An Organizational Health Wake-Up Call

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By: Meredith Masse

Thank goodness leaders and managers are becoming increasingly aware of the critical importance of paying attention not only to organizational performance (operational efficiencies, financial performance, etc.) but also organizational health (how teams agree to function to get great work done together).  ICC firmly believes, and studies back up the fact, that the healthiest teams indeed achieve highest levels of performance.  But not all leaders get it… yet.

Consider tending to organizational health like maintaining one’s own physical health.  We cannot expect to exercise once or eat a single healthy meal and see our waistline shrink, watch the number on the scale decrease or expect our overall health to change drastically for the better.  Staying healthy requires ongoing attention and consistently applying “best” behaviors, knowledge and skills to build a healthy lifestyle over the long-term.  And when we’re healthy we can be more active, more productive.

Same goes for our organizations’ health.  Just like with any plan for healthy living, you can start anytime.  But you do have to begin.  How about now?  For starters, here are some “what not to dos”:

Thinking trust is no big deal.  In fact, trust is the biggest deal in an organization and the foundation of the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team (Lencioni).  Frankly, your organization is terminally ill if a lack of trust exists among leaders and employees.  How can you get great work done together without it?  Real trust requires vulnerability and honesty.  The leader’s job is to create a safe environment where mistakes are treated as learning opportunities and transparency is queen.

Believeing succession planning is for sissies.  OK, I’ve never heard a leader actually say these words, but I got your attention, didn’t I?  Ailing organizations will continue to see declining health without an idea of who’s ready to step into critical leadership roles either now or with some investment in their development.  Promote those whom you can accurately pinpoint as actually “ready” — or ready with development — for the very different skills it takes to be a great leader to keep your organization healthy.

Insisting touchy-feely management skills are optional.  We hear it time after time: “We promoted our best [insert technical role here… sales professional, IT technologist, accountant, etc.], but oh boy did he blow it as a manager.”  Well, your best IT pro went to school for 5-8 years to learn those skills and probably did some kind of certification on top of that.  What makes you think he can have excellent bedside-manner management skills overnight?  Train your managers in what it takes to move effectively from being a buddy to a boss – even before they take on the new title and added responsibilities – and increase their ability to support a healthier organization.

The best leaders already get it.  The good news is it’s never too late to start caring for your organization’s health.  Better now than never, especially knowing that organizational health doesn’t just affect those in the organization.  As Patrick Lencioni says, “The impact of organizational health goes far beyond the walls of a company, extending to customers and vendors, even to spouses and children.  It sends people to work in the morning with clarity, hope and anticipation and brings them home at night with a greater sense of accomplishment, contribution and self-esteem. The impact of this is as important as it is impossible to measure.”

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