Noun Syllabification: mo·jo
Definiton: A magic charm, talisman, or spell
Explanation: Mojo is tightly associated with one’s ability to be on top of their game, it's that special "something" that makes them glow, likeable, and magnetic to others.
In the US war of liberation of Iraq in the early 2000s, it was universally expected that the formidable US army would steam roll the Iraqi forces and people would welcome them with jubilation for being liberated. As events subsequently proved, that did not happen, the Iraqis fought a tough and hard battle, and far more US soldiers returned home in body bags, than what the US strategists had anticipated...
On the corporate front, take a look at some published numbers In December 2000, Microsoft had a market capitalization of $510 billion, making it the world’s most valuable company. In June 2012 it was No. 3, with a market cap of $249 billion. In December 2000, Apple had a market cap of $4.8 billion and didn’t even make the list. In the June of 2012 it was No. 1 in the world, with a market cap of $541 billion. And this, after their charismatic founder Steve Jobs had passed away the previous October!
So what was it that made the Iraqis fight, an obviously larger enemy? What is it that made Apple No. 1, despite loss of Jobs?
It was their Mojo...
The war strategists had not accounted for Mojo—the Mojo of the Iraqis, which made them hold off a vastly superior army with antiquated weapons and none of the weapons of mass destruction that US had hallucinated about. All of history is replete with examples of instances like this one.
A company is a living entity, pulsating with life and energy and all too often owners and CEOs are so obsessed with analyzing trends and making forecasts and perfecting processes that they forget to pay attention to the heartbeat of the business. And when that happens the business loses its energy, and slowly winds down...it loses its mojo.
Look at companies like Apple, Google or start-ups in their initial years. They are full of energy. Then sometimes depending upon how they have done in the market they start losing their mojo. The actions that Apple and Google take ensure that the company does not lose its mojo. Of course they may not have an officially designated mojo retention program (though I cannot imagine why not!), but the end result is that. And with good reason too because that is what makes the company what it is.
A team which has lost its mojo will generally be characterised by the following:
- Team members are unclear about the team’s chief objective. They generally tend to become more interested in personal glory
- Much of the work is done by too few members. There is a complete lack of focus, and members argue about inconsequential matters which will never reach the goal
- There is no accountability. Members miss deadlines, routinely. They debate theoretical questions, they gather information and tend to procrastinate
- Nobody can makes a decision
And this is universally applicable to any team. Even to a government, and if there is an election round the corner, it is safe to predict that a government that has lost its mojo will lose.
Organizational Mojo is the collective combination of the following energy states in the organization: 1. High performance energy state 2. Satisfied energy state 3. Pessimistic energy state 4. Toxic energy state
High performance energy state
Organizations or departments of organizations in high performance energy states have channelled emotions, attention and effort toward reaching common goals. Employees collectively demonstrate enthusiasm, high levels of alertness and are intensely focused in their work.
Satisfied energy state
Satisfied energy state is a positive energy state, characterised by high satisfaction, feeling at ease, and therefore a strong identification with the status quo. All companies need a certain degree of comfort. However, a company’s ideal energy state should combine distinct levels of comfortable energy with a greater level of high performance energy. Otherwise the organization runs the risk of becoming complacent by overrating themselves and their relevance to the market.
Pessimistic energy state
In organizations in the Pessimistic energy state large parts of the company are mentally withdrawing and demonstrating indifference to company goals. Employees experience frustration and disappointment; the organization shows low collective engagement. This often results in a weakened ability for change, innovation and performance.
Toxic energy state
Organization s in a toxic energy state show high levels of anger and fury towards company goals, a tendency to harm others inside the organization; destructive internal conflicts and micro political activities. Unfortunately toxic energy could emerge in all areas of the organization – also at the top and infecting the rest of the organization.
It is fairly apparent therefore, that to get the Organizational Mojo right, the organization needs to focus its energies on increasing the first two states and take immediate steps to reduce the latter two. The starting point is of course, determining the levels of respective energy states prevailing within the organization. You need to know where you are before you can take corrective action. One way is to tangibly assess organizational energy to arrive at an energy profile of the four energy states – for instance in a management team workshop with a 12-question Organizational Energy Questionnaire (OEQ) or in an employee opinion survey with a 36-question version of the OEQ – both of which assess the energy states The questionnaire has been developed by Dr Bernd Vogel*
Having done that it then becomes easy to address the energy state, because it has been identified. The greater challenge is for the leadership. To change the Mojo of the organization, the leadership has to:
- Personify the love of peak performance: This means that apart from being at peak performance themselves, the leaders should create a proactive sense of urgency at all levels in the organization. All executives should have an uncompromising commitment to peak performance and a passion for the goals of the organization – every person and every other aspect of the organization is secondary to that.
- Have the courage to develop leaders and lead others to lead: This is extremely difficult to do because it means that the leaders have to step back from the lime light and make space for their managers and employees – to help them lead and create the next organizational success. They must not be the best performers in all disciplines. They should be the best performers only in one discipline: to make others grow, win, and lead. This is a long term solution, and it takes lots of thought and planning in its implementation. It takes years to see the results, just as it took years for the Mojo to disappear.
In the short term, organizations can:
- Catch your employees doing something right, instead of doing something wrong
- Raise the bar. Just raised expectations, makes people exceed themselves, as was so wonderfully demonstrated by Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in the film “My Fair Lady”
- Communicate. At all times. When things are going wrong and when things are going right.
- Trust your employees. Establish trust by creating a safe, positive working environment with open and honest two-way communication. Give your people the benefit of the doubt, then help them up if they sometimes stumble.
- Help Employees Grow. Set your employees up for success, not failure. Provide them with the tools and training to meet and exceed high standards. Encourage them to identify their strengths and motivations. Show them how your organization has benefitted from their efforts, and how this in turn benefits them. Determine what drives your people, then incorporate that into their daily tasks.
- Create and Maintain a Productive Environment Create and maintain a positive, industrious and pleasant working environment. Productive, motivated people drive outstanding organizations. Ensure employees feel challenged with their jobs, but not overwhelmed. Delegate tasks and encourage people into positions of greater complexity and responsibility whenever possible so employees are always in motion and have a stake in the organization's success.
There is a lot of talk these days about prioritising talent. That is putting the cart before the horse. Get the mojo right. Make getting the mojo back...or right as the case might be, a strategic priority. And the talent will get right, as a consequence.... Apple, Google..etc are a testimony to that.
*Bernd Vogel is co-author of the book ‘Fully Charged: How Great Leaders Boost Their Organization ’s Energy and Ignite High Performance’ by Harvard Business Review Press. Bernd has authored other books and case studies and been published in several top-tier international journals. Bernd teaches at the Henley Business School and works internationally in a variety of institutions and companies based on his expertise in creating and sustaining organizational energy and leadership, and in leading change and emotion