One of my favorite cartoons is of a large ship sinking at a 45 degree angle. At the water line you see a group of people busily bailing water out of the ship; at the top end, jutting up into the air are two people drinking martinis and one says to the other, “I sure am glad it’s not our end of the boat.”
Unfortunately, that perspective and sentiment is far too common in many organizations. It is characterized as, “It’s not my problem to worry about; it’s someone else’s.” Or as, “My department is doing quite well, thank you. We don’t have a problem; it is department ‘X’ that is screwed up.” The significant point that is missed by this way of thinking is that if one part of the organization is in pain and trouble, then the whole organization has a problem. You can only be as good in total as your weakest department or team.
Wherever there is a problem in leadership, supervisory practices, employee engagement, performance indicators, customer complaints or execution – anywhere in the chain of accountability within your organization – then you and your department are also at risk. There are no extraneous performers or teams or departments within your organization. Each must be contributing and making things work better or they are weakening and increasing your vulnerability to failure.
In a large organization or department you can sometimes go for quite a while and not notice or feel the pain of the negative impact of a weak link. That often is because other members are covering for it or stepping up and overworking themselves to address the gap. But the price comes in terms of burnout, exhaustion or cynicism on the part of some of the best performers.
What does it take to increase engagement and performance across the organization?
- Make sure that you have clarified the desired outcomes (vision, mission, strategic objectives and goals) and that everyone understands what they are.
- Ensure that all managers and supervisors are in alignment with the desired outcomes and values of the organization by evaluating and coaching on work efforts, interactions with others, and focus in supervising others.
- Effectively challenge self and others to stretch, improve and grow in effectiveness by identifying and leveraging strengths and also picking one major area of improvement for each person and team or department during a specified period of time.
Will you be the one who courageously voices what is not working, missing or confusing, and then calls for collaborative brainstorming toward a better path forward?