What employees really require to be their most productive? Suppose you want to design the best company on earth to work for. What would it be like?

Fifteen years of intensive coaching of Executives all over Europe, completed with different surveys enabled me to describe the ‘ideal organization’. The key question regarding this ‘ideal organization’ is linked to the relationship between authenticity and effective leadership. Simply put, people will not follow a leader they feel is inauthentic. But Executives we questioned made it clear that to be authentic, they needed to work for an authentic organization.

What did they mean? Many of their answers were highly specific, of course. But underlying the differences of circumstance, industry, and individual ambition we found five common imperatives. Together they describe an organization that operates at its fullest potential by allowing people to do their best work. We call this “the organization of our dreams”. In a nutshell, it’s a company where:

1. Individual differences are nurtured

Differences in perspectives, habits of mind and core assumptions. Efforts to nurture individuality run up against efforts to increase organizational effectiveness by forging clear incentive systems and career paths. Competence models, appraisal systems, management by objectives, and tightly defined recruitment policies all narrow the range of acceptable behaviour.                                                                          

2. Unleash the flow of information

Recognizing that in the age of Linkedln, Facebook, Twitter, …. you’re better of telling people the truth before someone else does. It respects its employees’ need to know what’s really going on so that they can do their jobs, particularly in volatile environments where it’s already difficult to keep people aligned and workers at all levels are being asked to think more strategically.                                                                            

3. The company adds value to employees, rather than merely extracting it from them

Offering your employees training and coaching, being clear about career perspectives, creating a pool of high potentials, …The ‘ideal company’ makes its best employees even better and the least of them better than they ever thought they could be.

4. The organization stands for something meaningful

This is about more than fulfilling your mission statement; it’s about forging and maintaining powerful connections between personal and organizational values in order to foster individuality and a strong culture of cooperation at the same time.

5. There are no ‘stupid’ rules

Establishing explicit behavioral expectations entails outlining rules and consequences so that employees understand exactly what behaviors are allowed. Please check which rules really refrain employees to unleash their full potential and don’t be afraid to adapt and/or install less complicated processes and help employees understand what the rules are for and view them as legitimate.

These five principles might all sound commonsensical. When we asked for the benefits of highly engaged employees, we noticed that Executives are certainly aware of it. Yet, few, if any, organizations possess all five virtues. Almost all require Leaders to carefully balance competing interests and to rethink how they allocate their time and attention.