We work with leaders to help their organizations become healthy and high-performing. We begin the process with assessment. We use an Organizational Health and Effectiveness Survey and a series of one-on-one interviews in order to get a clear understanding of the present state and the preferred future state of the organization. We take our findings and present them as clearly and concisely as possible, along with what we believe it will take to move the organization from here to there, and why it is important to do it now. We call this the Road Map.
Sometimes we find that even though they aren’t presently making it happen, leaders often, deep down, know the right thing to do. They have a clear idea of what healthy and high-performing looks like, but, for some reason, they have become a victim to the chaos of the way things are.
Recently, we were working with an organization in crisis. Toward the end of our assessment stage, a senior manager asked us, “So what do you think so far?” “It’s like a group of feral cats,” I replied (probably without thinking long enough about my reply). To an individual, they all seem like nice people, but they were all in survival mode. Some survive by hiding and laying low. Others survive by dominating and lashing out.
A short time later, we laid out the Road Map – the way forward. There wasn’t much resistance, but we still had our doubts. We know from experience that it takes more than a clear way forward to see organizational transformation. Because when organizations that are real messy start attempting change, for every problem they solve, three more come to the surface. To steal a phrase from Tracey Kidder’s book about Dr. Paul Farmer and his work in Haiti, “There are mountains beyond mountains”.
It is essential that the management team becomes a sort of “band of brothers and sisters” – facing challenges day after day, in the trenches together, enjoying the journey. However, when things have been messy, this is not easy to create. People are defensive, protective, cautious, and a number of other adjectives.
With our doubts still in hand, we began to meet with the management team. For our part, we use different tools and interactions to create greater individual self-awareness and build trust among the members of a management team. We believe in our experiential process and the tools we use. We have seen them work. However, as this group of managers began to show vulnerability, open up to one another, and (using their quiet voices) tell each other what they like, dislike, need and want to be successful at work, we were again impressed with the courage it takes to be a leader and lead organizational growth. You have to put yourself out there to be good leader. We left the interaction with a new sense of hope. Maybe they can do it. Maybe they can come together and courageously lead this group of people to a better – healthy and high-performing place.
To make change, to lead people, takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable. If you have a good leader, thank them. If you want to be one, step out and make it happen.