Most long-distance runners pay attention to their heart rate. They learn about fat burning zones, cardio zones, maximum heart rate and building a cardio base on which to build performance. The cardio base is built by running with a heart rate about 50-60 beats above normal resting heart rate. The base is built gradually and deliberately, ensuring the heart is working efficiently and effectively in order to deliver sustainable, improved performance.
In 2008 Bob Chapman, the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a 2-billion-dollar manufacturing company in the US, coined the phrase ‘heart-count’ as an alternative to headcount. He believed building strong hearts in his organisation would not only deliver great results but also create an organisation that cared about employee engagement and would find a higher purpose than simply delivering the bottom-line (He was confident however that he would ultimately deliver that too!). When the financial crisis struck there was pressure to save cost and lose heads. Chapman however, rejected this plan and instead decided to propose a plan whereby everyone hurt a little so that some need not hurt a lot. His solution was to ask everyone to take unpaid leave. Higher salaried people took 5 weeks and lower paid people took 3 weeks. Morale rose, trust in leaders increased and performance recovered.
The connection is clear; building strong hearts drives engagement, improvement and performance. But building a strong heart in your organisation requires patience, effort and the creation of a strong foundation with clear expectations, strong capabilities, space for individual expression, openness, trust and empowerment. This is the cardio base.
Employee engagement has both rational and emotional elements, it must address the head and the heart and ensure a foundation of psychological safety. If this psychological safety is not present you will be surprised when you give empowerment and yet it’s not taken, disappointed when you ask for feedback and it’s not given, and frustrated when you seek proactivity and observe hesitation.
Build the psychological safety in your organisation in order to create a platform for capability development and high performance. Build hearts that are able to deliver sustainably and really care about your business.
Build your cardio base if you want to win!
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