"Kristi came to us on a recommendation from a board member as someone who had unique skills that could help the Granicus executive team improve leadership communications. As a result of Kristi's facilitation, not only did the initial engagement result in success with the executive team, it also expanded into a company-wide initiative."

Ed Roshitsh, COO

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Does Your Organization Need a Check-Up?

(posted: December 17th, 2018)

How healthy is your organization?

Where do you want your leaders and teams to be in 2019?

At the end of each year you and your organization prepare for the coming year. You look back at the past year and identify what went well and what didn't, then identify your targets for the coming year, and project revenues. You, or your team, are likely focusing on things like annual performance reviews, progress reports, financial reviews and budgeting, and perhaps setting new goals and reviewing your strategic plan (and if you don't have a current strategic plan, get in touch with me!)

But what about your organizational health?

Have you given any thought to the health of your leaders, divisions, departments, and teams?

What is Organizational Health?

First of all, what does "Organizational Health" mean? We use the term broadly, covering communication, behavior, and culture.

Patrick Lencioni, bestselling author of several books including The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, and leader of The Table Group, says:

"Organizational health is about making a company function effectively by building a cohesive leadership team, establishing real clarity among those leaders, communicating that clarity to everyone within the organization and putting in place just enough structure to reinforce that clarity going forward."

It is becoming ever clearer that in companies that prioritize organizational health, productivity goes up, morale increases, and turnover drops to almost nothing.

What does a healthy organization look like? Among other things, healthy organizations:

  • Identify and live their core values day-to-day.
  • Experience little to no politics or back-channel discussions.
  • Prioritize clear communication so employees know exactly what is expected.
  • Have a foundation of trust and accountability.
  • Use collaboration and teamwork to engage people and increase productivity.
  • Combine strategy, tactics, and behavior to succeed.

In a recent study, companies that promoted collaborative working were 5x as likely to be high performing. Organizational health is, as Lencioni likes to say, the last competitive advantage.

Great, Sign Me Up!

So why isn't everyone talking about this, and getting to work on their own "organizational wellness" programs? Some are, but it's no quick fix pulled from a trendy business book or the Wall Street Journal. Frankly, it's hard work. It requires commitment and discipline, practice and maintenance.

The good news, though, is that there are tools and techniques available to help you and your teams do the work, actual clear steps to take, and ways to measure your progress! It's all about sets of related skills, and they are learnable and repeatable.

Start With Your Leaders

As with any new goal or change in habits, you have to start small. You can't change it all, all at once.

Start by getting your leadership team healthy. They may be a group of intelligent, focused, dedicated, hard-working executives, but can they collaborate effectively? This group needs to trust each other, be vulnerable with each other, and hold each other accountable. They need to understand their differing communication and work styles, and respect each other enough to honestly express opinions, challenge ideas, and have tough discussions. To understand the current health of your team, ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Do team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
  • Are team meetings compelling and productive?
  • Does the team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
  • Do team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
  • Do team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?

Although even the best teams sometimes struggle with one or more of these issues, the healthiest organizations constantly work to ensure that their answers are "yes."

In working with leadership teams, I like to create a foundation for the team with DiSC assessments, including The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team and Productive Conflict. I also pull from Brene Brown's work on daring leadership and coach individual executives one-on-one when necessary.

The more effective and collaborative you are as a leadership team, the more able you are to engage the rest of the staff, increasing productivity and morale, and reducing turnover.

"The irony...is that at the same time as we're worrying about machine learning and artificial intelligence taking jobs and dehumanizing work, we're intentionally or unintentionally creating cultures that, instead of leveraging the unique gifts of the human heart like vulnerability, empathy, and emotionally literacy, are trying to lock those gifts away. The hopeful news is that there are some tasks that humans will always be able to do better than machines if we are willing to rumble with vulnerability, live into our values, build trust, and learn to reset...[We] will not be threatened by the rise of the machines, because we will be part of the rise of daring leaders."
~ Brené Brown

Know where you're headed. All leadership team members need to be aligned, looking in the same direction, and targeting the same goal in the distance. The strategic planning process is imperative, including work on the organization's core values, mission, vision, and reason for existing (their "why").

Communicate clearly. The best leaders are great communicators, and that is crucial to maintaining a healthy organization. I like to build leaders' conversation skills for one-on-one situations, public speaking, presentation, and pitch skills for communicating to a larger audience, and giving and receiving effective feedback for better growth and development. And to create a solid foundation for all communication skills we work on improving listening skills, an often-overlooked but critical element in communication.

While there is more beyond these, this is a great starting point. If you can work through these three you'll be well on your way to building a healthy, high-performing organization.

Prioritize Organizational Health in 2019

From start-ups to non-profits, law (or accounting) firms to biotech companies, organizational health begins with its leaders committing to and consciously fostering healthy behaviors.

It results in motivated, engaged employees, powerhouse teams, and highly productive organizations.

A Stanford study found that the perception of working collectively can supercharge our performance. Participants who were primed to act collaboratively stayed with their task 64% longer than their solitary peers, also reporting higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels and a higher success rate. Even more interesting is that the effect persisted for several weeks.

This year, make plans to develop the health of your organization.

Challenge Yourself
  • What element of organizational health concerns you the most as a leader?
  • Have you experienced the benefits of exceptional teamwork? What was that like?
  • What do your 2019 goals for your organization look like? What about your personal goals?

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