Clear Organizational Structure

Do your work days slip away? Are you caught in the endless rush of “this just came up?”  Are projects caught indefinitely at the 90% completion mark or do you find yourself caught in meeting about meetings that conclude in the need for more meetings?  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!  Great advice, but what does prevention mean in the realm of teambuilding and leadership?  Prevention is structuring your team or business, intentionally, and not leaving it up to chance. Every business or team has an observable structure. It may not be as functional or productive as you would like it to be, but it’s there and its predictable.

Think about it like the family pets.  There are always the rules that we say we have and the rules that our dogs/cats know are real, or enforced.  This goes for both wanted and unwanted behavior. I remember when my wife and I rescued our two puppies, Henry and Maya. There was a clear agreement the dogs were not allowed on the furniture. There was also a rule that dogs were not allowed to jump on us, or guests, as we can into the house. After about 3 days, both dogs quickly learned the real rules; or I should say my wife and I learned the rules we cared enough to enforce. As I write this post, both dogs are snuggled against me on the couch!  Conversely, they have learned that we are serious about not jumping on us as we arrive home. The same phenomenon drives the structure of your business.  Think about that 100+ page employee manual that sits, untouched, on the new hire’s desk.  The real training starts once they leave the new hire orientation and they quickly uncover the true rules and roles in the organization.  Do any of the following statements sound Familiar?

“Here’s the maintenance form if the printer breaks down, but no one really uses that.  What I do is turn it off and on.  This sticker says not to do that, but the old IT guy put it there years ago, so nobody listens to that anymore.”

“If you need office supplies just ask bill over there. He’s got keys to the supply closet. Just don’t’ take the last one of anything.”

“Everyone will tell you not to save things locally, but nobody listens to that because the remote link never works anyway.”

“Yes, you would have gotten a raise under the old system. We’re under the new system now. Didn’t you read the email?”

All of these are all symptoms of a reactive leadership and poor structure, which leads to a reactive structure and bad habits! Reacting and adapting to the world around us is an automatic, natural process that has led to survival of the species over thousands of years.  It is our default setting as humans. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. However, this default setting will always keep an organization chasing its own tail as it continues to respond to what HAS happened without looking ahead. In this reactive stance, energy is spent trying to safeguard against the potential of a repeated crisis. Even if the chance or reoccurrence is insignificant. These statistically insignificant, but traumatic, outliers can drive you to respond emotionally, leading to mission creep, policy bloating, leadership blind spots, and quality loss.

The answer is to become an Affect Leader, who is aware of the emotional process that drives group dynamics. Awareness of this process can keep a leader focused and goal oriented. This courageous style of leadership is the immune system of an organization, which hinges on responding head-on to real (as opposed to imagined) threats and opportunities. As an Affect Leader you foster a mature and diverse team through encouraging productive conflict and facilitating genuine resolution, because facing, and resolving, challenge is the definition of the growth process. It is how your teams evolve to become stronger and more resilient over time.  Despite this, there is a natural tendency in all of us to avoid conflict.  As a leader you must wrestle with natural reflex constantly. An Affect Leader can strike the balance between accommodating their team’s comfort zone and challenging their team toward growth and change. This is a leadership two-step that is more of an art then a science.

Clear organizational structure is a powerful tool you can use to fight off this reactivity. When working with leaders I help them with a 5-point systemic analysis that clarifies the organizational structure and provides them with a roadmap to follow in anxious times. The 5 points are: Hierarchy, Roles, Rules, Boundaries and Dynamics of Relationship.  I’ll be covering each of these in more detail in future blog posts!

Shawn Meredith