have a sense of personal meaning and purpose by identifying with a company mission and vision
  2. have clear and doable jobs, both as individuals and as a team
  3. are allowed some autonomy in their work, with assistance or support from others as needed
  4. have a say in decisions that affect them in their job
  5. are building skills that are transferable to new job situations
  6. are remunerated commensurate with their personal and team performance
  7. are able to balance work-life with home-life
  8. have hope that the future offers greater personal opportunity and reward than the present situation

Key #3: The Manager’s Role: Leading People to New Highs

To enroll people to the organizational cause, leaders and managers can:

  1. build employee trust by following the basic principles of human interaction (these include: being open and honest, showing caring and respect, promoting dignity and self-esteem, maintaining confidences, and being consistent in our behavior towards people),
  2. develop partnerships with people for learning and doing (including: facilitating communication, cooperation and collaboration among employees, providing continual coaching, involving or including people in what's happening around them, stating clear job expectations, showing people where their job responsibilities lie, and challenging people to take on new initiatives and new levels of performance),
  3. be a role model by developing mastery in one's own character and competence (including: being continually proactive in one's own work, reflecting on and evaluation one's own performance, and continually obtaining feedback from others).

By using all three keys, leaders and managers of organizations can hope to fully energize employees towards reaching greater performance heights within the organization. Happily, these keys are accessible to all organizational managers, not just to owners and executives. Using them wisely can reap great rewards for you, your organization and its people.


  1. Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", p 58, Simon & Schuster, 1989.
  2. Jack Stack, "The Great Game of Business", Doubleday, 1992.
  3. Ed Deevy, Creating a Resilient Organization, Prentice Hall, 1995
  4. John Case, "Open-Book Management, 1996.
  5. Bradford and Cohen, "Influence without Authority," 1990

Harvy Simkovits, CMC, President of Business Wisdom, works with owner managed companies to help them grow, prosper and continue on by offering innovative approaches to business development, company management, organization leadership and learning, and management education. He can be reached at 781-862-3983 or .

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