Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Are You Managing your OB? Or, is it Managing You?

There are many things a leader has to worry about, especially in today’s business climate. What I encourage you not to overlook is your OB – Organizational Behavior. It can literally get out in front of you and if it does, it has the power to “make you or break you”. (This kind of reminds me of that saying, “I’m not afraid of what I know. It is what I don’t know that scares me to death.”)

I have worked for so many organizations that I have seen a lot. I’m never going to say that I’ve seen ‘it all’ because occasionally I am still shocked, but I’ve seen enough. (And later, I will write about the categories of these cultures and the pros and cons to each.)

With most leaders focused only on the bottom line these days, often the ‘softer skill set’ of business activities can fall to the back of the line. And, I understand this situation, but I caution you to incorporate thought, planning and most of all sound, well thought out communication to your employees about how much they matter to everyone’s success – the business’s and each individual’s success. Study after study show that the majority of employees want to do the right thing. Set an environment where they can.

 Job satisfaction is the number one reason employees stay with a company. And, even though the economy is rough, employees have long memories and you don’t want the best you have to go the minute the opportunity arises and the job opportunities gate floods open again. (In some regions, this is already occurring.)

Also, if you are currently in a position to be hearing nothing: no grumbling, no praises, no nothing from your workforce, don’t be mistaken and think you are in the clear. Quite to the contrary, you are probably in deep trouble.

Design communication and activities both formal and informal that portray your organization’s appreciation and desire for feedback on how things are going in your business. Many companies tout the age old adage of an “open door policy”. Then when a brave employee does walk through that door and either gets blasted for their feedback or ideas, receives defensive justification for why things are the way they are and/or gets placated to, the employee will share their disappointing experience with others and it will spread like wildfire through your organization. Then, that open door will stay open and no one else will dare walk through it. (And by the way when I say that the employee gets blasted, you all know I mean the subtle blasting or blackballing that goes on after the employee leaves the room *wink*.)

Instead, if you have an open door policy, truly listen, take notes and ask for the employee’s ideas on how to solve the problem (if problems are the topic.) Then promise to get back to that employee. And when you do, it doesn’t mean you have to do whatever they say or suggest, just follow through with courtesy and get back to them and truly thank them for sharing their ideas and concern for the business with you. Let them know you appreciate their ideas. This too will spread like wildfire.

There’s so much more to cover on this topic but the main message I want to get across, based upon a recent conversation with a client who has neglected her OB too long, is to don’t let it slide. Get ahead of your organizational behavior planning and execution. Listen, I know it is hard – but it is truly imperative to your success. If you are foreign to this topic, take a class and learn more on the topic. It is powerful and it can not only help you survive this recession but it can help you to thrive once it is over – some are thriving through it because of it.

I have often mentioned one of my two very favorite professors at UCLA Anderson Graduate School before, but if you need help in this area, this is THE GUY to contact. Dr. Eric Flamholtz.

Good luck to you and remember as the leader, you have a vast and large role to play but you are up to the task.


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