How to Turn Any Organization Around Five Steps for Leadership Success
Recently, I was approached to help a small, struggling organization. I’ve discovered that most teams or organizations who find themselves in dire circumstances such as this one tend to have a problem in at least one of the common areas outlined below.
In this article I want to reveal five practical steps to turn any organization around.
One: Know How Your People Feel
Most leaders are worried about what their people are doing. That’s rarely the problem. We must concern ourselves with how our people feel. When people are confident and empowered, the work always gets done right.
Here is the caveat. Do we actually care about how our people feel? If not, our leadership will never be healthy. If the work is getting done, but your people are feeling lousy, unappreciated, stagnant, or uninspired, do you care? I do. I want the people with whom I’ve been entrusted to be healthy. It’s the right thing to do. Forget the work for a moment. These people are like your children. When you care about them and love them as such, you are operating with integrity and honoring them.
Failing leaders often ignore how their people feel. But when you empower people to feel great about their work and their relationships, you will be on your way to leadership success.
Two: Define the Soul of Your Organization
Who are you as an organization? As the leader, can you express it clearly? I’m not referring to a standard mission statement everyone must memorize. I am asking, can you give a impassioned “I Have a Dream” speech about who you are? Can you stand up and exclaim to the world, “This is who we are. This is who we want to be. This is why we exist.”
If you are uncertain as a leader, you cannot guide your team, your culture, or your organization decidedly. You must make an effort to define who you are. Write it down. Get help if you don’t know how. I like the formula of Purpose (why we exist) + Mission (what we do) + Vision (where we are going) + Values (principles we live by). After this is clear, the next three steps describe how to put these into action and bring people along with you.
Three: Build One-on-One Relationships
Leadership is built one-on-one. Group meetings facilitate discussions and measure progress, but relationships are built one-on-one. This is just as important when an organization is small as when an organization gets big. Leadership requires us to be more intentional with our time and relationships.
Here’s an idea on how to make one-on-one relationships a priority even in a large business setting. Build relationships with your inner team. You should have no more than 7-10 people reporting directly to you. Spend at least 20-30 minutes with each person every week. Structure your meetings so you practice the formula to Listen, Build, and Align. Steps Four and Five describe how that works.
Four: Have Regular Team Meetings
A team is a family, and when the family does not come together, it does not function well or feel much like a family. Healthy families meet together regularly, like for evening dinners, weekly family time, or yearly family vacations. That’s when people feel bonded together as one. For most teams, I recommend weekly time together. For exemplary organizations, daily is even better. The organization I lead meets daily for 20 minutes, and weekly for an hour because family is one of our core values.
Recently one of our teams prevented a patient from committing suicide. He wrote a letter of appreciation to our staff. In our weekly meeting, we had the members of the team tell us how they were able to help that person and we read the letter. It was 10 minutes that brought us together and affirmed our values like no other.
Many things can take place in these meetings. Updating everyone, reviewing team values, training, teaching, sharing good and bad customer reviews. But above all, these meetings should be about coming together as a family.
Five: Listen, Build, Align—All the Time
These three steps work best in one-on-one meetings. However, I believe this is how leaders should think and interact with their people all the time. Always listening (the majority of their effort), always building others up, and always aligning everyone with the fabric of who they are and who they should be.
Listen. In a weekly meeting, allocate 70% of your time to listening. The goal is to listen to people’s hearts and then reveal your heart to them. Here are some frequent questions I use to understand a person’s perspective and see what they see.
How are you doing? – Stop and really listen here. This may be the most important question you ask a person. Lean forward. Really seek to know.
How do you think our team/organization is doing?
What do you think we should do differently?
In what areas do you think I can improve as a leader?
How can I serve you better?
What can I do for you?
Build. Allow 20% of your time together for building the other person up. Encourage them personally and professionally. Uplift them—not only on a personal level, but ask how you can make their job easier or support them in what they are seeking to accomplish. Show them your appreciation for their time and contributions to your team and your vision.
Align. Finally, dedicate the remaining 10% of your time to aligning your values together. Only do this if the first two steps were done well. Aligning will go more smoothly when the other person feels good. When you are ready to align, do these two things: One, share with them your struggles. Be vulnerable. And two, ask them to help you and join you, rather than resorting to telling them what to do.
For Further Reading: