#Leading a Thriving #Organization


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Organizational executives, managers and leaders have good intentions to create thriving organizations that reflect their vision and mission for successful outcomes in the marketplace. Over the years, I have had the privilege to work for many organizations in various capacities; as an employee, a middle manager, a pastor, an executive, as a coach and marketing consultant. In other words, I have seen the internal dynamics of how organizations are managed and led; some thrive whiles others struggle to survive. To accomplish this monumental task of building a thriving organization it will take an organization to understand and embrace the four pillars of a thriving organization, which are simply strategy, synergy, structure and systems. Let’s start with the first critical layer of strategy.

1. Strategy

The original meaning of the world strategy reveals the “art of the General”, which implies the General’s broad grasp of the craft of warfare based upon years of acquired acumen and intuition from experiences on the battlefield. We can break down this art form into to three layers: hindsight, insight and foresight. Likewise, those in positions of mid to higher management in an organization have years of accumulated knowledge and wisdom derived through their education, exposure to people and events within an organization, and past experiences on the job. The accumulated wisdom of these employees is critical for tapping into new strategic methods for success.

Strategy is the sum of two parts: it’s your acumen and your approach. Strategy is melding what you already know and how you will go about executing what you know. Strategy, however, fails on many accounts. The most critical one is the lack of collaborative imagination that keeps many organizations operating in the dark at mediocre levels. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, understood the power of collaborative imagination. His wisdom was and is today second to none; the biblical narrative notes a person like Solomon will never be matched again, so listen carefully! King Solomon provides our culture today with a great Tweet tucked away in Proverbs 24:6:

Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”

Can you imagine tapping into the combined acumen, intuition and experience of many advisors? So why don’t you take an assessment of the creative members on your team and begin to tap into their combined wisdom for strategic advantages and advances in the marketplace. The wisdom is all around you… are you listening?

2. Synergy

One lazy afternoon, on my day off, I went to the afternoon matinee to see the movie Pitch Perfect. It simply amazed me on many levels! It wasn’t the humor, although I had a load of laughs. It wasn’t the brilliant singing that caught my attention although it was American Idol on Steroids. The main message for me was how a singing team formed and fermented into greatness. Let me see if I can sum up the important snippets of the movie that helped me see how teams form to create dynamic energy and synergy:

1. Pride was present at first since the old guard did not want to give up their place or stature on the team. So they resist anyone trying to introduce new ideas, which will improve the team’s performance.

2. Then there is friction between the old guard and the newcomers since the new ideas being offered are better than the old ones. It’s takes some time for the old guard to realize their methods have become obsolete.

3. Thirdly, the old guard finally accepts reality and realizes it needs to adapt and change. They are now willing to make some accommodations to make the team better.

4. And finally, the team comes together to implement the new ideas. There’s a dynamic shift in team culture and performance.

Synergy is hard to create but when it is present it is dynamic and energizing. When a team creates synergy it begins to release that corporate magic many organizations long for. How do we know when synergy is present? It is evident when optimum energy is released and dynamic synergy is increased.

3. Structure

Every organization is structured in a unique way. Some structures are more rigid than others, such as the military and Law Enforcement agencies, while other organizations tend to adopt a more fluid and flexible approach. “By structure, we mean the framework around which the group is organized, the underpinnings which keep the coalition functioning. It’s the operating manual that tells members how the organization is put together and how it works. More specifically, structure describes how members are accepted, how leadership is chosen, and how decisions are made.”[i]

The structure solely depends on what your organization wants to accomplish. For instance, let’s take two examples from nature to make my point. An eagle and a duck are structured quite differently from one another since they have different purposes to perform. One is meant to fly in high altitudes, and to dive at fast speeds to catch unsuspecting prey by surprise. Eagles like to be alone most of the time; they are the kings of the air. While a duck is given webbed feet to navigate through the water, and tightly knit feathers to keep them warm in cold climates. Ducks like to fly in teams, and work together to fly long distances.

Each bird has a particular function to play and purpose to fulfill. These distinguishing features provide you and I insight into the roles they perform in their respected environments.

Let’s take another example from nature. What about a tree? An Oak tree has a firm base extending to the general body. It is immovable and strong. Then as the branches move out they thin out and become more flexible, bending by the wind, even with the subtle breeze. Structures in organizations should have a stabilizing structure but should also allow flexibility is some areas of the organization to accommodate quick changes.

4. Systems

Systems are like highways that connect motorists to interchanges, intersections and bridges, which provide a proper flow of traffic so that people can get to places in an efficient manner within a specified time frame. Let me provide you a personal example:

I remember a time when our church fed thousands of inner city people on a Saturday afternoon. At the time, our church had an extraordinary cook on staff that was once Donald Trump’s private Chef (and you know Mr. Trump is a pretty picky guy). Anyway, when it came time to feed the multitudes, I just happened to walk into the kitchen area where I overheard the Chef say, “This is how we are going to take the food out to feed the folks.” To shorten my story, he had adopted a system with six steps before the people could even receive their food on the table. I thought to myself, “This process or system is going to take forever. We can do better?” So immediately, I took the Chef aside and advised him of a more efficient way. After I made it sound like it was his idea, he adopted the new system. The result of this simple change in the flow of food delivery was that everyone was happy, from the volunteers who had to serve the food, to the Chef himself, and the multitudes receiving our compassionate services for the day. All it took was a simple change to the “system”, which provided more efficient outcomes.

Systems should be made simple, but most people make them more complicated than they should be. The Chef in this situation had extraordinary skills but he lacked the basic skills of how to deliver his product efficiently.

What area above is the weakest in your organization? Which one is the strength of your organization?


[i] An Organizational Structure: An Overview. http://ctb.ku.edu/en/tablecontents/sub_section_main_1092.aspx, accessed on 4/7/2013.

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The Engaged Leader: A Surprise Visit by a Regional Vice President


Joined in business

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” –Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

Our morning at the office was akin to any normal day; staff members arrive, greet each other, clock in, make coffee, and do whatever it takes to get the operational apparatus moving for the day. After thirty minutes, we settled into our workstations and commenced small talk with each other before engaging in our daily routine. All the sudden, I observed through the front office window what seemed to be the Regional Vice President entering the office at a fast pace. Somewhat startled, I exclaimed, “It’s the V.P.!” before he entered the office. I was surprised to see the Regional Vice President was by himself, without the usual entourage of the Regional and District Managers with clipboards in hand ready to write down every detail of the meeting. Normally, these types of meetings from out of town brass tend to create a tense working environment, where our district leaders prepare store managers and staff, days ahead of time. During these scheduled visits every office in the region walks on “pins and needles”, hoping team members will say the right things, present the goal board properly (the current performance metrics), and ensure the office is up to corporate standards; clean, neat and organized. Not this time?

As the Regional V.P. walked in, we got up and greeted him one-by-one. We were so happy to see him without the usual hype. In other words, we did not have to conform to a false corporate mold to make a good impression.

For reasons I will go into in a few moments, my colleagues and I were not intimidated at all by his presence. Our meeting with the Regional V.P. lasted about fifteen minutes. After his departure, the office was energized by his presence, so I sat at my desk and wrote down a short list of what I saw and felt from the Regional Vice President. One thing is for certain, I witnessed first hand a masterful leader working the room, and making impressionable connections with each employee. The following observations were noted.

  1.  An engaged leader is personable

The Regional V.P. was uniquely personable. As he entered the office he shook our hands, and called us each one of us by name. I couldn’t help but think, “This guy must do his homework before he visits a store. He knows each one of us on a first name basis.” His demeanor was totally non-threatening and genuine, unlike the meetings of the past. He was very personable, which made us feel like real people, and not corporate robots doing and saying the right things.

  1. An engaged leader gives hope

As he continued his conversation with another employee and I, he said, “We are going to grow old together, right?” We said in unison, “Yes, we are!” Immediately, I understood the meaning of this phrase; it is one used by married couples that are recommitting to each other for long period of time. I felt like he was putting us as ease by this comment. I felt secure and confident about the future. Leaders, like him, offer hope and build confidence for the future in a single and sincere sentence. Without hope you get a sense that there is no future to look forward to; only the daily grind of complying with charts and targets. The Regional V.P. simply imparted hope in a single sentence.

  1.  An engaged leader offers coaching

He soon asked, “How is your store’s performance?” So we led him to the break room where our goal board was located with updated metrics showing our activity, performance and profit for the month. After a brief overview by my colleague, he offered some coaching tips of his own. The coaching moment was helpful and pleasantly welcomed and acknowledged. We have not received this type of coaching even from our direct supervisors.

  1.  An engaged leader knows your status

Just before his departure, he asked a few of us about our status for our next level promotion. He went around the room asking and listening to everyone’s response. When he approached me, he asked, “Have you taken the test for General Manager yet? Surprised that he knew my status, I answered in the affirmative. What I could not grasp was his knowledge of my promotion, which was already in the works. I thought, “He is the Regional V.P. – He has got more important things to worry about.” This made me and the team feel that he cared for our professional development and advancement.

  1.  An engaged leader creates synergy

When he left the office, synergy was obviously present. We were all thrilled about his visit. We could not stop talking about what he said and what he was going to do for each one of us. The atmosphere in our office was literally transformed by his presence and concern for our future. After his departure, we then put our hands to work with more enthusiasm.

  1. An engaged leader follows-through

Some of us had some concerns about certain issues that were not being addressed in a timely manner; like our monthly bonus extensions, and promotions. Within a half-hour, after his departure, we were getting calls and emails from our District Managers noting, “We are taking care of that email you sent two weeks ago.” I was simply amazed at the speed of their responses. I have not seen such follow-through in such a short time frame.

Learning from Others

I was so fortunate to witness a leader who was engaged in what he did, and how he did it. The root meaning of the word engage is “to get the attention of” or “to bind oneself” with another as in a pledge. Our Regional Vice President certainly got my attention and respect. I was now interested in committing myself further under his regional leadership. Leaders who engage their employees, like our Regional Vice President, create empowering win-win cultures by lifting the attitudes and morale of front-line workers.

Are You Having An Emotional Affair?


“A touch creates heat, heat creates a spark, and a spark turns into a fire.”
-Rev. Paul Goulet, Senior Leader ~ International Church of Las Vegas

It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to tell you that you’re having an emotional affair at work. Those who are having one should know better yet they continue in their risky behavior, thinking they can get by undetected and unscathed. According to Gail Saltz:

Emotional cheating (with an “office husband or wife”) steers clear of physical intimacy, but it does involve secrecy, deception, and therefore betrayal. People enmeshed in nonsexual affairs preserve their “deniability,” convincing themselves they don’t have to change anything. That’s where they’re wrong.”[i]

It’s this “deniability” that blinds them, and sooner or later, their clandestine affair is exposed. Emotional affairs are more prevalent in the workplace than you may think. In a study looking at infidelity statistics in the United States, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy revealed 15 percent of wives and 25 percent of husbands engage in sexual relationships outside of marriage. That’s quite alarming by itself, but when emotional affairs are thrown into the equation, the numbers jump by more than 20 percent. In this day and age, it seems no relationship is safe from an affair. Emotional affairs at work tend to make up a large percentage of these numbers, and some research shows over 50 percent of opposite sex, work friendships end up turning into something more. [ii]

I remember sitting in a meeting with a high profile public leader, discussing his embarrassing exposure. The affair started subtly until they were alone and the rest is history. Once exposed it was a BIG disappointment to all involved. An emotional affair starts with a simple wink, then a compliment, an accidental bump in the hallway, and an innuendo here and there. Then all the sudden strong “feelings” take over and an uncontrollable urge and curiosity sets in to experiment further. Boundaries are then tested until it’s too late, you’ve gone over a boundary line. So what actually is an “emotional affair”? An emotional affair is an affair of the heart and mind, where a person sends subtle messages to another conveying a playful purpose yet keeping the relationship secretive in nature. If you want to know you are having an emotional affair at work, take the following assessment:

An Emotional Affair Assessment:

Is it your custom to…

  1. ask a particular person of the opposite sex out to lunch or coffee?

  2. purposefully go “out of your way” to talk to someone of the opposite sex each day?

  3. have closed door meetings with a person of the opposite sex?

  4. share marital problems or details about your marriage to the opposite sex that your spouse would not want others to know?

  5. look forward to seeing a particular person of the opposite sex at work each day?

  6. playfully text or email a particular person of the opposite sex on a regular basis?

  7. use innuendo language with a person of the opposite sex?

  8. be consumed in thought about a particular person of the opposite sex during or after work hours?

  9. inappropriately touch someone of the opposite sex at work by rubbing up against them or hip bumping in the hallway?

  10. write a private message to someone of the opposite sex, whom you happen to work with, on Facebook, Twitter, etc., without your spouse’s knowledge 

– If you answered 2 in the affirmative, you maybe a little misguided or just a big flirt, be careful!

– If you answered between 3 to 4 questions in the affirmative you’re in serious danger or on the boderline of having an emotional affair, and need to reconsider your boundaries before something more serious happens.

– If you answered 5 or more questions in the affirmative, then you are having an emotional affair at work, and need to reassess your behavior; seek counseling or speak with a mentor.

What boundaries can you design (personally or in policy form) to curtail an emotional affair in your workplace? Does your workplace have a code of ethicis in place addressing this type of behavior?

Footnotes:
[i] Could you be having an emotional affair? By Gail Saltz, May 21st, 2009.
[ii] Emotional Cheating Signs – Could These Be Signs Of An Affair? Monday, February 21st, 2011.

The Workplace Runt



Have you taken an assessment of your workplace culture, and noticed there is someone on the team who seems to be, for lack of a better word, the “runt of the litter”? You know what a runt is, right? In a litter of animals the runt is the one with a disadvantage because of its rank and stature among the litter; it’s weaker than others, and perhaps less likely to defend itself and survive. The workplace has “runts” as well. What I mean is the one employee everyone seems to single out, demean or gossip about during lunch or the break room. “Runts” are not bad people, they are just misunderstood. How serious is this problem in the workplace? Well, the Online article How Serious a Problem is Workplace Bullying?, notes:

Research indicates workplace bullying often involves an abuse or misuse of power that can include behavior that intimidates, degrades, offends or humiliates a worker, often in front of others. More often than not, bullying behavior at work creates feelings of defenselessness and undermines an individual’s right to dignity at work. It has been found that many bullying situations involve employees bullying their peers, rather than a supervisor bullying an employee.”

The Department of Labor and Industries provides examples of workplace bullying:

  • Unwarranted or invalid criticism.

  • Blame without factual justification.

  • Being treated differently than the rest of your work group.

  • Being sworn at.

  • Exclusion or social isolation.

  • Being shouted at or being humiliated.

  • Being the target of practical jokes.

  • Excessive monitoring.

So why do some employees do this to others? I have three thoughts about this matter:

1. Having a “runt” employee makes us feel better about ourselves

We feel better about ourselves when there is someone else we can demean or pick on at work. Personal insecurity breeds a level of disrespect in the workplace. Have you ever worked with someone where the problem lies with everyone else instead of one’s own performance? Of course you have. It’s easier to point the finger than see our own reflection in the mirror.

2. Having a “runt” employee deflects our personal flaws onto someone else

We all have flaws of some kind; the list varies from person to person. However, having a runt employee deflects all of our own personal flaws onto someone else, and of course, we are blind to our own. It’s easier to deflect than to own up to the obvious.

3. Having a “runt” employee makes us feel more secure about our jobs

When there is someone else to blame about the team’s performance and production, a person or group can feel more secure about their job(s). Why not? It’s always someone else who is not producing to organizational standards, right? Pointing the finger or shifting blame is easy and common in the workplace.

So what do you do when someone attempts to pull you into their game of demeaning others. The best way is to stop the person and take the lead in the conversation by saying sometime like, “Let’s go talk to ‘Bob’ together and see if we can work this out.” Most of the time the person doing the gossiping will stop. Don’t buy into their game. Rather build a culture of respect and dignity.

Have you been the object of someone else’s wrath in the workplace? How did you feel? Have you seen this scenario play out in the workplace?

Endnotes:
1. How serious a problem is workplace bullying? by Terry Parker. Times and Transcript, Wednesday October 6th, 2010. http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/news/article/1250675
2. Workplace Bullying: What Everyone needs to Know. Department of Labor and Industries. April 2008. http://www.lni.wa.gov/safety/research/files/bullying.pdf