In every successful organization, two structural pictures must be in the front of our minds to create a healthy and functional team. The two pictures are “family” and “body.” Sometimes an organization gets unhealthy and dysfunctional and needs an influencer to pull them back to center. Here are the family and body word pictures that will allow you to be such an influencer.
Family- Unconditional Love
We are humans, not robots. As such, we have emotions and emotive responses. Built within us all is the desire to be loved and accepted. This is no less true in our professional lives than it is in our personal lives. Considering most of us spend 8+ hours a day with our team of co-workers, this is a key environment where we receive such care, love and acceptance.
In some sense, every organization is like a small or large family. Because emotions are part of the package with every human, each workplace transaction contains a layer of emotional messaging that accompanies it. This aspect of emotional connectedness is called relationship, and for better or worse, relationship cannot be avoided in an organization, as any interaction between two humans requires it.
Creating an organization of automatically functioning robots will never succeed. It goes against our very human nature and is naïve.
Family is a good metaphor to keep in the front of your mind as you lead and influence any organization. Healthy families show unconditional love and care apart from performance. Their primary focus is the health of the individual family member, and they are willing to exhibit extraordinary sacrifice if a family member becomes sick or wayward. Parents, equivalent in some degree to leaders in this metaphor, shepherd, guide and yes, even discipline, their children as they guide them towards independence. While leaders are not to be pedantic to their followers, such parental actions are required to create a healthy organizational environment.
Healthy families also provide emotional support. We all need encouragement as emotional fuel to keep us striving towards the organizational objective. Many team members leave an organization despite believing deeply in its cause simply because they do not feel cared for. This must not happen, as these are valuable family members who are needed on the team.
Most families and organizations tend to have a personality within them known as “the cheerleader.” In the traditional family roles played out on 1950’s television, this tended to be the June Cleavers of the world, providing support and comfort, especially when things got rocky for The Beaver. In an organization, this male or female is a wellspring of encouragement and personal care for the individual members of the team. They tend to have a glass-half-full mentality that promotes confidence and a “can do” attitude among other team members. Reflect for a moment. Who are the cheerleader personas on your team? Make sure they receive the thanks and encouragement they pour out to others.
Another key role for a healthy family is “the challenger.” This person uses his or her influence to persuade team members that they have more abilities into which they can tap. This “there is more in the tank” personality is able to draw the best out of each team member, causing them to overcome obstacles and rise above their self-limitations. An organization without a challenger personality goes soft quickly.
When we consider that every organization has an aspect of familial connectedness, we come to realize this foundational truth:
Life is messy. Thus, building people is messy.
Creating an environment for a family is work! Interpersonal conflict must be dealt with head-on to avoid simmering grudges. Individuals’ weaknesses and blind spots in regards to doing healthy relationships must be addressed. The successful organization becomes a matter of not merely doing the work, but how we treat one another while doing it. Building a healthy organizational environment around the healthy family model IS worth it. People buy-in where they feel loved and accepted. They will invest their life, energy and talents into the organization that feeds them emotionally, often willing to offer extraordinary sacrifices to see the organization succeed.
But the family picture in and of itself is not sufficient for organizational success. If the family serves as the sole determinative metaphor for an organization, it can quickly become inward focused and lose site of WHY the organization exists in the first place. Another picture needs to be in place, a picture of the human body.
Every organization has a key objective that drives them to continue it existence. This may be a cause, like alleviating poverty in Saharan Africa, a service or product to sell for profit, or a number of other objectives. The organization thus organizes itself around accomplishing the objective much like a human body organizes itself around sustaining life.
Within each organization are the various “body parts.” Every person, team and department within the organization has a unique function to perform for organizational health and sustained ability to see the prime objective accomplished. Some members serve as the heart, supplying the needed resources to the various body parts so they can accomplish their needed tasks. Others function as kidneys, eliminating the waste and distractions that are obstacles to accomplishing the prime objective. Still others are the hands that reach out to interface with the world at large—think sales team in for-profit or field reps in a non-profit.
Celebrating the diversity of function is key to creating a healthy body. We are all wired differently. Attempting to turn everyone in the organization into a kidney or hand simply because the leadership is wired that way is a recipe for organizational death. All of the respective body parts are needed to sustain the organization.
Part of leadership maturity in an organization is realizing, “Everyone on my team is not exactly like me, and that is actually beneficial.” Each body part must be evaluated on the unique way in which it contributes to accomplishing the overall organizational dream.
Have you taken the time to reflect on how each department and team member directly affects your organization’s success? Take a time to form this picture in your mind and then share it with your team. This will allow each department and team member to understand one another’s importance. This prevents your sales force from thinking, “Accounting and human resources are merely obstacles to our success.” Once a more holistic picture of the function of the body is gained, the more the realization that everyone on the team members plays a vital part.
In the human body, when an organ or body part is damaged and not functioning properly the body provides corrective resources in the form of white blood cells and compensates until that body part regains function. This is true of the organization as well. There are times the other body parts must pull extra weight for organizational success. Of course, there are pathogens and, ultimately, even failing organs in the human body that must be eliminated in order to maintain health. That same is true in an organization. Tough decisions to release a team member or re-organize a department are a part of the leaders job in overseeing the overall health of the body.
When Family and Body Combine
Perhaps our United States Armed Forces are the primary example of where the healthy family environment plus proper body functioning exists. Soldiers call one another “brothers in arms.” There is a familial bond that exists between them that is so strong, many soldiers have a hard time adjusting to civilian life, because they miss the deep connectedness they had in service. Yet this isn’t merely a “feel good” organization. These family members are willing to literally lay down their lives for one another as they seek to achieve an objective, risking life and limb that no soldier is left behind.
The body picture is also quite present in the armed forces. Soldiers understand that not everyone can be on the front lines. There must be supply tent workers and transport drivers that provide the resources needed to the front lines. Medics are required when an injury occurs. Everyone has a crucial role to play and must not fail, lest the objective of taking ground and repelling the enemy fail, which could have disastrous consequences.
When your organization begins to think in terms of family + body, you will have an improved framework on which to evaluate organizational success. Take the time to reflect on where your organizational family is functional or dysfunctional and where your organizational body is healthy or sick. Then start to use your influence to make a positive difference.