An Organizational New Year’s Resolution for Leaders (and Those Who Lead)

What are the indicators of a healthy organization? In all sectors (private-for profit, nonprofit, and government), healthy organizations consistently ‘perform’ at a high level. It is important to consider the three critical dimensions of organization performance that indicate health.

  • Results – The organization fully delivers on its mission. For a nonprofit it is social impact, making a positive difference in the conditions that it exists to address. For a corporation, it is profitability along with levels of quality, customer service, and other stated priorities. For a government entity, effective delivery of service, earning the public trust, and protecting the public interest are often central in importance.
  • Reputation– Employees, partners, community stakeholders, and investors have confidence in the ethical character, trustworthiness, and credibility of the organization and its leaders.
  • Resilience – The organization is well integrated.  It works together with coordination and efficiency as a whole and within each division, department, and team. This collective capacity continuously assures unified, creative responses to changes in the operating environment and challenging situations.

What makes an organization healthy?  There are three fundamental conditions that must be cultivated and maintained to promote and sustain results, reputation, and resilience.

  • Collaboration is a way of working together that produces more as a whole than the sum of the parts, i.e. there is connected synergy among the people and groups that compose the organization as a whole. This degree of connection will not develop and sustain without careful definition of the structure of individual responsibility throughout the organization. In general, everyone needs to accept and be accountable for his or her share of the total responsibility.  When collaboration is the norm, organizations naturally unify to creatively and resiliently address inevitable change and emerging challenges, whether from outside or inside.
  • Integrity means wholeness.  A high level of trust is the essential ‘glue’ that holds the organization together. Trust must always be earned and is maintained through continuous credible acts and authentic messages that inspire confidence.  It is important to remember how easily trust can be lost and how hard it is to rebuild. However, when there is firm belief in the integrity of the organization and its leaders, this condition generates and shapes health.
  • Peace is a safe environment that transforms the full, vital energy of individuals and the collective enterprise into creative efforts that produce results.  Conflict, divisiveness, competitive tensions over resources, rivalries for position and advancement, and resentments of questionable policies and procedures compromise effort and detract from mission performance. Peace can only develop within a climate of mutual respect. With mutual respect, when differences or conflict arise, leaders and staff need the behavioral tools to negotiate agreements that build unity and restore peace.

How can leaders and change agents establish the conditions that promote and sustain health? Consider the nature of leadership in the development of an organization. Obviously, there are those with titles of leadership and the authority to lead. However, it is important to recognize another important form of authentic leadership that frequently exists within middle management and at the team level of the organization Without title or formal authority, these “leaders” demonstrate dedication to the well being of the organization and a strong commitment to exercise influence as a constructive agent for change.

Formal leaders, and those who lead, can guide the ongoing effort to build and maintain health by adopting and consistently using four cornerstone practices that develop COLLABORATION, INTEGRITY, and PEACE.

  • DIALOGUE nurtures the ongoing learning conversations that support open, honest examination of results and methods and development of better approaches to fulfill the  the mission. Within a climate that encourages the free flow of information, knowledge, and ideas, individual and collective capacity develops. This practice is the foundation for all the others.
  • WISE PLANNING coordinates focused efforts over time.  Top priorities remain well aligned with the mission and guiding principles. The plan is a living ‘blueprint’ to strengthen the organization’s discipline to orient toward results and act together. Using a plan actively, updating it as necessary, and celebrating progress strengthens shared responsibility, generates creative collaboration, and builds momentum toward the shared vision.
  • VALUES-BASED DECISION MAKING assures that key decisions reflect clear thinking from multiple perspectives, communicate integrity to employees and external stakeholders, earn their trust, and maintain credibility for future decisions.
  • PRINCIPLED NEGOTIATION bridges differences with agreements that satisfy interests, prevent and resolve conflicts, maintain respectful working relationships, and turn multiple perspectives into unified, resilient strength.

In the coming newsletters, I will take each of these practices and provide specific ideas for action. in the meantime, consider what you WANT to do to strengthen the health of your organization.

The Power of a Resolution. The idea of improving the year ahead by making a resolution to change is deeply embedded in our culture.  The root word ‘resolve’ means determination, tenacity, and firmness. Therefore, a true resolution is not a general wish for something to be different or a half-hearted attempt to implement a change.  Consider what your resolution as a leader or change agent might for the organization in 2016.

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Practice Tip #6

Develop Your Health Awareness – The first step toward greater organization health is recognition of the signs of health and lack of health.  The second step is ongoing consideration of ‘how are we doing’ and ‘what can we do to improve health.’ . Use this link to a survey that provides a checklist that will help you develop and focus an ongoing leadership dialogue about organization well-being

Words of Wisdom

Integrity is the essence of everything successful.
Buckminster Fuller

We build too many walls and not enough bridges.
Isaac Newton

Alone we can do so little.
Together we can do so much.
Helen Keller