Deep Strengths: Getting to the Heart of High Performance

Deep Strengths: Getting to the Heart of High Performance

by Price Pritchett

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Develop the Inner Strengths that Lead to High Performance

In every successful company, there are Deep Strengths-characteristics that drive its culture, motivate its people, and steer its strategy to greater innovation and productivity. If you want to enhance leadership, improve employee performance, and develop a culture of winning in

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Develop the Inner Strengths that Lead to High Performance

In every successful company, there are Deep Strengths-characteristics that drive its culture, motivate its people, and steer its strategy to greater innovation and productivity. If you want to enhance leadership, improve employee performance, and develop a culture of winning in your organization, you need to encourage these strengths at every level.

Drawing on exclusive research into these qualities that ensure success, Price Pritchett explores the foundation of high performance, introducing techniques you can use to retool behavior and cultivate a culture of optimal performance and productivity.

Price Pritchett, Ph.D., is Chairman and CEO of PRITCHETT, LP, a company known worldwide for its expertise in organizational change, merger integration, corporate culture, and process redesign. For more than 30 years, he has helped executives and their workforces understand and rise to the challenge of accelerating change. With more than 20 million copies of his books in print, he is one of the bestselling authors in the world. Dr. Pritchett's clients include Pfizer, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, ABC Radio, Wachovia, McDonald's, John Deere, Michelin, ABN-AMRO, Lockheed-Martin, Novartis, and Delta Airlines. He is also the author of McGraw-Hill's Hard Optimism.

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By Price Pritchett

The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2008Price Pritchett
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-176269-4



What Makes an Organization Strong?

The first organization any of us belongs to is family, so let's begin with this scenario.


Imagine that you're a parent with a young family, and let's say you have a choice: You can give your four-year-old $100,000 in hard cash or you can give the child resilience. Take your pick. Which would be worth more to your offspring—big dollars, or having this personal strength to rely on in the years to come? What about staying power, the psychological strength to persevere? Would you rather bequeath that to your child, or stick another $100,000 into his or her trust fund? Next, consider attributes like confidence, hope, and a high energy level; a can-do attitude, creativity, and competitive spirit; maybe ambition and happiness. At $100,000 each, would you want your child to get the money or the deep strengths?

Here's a chance to give your four-year-old a cool million. By age twenty-one, this nest egg could grow to an easy $2,500,000, and your youngster should be financially set for the future.

Problem is, the kid would be psychologically bankrupt.

Think you wouldn't sell out your son or daughter so cheaply? Okay, let's up the ante.

How about a million dollars apiece in lieu of these 10 traits? That's $10 million into your child's private account right now, probably worth $25 million by the time your child graduates from college (but the odds would turn against his or her ever finishing and getting a degree).

Which hits you as being more valuable to this young person—deep pockets or deep strengths? Would the fortune seem worth it if you had to watch your weak, unhappy child struggle and fail in dealing with life's everyday challenges? Would your kid find all those bucks worth the misery of being emotionally broke?

And how do you believe other people would size up the situation? Do you think they'd see all that money and take it as proof that you'd raised a strong child?

Not if they looked very close. They'd shake their heads and say, "The poor little weakling ... all that money, but such a bleak future." Even the fortune itself would look fragile in the hands of a person so short on emotional assets. You'd be afraid to turn over control of the purse strings.


Now imagine a different situation.

Let's say you're running a business and the numbers look good. From a dollars and cents standpoint, things appear to be in fine shape. So is it a strong company?

It's worthwhile for its leaders to stop and consider where strength actually comes from.

Where should you look to ascertain just how robust or capable your organization actually is?

What do you measure in order to determine its power?

How can you best direct your efforts to make it stronger for the challenges that lie ahead?

The common practice in assessing the strength of a business is to focus on financials, such as cash flow, income statements, the balance sheet, stock price, and so on. Certainly, these are crucial metrics, but we need to recognize the difference between cause and effect. The numbers are best seen as effects. Good financials are results brought about by something else.

If we really want to be results-oriented, we first should become more cause-oriented. This means looking deeper, well past the effects reflected in the financial picture, to find the hidden forces that are actually driving performance. We have to enter a forgotten region that holds the answer to the organization's best possible future.

We need to look for causes that reside in the realm of deep strengths.


This inner domain is where performance truly begins. It's the corporate psyche, the collective consciousness of an organization, the mental and emotional state that's at the very root of people's behavior. Now, this is not the same as the old familiar notions of morale. Or climate. Or even culture. This is different. It's the psychological dimension formed by what people are thinking and feeling, the birthplace of all that will later be defined as results. What goes on in this all-important mind space shapes what an individual does and then, collectively, how the organization as a whole ultimately performs. Results—whether they turn out to be good, bad, or ugly—are born and raised here.

This is the zone that holds the mighty influence of deep strengths, positive attributes like these:


The ability to take problems in stride; to bounce back quickly from difficulties or defeat; change-adaptive


Organizational self-assurance; belief in the organization's ability to perform effectively


The "corporate metabolism"; vitality; the capacity to do work


Coming up with viable new ideas; implementing fresh approaches


A success-minded bias to "go for it" and make things happen


Aspiration level or drive to achieve


Faith in the future; favorable outlook regarding things to come


Positive, upbeat mental state; sense of well-being


Playing to win; determination to outdo the opposition; pushing to improve


Emotional stamina; the psychological strength to persevere

Just think how valuable these emotional assets are to you personally. Consider the sweeping influence they have on your performance and quality of life.

Also think about the organizations you belong to. Where would they score on these important attributes? Traditionally, deep strengths don't get measured at all. It's also hard to find organizations, or for that matter, even individuals, with meaningful efforts aimed at developing themselves in this regard.

The common preoccupation is with results—with effects—when we should be going deeper. The secret to improvement lies in causes. We need to focus on the hidden drivers of performance if we want to muscle up results. The way to bring out the best in ourselves and our organizations is to develop our deep strengths.

"Results are what you expect; consequences are what you get."



The Deep Strengths Research Project

I've spent three decades as an advisor to chief executive officers, their boards of directors, and other senior managers, with all of these leaders intent on building stronger, more effective outfits. Their strategies and tactics run the gamut: mergers and acquisitions, new systems and processes, product innovation, outsourcing and offshoring, training and development initiatives. The list goes on and on, but all these efforts are in search of positive change.

What we at PRITCHETT, LP wanted to know was how CEOs, in particular, look at the role deep strengths play in this process.

Our initial study gathered input from over 300 CEOs running some of the largest organizations in the United States. We surveyed 181 chief executives of for- profit enterprises, plus another 131 who preside over not-for-profits. The organizations represented in our study range in size up to 120,000 employees and $5

Excerpted from DEEP STRENGTHS by Price Pritchett. Copyright © 2008 by Price Pritchett. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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