Organizational health is the latest buzzword in business, but what does it mean, and how can you tell if you organization is "healthy"?
There are a number of varying and conflicting definitions of organizational health, however, Patrick Lencioni, author of the book, The Advantage, which explores the topic, was one of the first thought leaders to coin the term, and considers a healthy organization as one that has minimal politics and confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover. Research tells us that organizations that are healthy in these respects outperform their competitors.
At the heart of unhealthy organizations are significant problems of distrust, politics, secrecy, confusion, negativity, and fear that evolve over time. The reasons for these problems can be many, including poor job fits, ineffective communication practices, leadership styles, and the consequences of organizational decisions.
Every employer deals with some of these issues, but the difference between a healthy and unhealthy organization is the frequency and gravity of the problems. In unhealthy organizations, these issues tend to be rampant and the "illness" typically worsens over time leading to issues of employee loyalty, productivity, satisfaction, and turnover.
How do you know if your organization is healthy and what are some ways to make it healthier? Here are four (4) key elements of a healthy organization.
1. Leading effectively
Effective leadership is one of the primary characteristics of a healthy organization. Healthy organizations are led by humble leaders who engage others, make decisions in the best interest of their employees and their organization, build and maintain a great team, and take responsibility when the organization suffers and correct it.
An organization is healthy when employees have positive relationships with leaders, leaders have integrity, employees trust leaders, and leaders act cohesively as a group running the organization. In healthy organizations, leaders' behavior is respectful, appropriate, consistent, and unambiguous. There is minimal fear because employees know what to expect.
Additionally, in a healthy organization, leaders create a compelling vision, mission, and strategy for the organization that is supported by the organization's culture, and excel at executing.
2. Building vibrant morale
Healthy organizations have vibrant employee morale and an exceptional work atmosphere. Employees are generally happy with their jobs, take tremendous pride in the organization, enjoy coming to work, and do things that help the organization succeed. Employees are inspired by and enriched in the workplace.
In a healthy organization, employees can be themselves. Individuality is celebrated and they can fully develop and "unleash" their gifts and talents to contribute to the organization. Healthy work environments continually prompt and emphasize healthy and constructive behaviors in the work environment... respect, collaboration, positivity, personal growth, appreciation, and working together to meet the organization's objectives.
3. Mastering communication
There are generally not widespread rumors, gossip, and negative communication in a healthy organization because straightforward and sincere communication is mastered so that speculation is kept to a minimum. Conflict and difficult situations are dealt with openly, productively, and honestly and not in a roundabout and avoidant manner. Honest and infrequent mistakes are typically forgiven and redirected. Employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns to management without threat of repercussion.
In healthy organizations, the goals are effectively communicated and most everything important to the business is made transparent with employees. Information is not withheld from employees and there are few (if any) secrets. And because of this, trusting working relationships are developed. Leaders trust employees, and employees trust leaders.
4. Learning and evolving
Staying healthy as an organization requires constantly adjusting and adapting to the changing times and challenges presented to the business - ideally, more quickly than your competitors. Healthy organizations identify risks, recognize and seize opportunities, and look for ways to adapt their processes.
Adapting and learning also involves continuing to invest in training and development to improve and expand upon employees' capabilities and adapting your workplace to the needs of your employees. Healthy organizations never stop learning and growing, and support continuous improvement and change.
Employees at healthy organizations learn from one another, help each other, and quickly recover when difficult situations or mistakes happen. They don't allow organizational “wounds” such as poor performance or poor fits to fester and escalate for too long. Issues are dealt with constructively and the organization takes corrective action to improve it to not hurt the business.
As business leaders, take a pulse of your organization’s health because building a healthy organization is a must in today's business environment to gain a competitive advantage.
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