Let’s face it, organisations have to be outward facing, it’s no good naval-gazing constantly, because that will get them nowhere. Sometimes though concentrating on external goals, relationships and service can create a blind-spot for leaders which means they miss some of the most important dynamics in their own organisation. Today, I set out three dynamics which leaders must pay attention to if they want to truly create an excellent organisation.
An ability to create an environment where employees are engaged and encouraged to bring out their self-motivation are “must have” leadership skills. I have worked with many leaders who have made great efforts to put in place a culture which gets the best out of people and gets them involved and committed. But sometimes their efforts simply weren’t, frustratingly, enough. Indeed many organisations invest much time and resource into getting it right, but even though they are well-intentioned, sometimes, often, their initiative is simply doomed; if not to fail, then at best, the outcomes simply don’t live up to expectations.
In my experience, there were times, even when the company was doing well, a constant thread of discontent existed amongst the team or even across the whole organisation. For a long time I put this down to human nature. There are positive people and negative people and you can’t get it right 100%: right?
I even found times when team and organisational results were high, and leaders were celebrating their successes; employee engagement indicators showed there wasn’t a corresponding “high” in the way employees were buying in or not to the success of the business. In one scenario, one organisation won accolades for leadership excellence when the engagement index for staff was actually sweeping the bottom of the industry league tables. Obviously the criteria for leadership excellence were missing some vital ingredients in engaging and enthusing their people.
For me, I have found, there are three common problems which if not tackled and given focus and attention will leave the best intentioned leaders and managers left scratching their heads in their efforts to create a great working environment. At first glance, most leaders and managers would probably deny these problems are alive and well in their workplace, but often denial can stem from the lack of perspective, given their proximity to the problem.
The three problems, I believe if not tackled will sabotage attempts to engage and motivate people are:
Lack of Drive to Excel
This syndrome often occurs when organisations are getting reasonable results. It’s a little like living with an old and trusted cooker. As long as it’s working and cooking tasty meals, then there’s no need to change. Once it’s broken though, then you will start looking around to see what’s out there, and slam, the realisation that your oven was “in the dark ages” compared to the brilliant new technology available and how much time can be saved with technological advances, comes into your awareness.
Many organisations are still “cooking on gas”, in their minds, but they haven’t caught on to the many brilliant possibilities that exist, if they decided to raise their game, and invest in something new. In a nutshell, the organisational culture is resistant to operating outside of the established comfort zone, which would have been forced had results been poor or disappointing. Results which were “good enough” didn’t leverage sufficient motivation to change and achieve even better results.
Believing in Average Ability of their Employees
Some 5 years ago, I applied to win a place in a local Academy for my son. In those days Academies in the UK were few and far between. This particular school was amazing. At that time, results showed it was in the top ten schools in England. The school didn’t have formal feeder schools, so each one of its 190 odd intake of pupils was by application. They were and continue to be 2 – 1 oversubscribed.
In my ignorance, I expected the school to favour “bright” children, given its amazing results. What I found, still makes me wonder. The school intake policy includes an obligation to take in pupils from the whole spectrum of “ability” from children who had “special needs” to those who were nearing genius status. The bulk and the majority of children had to be sourced from average to below average results. It worked out at about 70% of the pupils were average achievers when they arrived at the school.
When the head was asked about how they managed to get such amazing results given the mix of abilities, he told the silent parents that unlike other schools, they truly believed that everyone was capable of excelling and so from that belief they got the best out of the vast majority of their pupils.
What I have seen in many organisations is a similar syndrome to that which most schools suffer, unlike the Academy. The general belief in the average ability of a large percentage of their employees which resulted in a self-fulfilling prophesy, i.e. they produced average results in the main.
Lack of Internal Customer Service
I have seen many organisations have great outcome related external customer service policies, and strategies. They have plans to engage people with the organisational “big picture”, “mission” and they hold focus groups and ask people constantly how they can make things better, but they continue to ignore the internal relationships between peers, teams and departments.
Insufficient attention is paid to internal relationships, contribution ethos, innovation, values and helpfulness within an organisation. This is all about internal customer service. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with friendly rivalry between teams if their starting line is that they always act “for the greater good of the organisation”. It doesn’t matter how much effort is put into engaging, planning and rewarding people, if the relationships aren’t designed to “serve” each other as internal customers, excellence is never going to be achieved.
Including some well needed perspective to lift your team out of their comfort zone, help foster self-belief in your people and get your internal customer service to work brilliantly must be part of your plan if you want to be brilliantly successful.
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Christina has managed people for twenty seven years and led hugely successful teams. She has worked with people at all levels in various organisations to help them achieve their potential, and she has been actively involved in the learning and development field in a number of different roles.
People Discovery is a Leadership Development coaching consultancy, based in North East England, working globally. The e.MILE Community is a networking, sharing and business directory for people who know “there must be a better way”
By Christina Lattimer
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