It Starts at the Top!
Posted by Claude Warner on Wednesday 11th November 2009 at 14:30:10
1 comment on this post - most recent Tuesday 9th March 2010 at 14:40:11
Creating the Emotional Climate for Organisational Learning
In business we combine the “hard” side of logic, rationality, structure and systems with the “soft” side of human energy, emotions and ongoing learning.
The “hard” side leads to organization efficiency, whereas the “soft” side determines the effectiveness of the organization.
One can have the best products, structures and systems, but without motivated, committed and capable people operating within them, the organization will not achieve its goals.
Business success is determined by how these two complementary aspects are combined, and how, over time, the balance is maintained, informed by assessment and critical review.
This is a challenge for business leaders, as people are not merely cogs in a business machine. Traditional organisational structures favoured this approach, with strongly reinforced authority relationships enforcing compliance and performance, often using negative consequences as an “incentive”.
However, in an increasingly commoditised world, the only variable that can give an organisation a sustainable competitive advantage is the performance of its people.
That is why an organizations’ biggest asset is the ability to harness the energy and learning capacity of the people they employ.
In today’s business environment, world-class systems and structures are considered entry level, and ensure at best “me too” status. Yes, these can contribute to becoming an industry leader, but this will at best be a short term success.
To remain an industry leader in the long term requires a paradigm shift to seeing an organization as first and foremost a key human institution, consisting of networks of people working towards a common purpose through efficient systems and a culture which all have helped to create. Thus, effectiveness is born out of efficiency.
However, just as people are not cogs in a virtual machine, so too the marketplace is complex and dynamic. There are constant changes through technological advancement and product innovation, legislation, politics, economic cycles, environmental issues, customer demands, corporate social responsibility etc.
The organisation that learns from, and responds to, this complexity, and does so faster than its competitors, will prosper and survive in the long term, in the process creating maximum value for all its stakeholders.
Such learning should occur all the time at all levels of an organisation, but it requires an emotional climate which encourages open and transparent learning processes.
The key question here is whether the leaders within the organisation have the will and emotional intelligence to do it.
This brings me right back to my offering of helping business leaders to develop their own emotional and social intelligence. These abilities will enable them to engage effectively with their people and to create the emotional climate vital to a learning organisation.
The first step is to grow the business leader’s own self awareness, enabling them to be aware of their emotions and to manage them effectively.
The next step is to integrate their own emotional intelligence within their relationships with others, creating an open and high trust environment which enables them to communicate effectively.
The leaders’ mastery of their own emotional and social intelligence is thus the key to creating the emotional climate vital to a learning organisation.
Research has shown that competence models for leadership typically consist of anywhere from 80 to 100 percent emotional intelligence based abilities.
The key for leaders is to master and model these competencies. “One way to describe leadership is character in action”, says Warren Bennis, organisation consultant and leadership expert.
The leaders set the tone. You need to walk your talk. Regardless of the espoused values of the organisation, people will always follow your behavior, not what you say. Your behavior is likely to be the true measure of personal performance.
Just as investment in the “hard” side of business in terms of systems and processes enable an organisation to be efficient, so investing in developing the “soft” side of your business, starting with the leaders’ own personal leadership development is key to the effectiveness of your organisation.
This article draws on knowledge and learning from the work of:
Peter Senge - The Fifth Discipline
Bob Garatt - The Twelve Organisational Principles
Daniel Goleman - Emotional Intelligence
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