Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Organizational Wellness

Wordle: Mission ClarityWorking with a team of colleagues yesterday to design a new curriculum, the conversation got around to the idea of "organizational wellness." It is all the rage of late to talk about employee wellness and I do agree having healthy, happy employees is important to the long-term success of a company. Perhaps though, employee wellness isn't enough. Let's take it a step further and talk about organizational wellness.

Having worked in consulting for 20+ years, I've had experiences with organizations that I would consider "well" and some I would consider extraordinarily "unwell." I've also worked with organizations over a long span of time that started out well and slid to unwell. Fewer have gone in the other direction. I think it is possible to avoid the slide to unwell and regain organizational wellness if you're in a bad place. To do so, however, requires awareness and effort. Below are my characteristics of a well organization:

1 - Passion
Passion, in the positive sense, is "for the love of" something greater than ourselves. A company with a clearly defined mission the employees truly believe in is a good ingredient of organizational wellness. The missions that focus on altruism and the welfare of the customers typically garner the most passion. Profit is important, but I think passion comes in those organizations that focus on something greater than EBITA.

2 - Leadership
Yes, I had to include leadership. And, I'm raising the bar. In my opinion, we need to start with individual leadership. Individual leadership means each person's ability to make the right choices for themselves so they are then able to make the right choices for the company. A healthy company is one where each person can live both the organizational mission and their personal mission at the same time. This requires a few things: 1 - A clear organizational mission, 2 - A clear personal mission, and 3 - Working for a company where both missions can align. 

Lastly, organizational wellness comes when company leadership encourages people to thrive while pursuing both missions. If neither mission is clear, doing so is the place to start.

3 - Creativity
Everything changes. At some point, even a company which has operated for dozens of years faces a change. Customers change, technology changes, competitors change. A well organization is one that fosters, encourages and expects creativity from its employees. Every single one of them. There are some amazingly talented and creative people hiding in your organization who can see something others can't. Give them a platform, ask for their voice and give them an outlet for their ideas (for example, instead of the annual holiday party convene an annual "New Idea Conference").

4 - Openness
I've been in far too many meetings where there is a "meeting after the meeting" so a smaller group of people can say what they really think. If the people in your company huddle after a meeting, there is something going on you want to know about. Or, you have the wrong people in a meeting. Or, you didn't need a meeting in the first place. Organizational wellness comes from the confidence that the most important thing is honesty, no matter what.

5 - Social Networking
Capitalize on the power of the social networks that exist in your organization. If your company has more than five people, odds are, you have a social network. Use the social network for the good of your team and your organization. Have them start a book club, or an afternoon walking break, or send them to a class together. By building the strength of the social networks you're building the strength of your organization.

Is your organization well? Probably the easiest test is to take a walk around. Are people smiling, energetic and excited? If not, there is work to do be done. In three months, with a concerted effort, you can take your organization from unwell to well. If you're an employee and are living in an unwell organization, your first step is to get really clear on your personal mission. Once there, your next step will be clear.

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