I recently interviewed Kathleen Paris, author of Staying Healthy in Sick Organizations, The Clover Practice. A longer excerpt of my conversation with Kathleen can be found on SmartBlog on Workforce. Below, Kathleen talks about some of the practices of healthy organizations.
What does it look like when an organization is healthy?
Honesty is the No. 1 characteristic employees want in a supervisor, according to a Kouzes and Posner study of 73,000 Americans. If we "Tell the Truth, Always" as an organization, we communicate frequently and in multiple ways about things that matter. Employees know that they can ask about anything and they will get a straight answer. Performance issues will be addressed honestly, swiftly and humanely. Illusions will not be acceptable.
When the norm is "Speak for Yourself" in an organization, everyone including managers and supervisors will get training and reinforcement for talking to others directly, but respectfully about the concrete, tangible facts of a situation and giving feedback without value judgments and labels. People will be asked for their opinions and even dissenting ideas will be welcomed because they can open up a group's thinking, lead to better solutions, and help anticipate unintended consequences.
Operating Principles about communication and civility will be identified, discussed, and included in job descriptions and performance evaluations. Having stated principles doesn't automatically mean better behavior, but it provides a way for each person to have some influence and the ability to say, "We have an operating principle about XYZ, and this discussion is not in line with XYZ."
"Declare Your Interdependence" when applied as an organizational principle means that employees are provided opportunities and incentives to get to know people outside their own departments. From two-hour shadowing experiences to structured internships in other departments to all-hands on meeting where real work gets done, employees will have a deep sense of their larger organizational community. They will have contact with customers and see how the end product of their labor. Work processes will be documented and employees will know the people and sources of their own work as well as to whom and where their work is handed off. The sense of community and teamwork will be measured and action will be taken accordingly through tools like The Horse Power Survey™. Parking places and other space accommodations will be made based on job duties rather than titles. Real attention will be paid to involving people in decisions that affect their work. And many new and creative ways will be found to say thank you both within the organization and to customers and other stakeholders.
These things are all simple, but not easy. They are, however, doable with a shift of mind at all levels of the organization. And The Clover Practice™ embraced at the organizational level will lead to new levels of community and productivity which go hand in hand.