A rain dance would be great when you're trying to get out of a meeting, and think flooded roadways to the office would be a nice excuse.
However Native-American culture has more important lessons to teach corporate America. Gary Lear, president and CEO of Resource Development Systems, offers the Seven Elements of High Performance along with a Native-American-inspired "Medicine Wheel" that corporate executives can use to better their companies.
In 2002, Lear says he began a search to find out what makes a difference in the performance of organizations. During the process, he paid particular attention to large-scale, long-term research studies. While each study drew its own conclusions, sometimes at odds with other studies, Lear chose to focus on those elements that were the same across the studies.
After analyzing more than 800 studies, articles, and books, Lear says he finally discovered a pattern of "seven key things" every organization should focus on to achieve exceptional performance:
- Put people at the center of everything you do; employees, customers, and community.
- Build trust as a foundation.
- Allow personal responsibility through individual decision-making.
- Share a vision of an aligned purpose, values, and goals, and
create emotional connections through leadership.
- Focus on strengths and accentuate the positive.
- Encourage innovation "because good enough is not enough."
Resource Development Systems initially published Lear's findings in the white paper, "The Dynamics of High Performing Organizations" on the company's Website, and the company began researching how to best utilize their discovery to help clients improve performance in their organizations. Then in 2006, after reading the white paper, the U.S. Navy contacted Lear about using the Seven Elements of High Performance in its leadership development courses at the Center for Naval Leadership.
Around the same time, Lear noticed the Seven Elements of High Performance bore "a striking resemblance" to the American Indian Medicine Wheel. As a Cherokee-American, Lear was familiar with the teachings of American Indian philosophies about life and relationships. This epiphany led to the book, "Leadership Lessons From the Medicine Wheel: The Seven Elements of High Performance."
"There is no reason for people to be miserable at work, or to receive poor customer service," says Lear. "It doesn't take that much more effort to be 'the best' than it does to be mediocre, but the difference in the rewards can be phenomenal." But don't expect to just work harder at what you are already doing. "The research is pretty clear on this," Lear says. "The best organizations don't just do things differently; they do different things."