Bringing An Organization Along

Much of the material I cover in this space is individualistic: stuff you do on your own to improve your personal level of productivity and success. But since there’s a good chance you don’t live and work alone on a desert island, you may sometimes need to align with and gain cooperation from other people.

What’s more, there’s a reasonably good chance that – at least some of the time – your skills, talents, and experience bring you into key positions within an organization. When that happens, a portion of your personal success and productivity will depend on how well that organization functions and – in particular – how well it sets and meets important goals.

So let’s talk about some of the most effective ways you can drive an organization from within, and help move it forward on its path to cooperative productivity and success.

Focus on the Correct Vision

One of the most important jobs within an organization is to provide a vision of where it’s going, how it can best get there, and why all that is important.

This is a very ambiguous target, because the best methods to identify and spread the word about this vision will vary enormously, depending not just on your role within the organization, but also on your own strengths, on the purpose of the organization, and on the people within it.

We may talk another time about ways to focus on the correct vision, but for now all I want to say is this: Never forget creating and promoting the “vision thing” is extremely important.

Work Toward a Strategy

A solid, compelling vision is an important target for people in an organization. It’s made real, however, only when supplemented by a viable and useful strategy to reach that target.

As you might expect, there are many ways to develop and implement a strategy. Again, I won’t get into the details right now. But I will encourage you to drive the organization to develop an effective strategy and – once you’ve seen it fully fleshed out – advocate for concrete steps to put it into everyday practice.

Remember that a good organizational strategy emerges from efforts not only to engage with all the stakeholders but also to bring them into maximum alignment. To the extent you accomplish this, all the skills, talents, desires, and energies of the people in the organization can more easily be directed toward the realization of the vision.

Without a good vision and strategy, people in the organization may sometimes work at cross purposes and even undermine each other’s best efforts. Not a good scenario!

Listening Is Job One

Many people mistakenly think that driving an organization forward is all about giving orders. In truth, it’s much more about listening.

I’ve been guilty myself of advocating against meetings, and I still believe many of them are time-wasters. But “meetings” – in the sense of people communicating their knowledge, skills, feelings, and understanding about various aspects of what the organization is facing and trying to accomplish – are vital tools of organizational effectiveness.

Depending on their proposed content and purpose, some meetings are best held one-on-one, some are optimized at the team or project level, and some are appropriate for “all hands.”

You’ll help the organization tremendously when you promote the willingness to listen to everyone with something helpful to say, and work hard to make every meeting matter. Try to focus on:

  • Identifying and properly framing the problems at hand,
  • Asking the most useful and relevant questions,
  • Listening actively for what people say, think, and feel,
  • Synthesizing what’s communicated and summarizing this into helpful take-aways.

Organizational choices tend to be better and more effective when they’re based on the inputs received through open and artful listening.

Dumb Yourself Down

Not really. That’s just an eye-catching headline. But the underlying point is real: don’t strive to be the smartest person in the room. It may feel good, but when you establish yourself as the “Alpha,” others relax and let you carry too much of the load.

It’s better to refrain from allowing your ideas and opinions to set the tone and the parameters of the discussion. Let others step forward into the thought-vacuum you create when you stay reserved.

You’ll be surprised and gratified at the quality of analyses, ideas, options, and possibilities that emerge from others when you stay quiet and receptive.

In your work and your life, your personal productivity is always important. But when you take on any important role in an organization, your productivity entails more than just accomplishing something extra. It broadens out to include your ability to help create a vision, drive a strategy, and leave space for others to contribute toward the organization’s goals with their best ideas and efforts.

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