A Century of Difference

Amazing how much has changed in such a short period of time.

However, I do believe that the principles which people shared, and the way the Circle of Impact can be applied has not changed.

The reality is that our needs for clarity of thought, being present in our relationships, and, genuine leadership are more needed now that ever.

Target

 

The other day I asked the following question as my Facebook status update.

Just thinking about how different the 21st century is compared to either the 20th or 19th. Working on a post about this. What would you all say is the difference? I'm curious.

It is an important question if we are to effectively lead into the future. Here are some of the ideas shared. (Thanks Jenni, Pat, Richard & F.C.)

The social aspect... communication in a heartbeat

The entirety of the gross data and factual information within the world is within your 1.5lb. laptop.

Less face to face social interaction. Less informal group social interaction. More social interaction at a wire's length.

Too many businesses have forgotten ... being the people business.

19th more face to face ... 20th letters and telegrams ... 21st email, mobile phones and social networks - instant responses, less thought - little or no opportunity to convey intent except by emoticons that have become part of the language. This is a change so significant that I think it's as big as the printing press being developed.

In summary, these friends are seeing changes in technology, relationships and communication. I agree. These are the core differences that are impacting us daily.

If we use my Circle of Impact framework, we can identify others. This is a valuable exercise because it helps us in two ways. First, in seeing the transition over the past two hundred years, and second, to give us an idea of where to put our energy and resources for the future.

Circle of Impact

Using the Circle of Impact to Identify Change

Ideas: The Importance of Clarity.

Today, ideas matter more than ever. In the past, the communities and places of work were fairly homogeneous, not as culturally diverse as today. Now we need to be very clear about our values and purpose, and be able to effectively communicate them in visual and tangible ways.

In the past, we could measure our business by the bottom-line, and have a pretty good idea about whether we were succeeding. Today, if we are not clear about the impact we are creating, the purpose of our businesses / organizations seem vague. Impact is the difference that matters, and distinguishes us from others in the same industry. The core meaning of impact is the change we are seeking to create, and how we know when we have.

Lastly, is having a vision that is clear about what each person brings to the mission of the organization, and by that I mean, understanding what is their potential contribution. Then knowing how it is aligned with the operating structure to produce impact. And thirdly, each member of the organization being able to articulate that vision from their own place within the organization. Same vision, different expressions of it.

Relationships: The Importance of Being Present

Today, the person who is prejudiced, condescending and exclusive toward people and other cultures is viewed as backward, narrow and insecure. Openness and welcome are important behaviors that leaders and their organizations need to exhibit.

This mindset, so to speak, is really just an entry level attitude toward relationships. At the core, what made for a healthy relationship two hundred years ago, does so today. A year ago in a post, Honor and the Lost Art of Diplomancy, I wrote,

Diplomacy is the practice of respect applied in places of diverse cultures. It is the ability of one person to be able to empathize with another person, even though their cultural, ethnic and philosophical backgrounds are not similar. ...

This type of respect is a form of humility that places the dignity of the other person ahead of one's own perogatives. It is what I see missing in much of the social and civic interaction that takes place in our society.

This aspect of relationships has always been true. The difference today is that it has to be treated as one of the strategic initiatives of the business. How the business relates to the person and the culture will have a huge impact upon how well they do.

In addition, the importance of respect, honor, dignity, and trust are now functioning within a social environment where technology mediates our relationships more and more. This is one of the most significant changes of the past two hundred years. And as one of my Facebook friends noted,

... instant responses, less thought - little or no opportunity to convey intent except by emoticons that have become part of the language. This is a change so significant that I think it's as big as the printing press being developed ...

This means that the quality of our relationships is really a matter of the person we are. Our character, integrity and values matter more than ever. They do because with many people we only have a moment to convey the depth of who we are. If we come across as shallow, narcissistic, unempathetic, or distracted, then we may never have a chance to change that impression. 

The impact of all this change in relationships and social context is that we must constantly be present with our best selves, if we hope to build relationships for the long term. To be present means that our first inclination is not to tell our story, but to ask questions to identify their story. When we know who they are and what they value, then, with genuine integrity, we can tell our story. We are able to do this when we truly approach each person with dignity, respect and trust.

Structures: The Importance of Leadership

A major change over the past two hundred years is in how businesses organize themselves. In the past, the industrial model depended upon a standardized, formal structure. Today, the complexity of doing business has placed a greater burden on workers to be problem solvers and initiative takers. The expectation that workers take greater responsibility is changing what it means to be an employee. In effect, this shift is a change in what is leadership.

In the past, leadership was a position, a title which often was personalized into a heroic narrative of the senior executive. Today leadership has become the impact that each person has within the business structure. It depends upon their ability to communicate, problem solve, relate well to others and contribute in ways beyond their job description. In effect, the skills of leadership are now the skills of an entrepreneur, and are needed by everyone within the structure.

With this shift, a company where more and more employees have the capacity to take initiative to lead, the quicker the company will adapt to changing situations with customers and in their industry.

The Difference that Matters

Here are five actions we can take.

1. Be clear about the Four Connecting Ideas of Values, Purpose/Mission, Vision and Impact. Develop an elevator speech for each, so that when the moment arises you have something clear to say.

2. Develop Ideas in Conversation. Identify three to five people with whom you work, and often have lunch, and begin to share your ideas with them. You may want to share this post with them, and see where the conversation goes. The idea is to learn through collaborative reflection.

3. Volunteer with an Organization that Serves People in Need. I have found that working with people who have lived through or are living in hard times gives me perspective on myself. I learn to appreciate what I have and gain the ability to respect those whom I may have not been able to see any value. The resiliency and adaptability of people who are in need provides us a window into our own capacity to change. 

4. Develop a Set of Questions to Ask Everyone You Meet.  What sparks your curiosity? This is how the Circle of Impact was developed. I asked questions of everyone I met. Once the Circle became clear, I began to use this as a framework for my discussions with people. Now it is printed on my business card. Do this is to take initiative because your desire is to make a difference.

5. Go Slowly on Beginning to Take Initiative. Yes, leadership is an initiative taking function. But not all organizations have embraced this idea. In fact, many think that relinquishing control over employee freedom to lead ends with chaos and confusion. It certainly can if there is poor communication and coordination between members of a team or department. Understand, therefore, that leadership in this perspective needs alignment between the three dimensions of leadership - Ideas, Relationships and Structure.

The last thing to say is that while the changes over the past two centuries have been great, the core attitudes and behaviors that make for effective leadership remain the same as always. The primary difference are the changes in the social and organizational contexts that have come through technological innovation and the growth of life and work on a global scale.


Connect, Communicate & Contribute

ConnectCommunicateContributeImage
Engagement is the hot leadership strategy these days. On some subliminal level, we know what it means. But on a practical level, it is much more difficult to define. It is like so many ideas during this time of epic transition in society.  Abstractions are easier to understand that actual actions.

I'm involved in a project with the Presbyterian Churches (PCUSA) in North Carolina to raise money for our ministries on college and university campuses. It is more than a fund raising project. It is an engagement one, as we engage all segments, levels and congregations of the North Carolina Presbyterian world to support our work with students, faculty and university administrators.As we have worked through the various strategies that we need to successfully meet our financial goals, we are at the same time affecting change in people's perceptions and actions. This is very much what engagement means in its current use.

Our engagement strategy is built around actions that we are asking people and their churches to take. In this sense engagement, isn't just marketing, but encouragement to action. The emphasis on action, rather engagement, is because engagement is an ambiguous term. It can mean only mental engagement. And ultimately that sort of engagement does not produce results. Actions builds confidence, and confidence builds strength. So the goal of any engagement process should be more people participating, action, doing, taking initiative in three specific areas that we have identified as critical to our success.

We are focused on three types of actions: Connection, Communication and Contribution. If we succeed in increasing the level of connection, communication and contribution, then our campaign will be successful. This is true for any organization.

The simple idea that lies behind connecting, communicating and contributing is the importance of personal initiative. If you want people to be engaged, then they have to take initiative. When their initiative is focused on making connections with people, communicating their mission in terms of a story, and intentionally and strategically contributing by making a difference that matters, then engagement ceases to be a cool abstract business idea, and a living reality within your organization.

I cannot emphasize enough that the key is creating an environment where people feel free to take initiative to connect, communicate and contribute. If there is fear or too many boundaries to cross or obstacles to overcome, then they won't.

What does it mean to Connect, Communicate and Contribute?

Here's a starting point for each.

Connection: Connection

We all move through our lives in relationships with others. Some people are family, others are friends, many are colleagues and the vast majority are people who are nameless faces that we pass by along our life's journey.

There are three keys to connection.

The first key is that through our connections we open ourselves up to a broader, more diverse context.  The perspective we gain helps us to better understand who we are and how we fit in the social and organizational settings where we live and work.

The second key is our connecting strengthens community. When I introduce one person to another, the opportunities that can grow from that connection far out weight the ones we have without those connections. Living in isolation, which is not the same as being an introvert, weakens the institutions that society depends upon for its strength.

The third key is that when we connect, we are placing ourselves in a relationship of potential mutuality of contribution. I can pinpoint people with whom I connect with around the world for whom our mutual support for one another is an important foundation strength for our lives. We don't connect just to receive something from someone, but also to give in mutual benefit.

Communication: Communicating

With the growth of social media, everyone is a communicator. However, what do we mean by communication?

The most common fallacy regarding communication is that it is about what I communicate to others.  It is the old model of information distribution as communication.

The kind of communication that matters, that engages people to participate and contribute, is one that is more like a conversation. It is a two exchange, rather than simply a one-way download of my opinion.

The real purpose behind communication is to establish a connection that builds an environment of respect, trust, commitment, and contribution. This produces real conversations that matter. This is how communication becomes genuine engagement.

Contribution:  

I have seen so many organizations during my professional career that were languishing because there was no spirit of contribution.By this I mean, the people who were the organization did not see themselves as the owners of its mission. They were employees hired to do a job.

A culture of contribution is built upon a foundation of appreciation and thanks.

Typically, people see thanks as a response to a gift of some kind. As a response, it is less an act of initiative, though deciding to write a note, rather than sending an email, is a greater act of initiative because the effort and cost are more. 

The purpose here is to understand how increasing contributions by people is a form of engagement. Five Actions of Gratitude - blogpixRED

The Five Actions of Gratitude are acts of personal initiative. They are intentional and strategic. They are acts of mutuality that provide meaning and reality to the connections that we've made. Let's take a quick look at each to understand their function as sources of contribution. I've written more extensively about this under the title, The Stewardship of Gratitude.

Say Thanks: Too often saying thanks is a way we close a conversation. That is not what this is. Instead, we are expressing a perspective that identifies how the connection to someone, group or community has made a difference to them.  Our giving of thanks contributes to the strengthening of the ties that bind a social or organizational setting together.  I've heard it said that Saying Thanks is the "lubrication" that greases the wheels of society, making them run smoothly.  This is part of its contribution.

Give Back: When we give back in service, we are giving, contributing to a person, an organization or a community that has given to us. This is the heart of what we know as volunteerism and philanthropy. For many people, this is where our most significant contributions are made.

Make Welcome: This act of hospitality, or Hostmanship as Jan Gunnarsson suggests, creates an environment of openness, inviting people to join as participants who give, create, contribute their gifts and talent.  Openness and hostmanship are not automatic actions. They are intentional actions of initiative that create the opportunity for an organization to develop a culture of open contribution. Where there is openness to contribute, there is engagement.

Honor Others: When we practice honor, we elevate the human connection that exists in an organization or a community. I cannot think of an more important contribution than to create an environment where each person is honored with respect and thanks for the contributions that they make. Do this, and the motivation to contribute will grow.

Create Goodness: If we were to live to create goodness, we'd spend our days as contributors, and less as passive recipients of others creative goodness. My vision of this is to see an organization where every single employee take personal initiative to create goodness that makes a difference that matters.  To do this means that we'd face all those obstacles and cultrual barriers to engagement, and create a place where people can discover a fulfilling life of contribution as creators of goodness.

Strategic Connection, Communication and Contribution

These actions of personal initiative are not tactics for failing systems to buffer themselves against the harshness of a declining situaiton. Instead,these are strategies of change that help leaders and their organizations make the necessary transition from the organizational forms of the past into those that emerging. These are strategies of engagement because that create a different social environment for people.

At some fundamental level, we'd have to address the organization's structure to determine to what extent it can support a growing environment of connection, communication and contribution. This is the most difficult question because are embedded forms that are resistant to change. They do not adapt well to creative forces from outside of their own control. Yet, the engagement are identifying with these three strategies is an intentional relinquishing of control so that people are free to create their own ways of contributing.

In this sense, leadership shifts from a control mandate to a facilitating, equipping and visioning one. Leaders create an environment of openness so that personal intiative can create new structures for contribution. As a result, leaders become the keep and nurturer of the values of the company. They are constantly reminding everyone of these values of personal initiative, creativity and contribution.  They are protective of this openness that produces engagement.

The future belongs to those people who can create an organizational and community environment where personal initiative to connect, communication and contribute becomes the culture. When we do this, engagement transitions from being the hot topic of the moment to the reality that we find live with every day.


Fragmented and Compartmentalized or Connected and Aligned for Impact?

Circle of Impact

The Circle of Impact is designed to show how the Three Dimensions of Leadership work together.  It is a picture of connection and alignment that leads to impact.

Unfortunately, most of us don't think this way.

Our thinking is often fragmented, compartmentalize, lacking in meaningful connection and alignment. 

It was only through conversations with people where we were trying to sort through this fragmented, compartmentalized picture that the Circle of Impact came into being.

It could have been a long or brief conversation about a specific problem or something quite general and obscure, regardless, the issue had one of three origins.

Either it was an Idea problem, which could either be characterized as a thinking problem or a communication one.

Or, it was a Relationship problem, due to either a personality conflict, a difference in values or the lack of personal engagement.

Or it was an Organizational Structure problem, related to issues of governance, program, operations or resources. Later, it became clear that the Social Structure of an organization also can be setting for these kinds of problems.

In this week's Weekly Leader column - The Subversiveness of Gratitude, I write about the importance of connection.

What we are discovering, and the practice of gratitude is showing, is that truth is not in the discrete, isolated parts, but in their connection to one another. On a human scale, this means that our identity is not our position, title or place in a system, but rather the function that we have in connection. Collaboration and shared responsibility is the ground for understanding who I am within any social and organizational setting. The connection between the parts is where the action is, and the organization lives.

What is the connection between the Three Dimensions?

Ideas are the tools for connection.

Social and Organizational Structures are the settings.

Relationships are where connections are made, and the action is.

The Ideas that matter in helping people make connections are Purpose or Mission, Values, Vision and Impact. If there is a hierarchy of importance, it is found with Values. Our conception (Idea) of our Purpose or Mission, our Vision and definition of Impact are formed by our Values.

For example, my Mission is to help individuals discover and act upon a purpose for their life and work. The ideas that give meaning to my purpose are values centered in human purpose, potential and impact.

It is also true that social and organization structures are tangible expressions of the values that are either intentionally determined or become the default values through inattention. Those values maybe about order, productivity, respect, trust or integrity. Or they may focused on wealth creation or personal freedom. Whatever the values are, they are the ideological foundation for these structures. They are seen in the effect or impact of the structure on the people who work wihtin the organization.

The three dimensions are not equal, but complementary. Look again at the Circle of Impact picture.

Purpose is an idea that is connected to Structure. The key focus here is to align the structure with the purpose of the organization. Without that alignment, the organization works a cross-purposes with itself.

Vision is an idea that is connected to both Relationships and Structure.  The focus here is a picture of activity showing what it is like for people working within the structure of the organization to achieve the desire impact. 

Ultimately, what this means is that leaders are not interested in ideas just for the sake of the ideas themselves. They aren't interested in having healthy relationships just because their values say they should. And, they aren't interested in structure just because it is needed for a business to function. 

Instead, leaders are looking for ways to utilize Ideas to strengthen Relationships and inform how the Structure of the organization can be aligned with the company's Mission or Purpose.

The Impact of the Three Dimensions of Leadership should be better communication, collaboration and coordination.


Gratitude: Circle of Impact Conversation Guides

This is the last in a series of post describing the message and use of my Circle of Impact Guides.

Five Actions Gratitude

This guide developed out of a desire to identify how a person and an organization should act when gratitude is the motivation. Gratitude, I've discovered, is a response to another person's kindness.

Aristotle wrote,

Kindness is …
”helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped.”

I have written about this idea both here and here.

The purpose behind this guide is a belief that gratitude is not just a feeling, but a way we should live. Therefore, the Five Actions can be described in the following way.

We Say Thanks in Gratefulness.

We Give Back in Service.

We Make Welcome in Hospitality.

We Honor Others in Recognition

We Create Goodness through Personal Leadership that Makes a Difference That Matters

How To Use This Guide:

As a team, talk through each of the actions and identify specific steps that you can take to make each one a part of your team's experience.  It is important to understand that at some level each one of these actions is a gracious response to some person or situation.

For example, to Say Thanks Every Day is to recognize the kindness and generosity of others who have made a difference in your life and work. This is true even of your team who may be the beneficiaries of other teams or individuals.

One of the simplest practices is to write a note of thanks. It is better than an email, a tweet or a text message. It is a sign of effort to write a note and send it by mail.

Another example is how we practice hospitality. (I wrote about this in my review of Jan Gunnarsson and Olle Bloehm's marvelous little book, Hostmanship.) Making people Welcome is not just for when they come by for a visit. It is how new people join, and become full participants and contributors. The fewer the barriers to leadership, the higher the level of hospitality that is practiced. Hospitality is concerned with creating an open and opportunity rich environment for people. This is an action of gratitude because we are creating an environment that anticipates reasons to say thanks and offer recognition for the contributions of people.

It is in this kind of environment that people find the opportunity to Create Goodness out of their own sense of purpose or call to take initiative to make a difference.  When a person discovers and fulfills their purpose, that discover that without the assistance from others, some known and others unknown, that this fulfillment is possible. A result of this response in gratitude is that people find that their lives are Personally Meaningful, Socially Fulfilled, and the are Making a Difference that Matters.

When your team can identify how to develop your practices based on the Five Actions of Gratitude, you'll begin to see that many of the issues that formerly inhibited your work together begin to be resolved.

This is a conversation guide not a prescriptive formula. You and your team must decide what each of these actions mean in your context. The conversation will lead to a serious consideration of the importance of your relationships with one another, and how to make them work better.


Culture: Circle of Impact Conversation Guides

This guide - Creating a Culture of Impact through The Connecting Ideas - is one of a series of my Circle of Impact Guides.

Culture of Impact Organizations are not just policies, processes and operating structures. They are places where people interact for the purpose of achieving the goals of the company.

The problem with most organizations is that they are not organized around people, but around the processes that constitute the organization's operating system. The effect of this problem is that it creates, not a culture of collaboration, but one of compliance to the processes that are designed into the system. This is why often people in these systems are referred to as cogs in a machine.

The solution to this problem is not dramatic or radical. It is, however, a shift of perspective from a process orientation to a people one. This change achieves a better alignment between the Three Dimensions of Leadership - Ideas, Relationships and the Social & Organizational Structures. The shift is accomplished by using the Connecting Ideas of Purpose or Mission, Values, Vision and Impact to create a culture of impact.

Too often, employees are disconnected from the ultimate purpose of the business. Their role is to do their job, which typically means following the prescribed operating procedures. Even when the company's leadership wants, in the name of transparency, to engage with employees honestly about the company's health, it may not produce a more informed, engaged employee. The problem is more than being transparent about ideas. It is a combination of many things, all which are connected by the Three Dimensions.

If the leadership of a company wants employees to take greater initiative and care for the company, then they need to look at how  the Connecting Ideas facilitate a culture change that accomplishes the engagement that is needed.

The Connecting Ideas are the concepts that link the Three Dimensions together. These ideas are the core strength of the Ideas Dimension. Without a clear understanding of Purpose, Values, Vision and Impact, the company lacks a set of ideas that can, not only unify the whole organization, but also give it direction.  This is especially true during times of transition, like the time we are in now.

The result of utilizing the Connecting Ideas is a change in the attitudes and behaviors of people. Over time, this change becomes a culture; a Culture of Impact that is built upon a clear and operational sense of the company's purpose and values. 

Over the years, I've seen that people want their lives and work to be Personally Meaningful, Socially Fulfilling and Make a Difference That Matters.  In other words, they want the Ideas Dimension, best expressed through the Connecting Ideas of Purpose, Values, Vision and Impact to be reflected in all that they do.

If there is little or no alignment, for example, between the company's Purpose and how it is organized through the Social & Organizational Structures, then people will end up either fighting the operating system, or giving up and treating their employment as a job to endure. 

If there is no alignment between the people of the company and Values that are both Personally Meaningful and Operationally Strategic, then the culture will not be Socially Fulfilling.

If there is no Vision of Impact, meaning no conception that is shared between people, then employees will not see that their work Makes a Difference That Matters. A Vision of Impact is a living conception of the difference the company makes.

This is a picture of the change that the company, and each of its employees, should envision being fulfilled by their work together. It is not a visionary picture of one person, but all contributing their part to making the impact of the company something worth believing in, worth being committed to, and worth taking pride in at the end of the day.  This is a major responsibility of 21st century leadership.

To create a culture is a large task that may take a decade or generation to accomplish. However, all along the way, progress bolsters employees' sense of participation in work that is Personally Meaningful, Socially Fulfilling and Make a Difference That Matters. Taking the long view is essential, even in times where strategic planning may only take you two years out from where you are today.

Creating a Culture of Impact is the legacy of leading as the Circle of Impact identifies.

How To Us This Guide.

Look at the guide. As you see, the middle box has a listing of different levels of leadership and management in a company. Each level needs to be engaged in this process.  

Use the Circle of Impact Guides to facilitate the conversation that identifies and applies the Connecting Ideas.

1.  Identify your Purpose, Values and a Vision for Impact.

2. Align the Three Dimensions with the Connecting Ideas to improve Communication, Collaboration and Coordination.

3. Operationalize the Values as Measurable Practices. Don't let your just be words that inspire and comfort. Build the Values into your work processes by asking, "How should we apply the Values to our work together?"

4. Create a Culture by Celebrating, Recognizing and Innovating your Purpose, Values and Vision for Impact.

Leading your company through this kind of Transition should not be done without thought, and with help of an able facilitator. It will take time, so be patient and persistent, and measure your progress.


Teams: Circle of Impact Conversation Guides

This is one in a continuing series of posts on my Circle of Impact Guides.

Impact teams characteristics and strategies

Teams are a primary tool for organizations to get work done. Teams function in a wide variety of ways and for many purposes.

This guide describes my understanding of how a team functions in a more open, collaborative manner.

The guide is divided between a list describing the characteristics of a team member, and how to strategically develop a team.

The guide purpose is to facilitate conversation, not to act as a formula that every team be like. The conversation should be open and responsible. Your discussion advance your team toward greater clarity, alignment and ownership of your teams. The guide is a starting point for understanding what your team should be like. In other words, this guide is not the last word on teams. It is just a tool for establishing a basis for discussion within a team about how their work should be conducted .Common Collaborative Networking Approaches

In some contexts, I refer to these teams as Collaborative Network Groups. These teams can take many forms as way to support members, and creater a higher level of collaboration across organizational boundaries. 

I am part of a few Collaborative Network Groups. One is the Lessons in Leadership corp group.  Another is the Collaborative Solutions Group, a collection of individuals from a wide diversity of companies and disciplines within the financial services industry. Our principal focus is family-held businesses, though not exclusively. (If this interests you, get in touch.)

How To Use This Guide:

Take your team through a discussion of the Member Characteristics.  Have each member evaluate the team based on these criteria. Do this anonymously. Talk about each characteristic and determine how to measure each. As you do so, use the Circle of Impact guide for your discussion. You can ask your questions this way.

Do team members practice personal initiative in sharing ideas, building stronger relationships and improving the functioning of the group?

Does the team have a giving-orientation? Do team members take initiative to help other team members in ways that build a more collaborative group?

Questions like these open up the awareness of members to see how their team is functioning. This takes time, and needs a willingness by members to be open and transparent. If you can overcome resistance to change, your team will become more effective.


Circle of Impact Leadership: Circle of Impact Conversation Guides

This is one of a series of posts describing the intent and use of the Circle of Impact Guides.

Circle of Impact - Life-Work Coaching The Circle of Impact is a picture of the dynamic that every leader addresses. There are three dimensions to leading.

There is the Ideas dimension which incorporates the activities of visioning, planning, decision-making and communication.

There is the Relationship dimension that functions as a focal point of networking and collaboration.

There are the Social and Organizational Structure dimensions. They are similar in that they are the context for people to work together. I divide this dimension in two, recognizing that the social environment of an organization is different than the organizational structure. I'm also distinguishing between the relationships that people have with one another, and the social setting or culture of the organization. That social setting doesn't require everyone to be in relationship, though it is formed by people's ideas functioning in their relationship within the structure of the organization. To keep this picture simple, I define the components of the Organizational Structure as Governance, Program, Operations and Resources. Working with these four broad areas will provide more than enough opportunities for conversation.

There are four types of ideas that are important for the functioning of the organization. I called these concepts the Connecting Ideas.

The first is the Purpose or Mission that a person or organization has.  The words are basically interchangeable. However, I distinguish them in the following way. Purpose is used more often to refer to the inner motivation that a person has toward their life. Mission is more focused on the outside world. That said, I find no difficulty is using either one in any circumstance to mean the same thing.

A second Connecting Idea is Values that guide the organization. These are ideas that speak to a certain quality of the work and relationship that exists in a group or organization. For example, values like respect, trust, integrity, openness, transparency, resilience, and creativity speak more to the quality of the individuals and their relationships to one another than it does to a product or service.  From my perspective, Values serve the organization by providing an ideological platform for relationships to be unified in their shared effort to give their best to the organization.

The third Connecting Idea is Vision. This is a picture that illustrates what it looks like for the people of the organization to function within the Social and Organization setting to achieve their Purpose.

The last Connecting Idea is Impact. This a larger concept that results or measures. It intended to describe the difference that the company makes that matters. Difference is a way of speaking about the change that should result from the shared actions of the people. To measure change in this way is more than measuring numbers. It is a qualitative people of difference. This difference is defined the Purpose and Values of the organization. This is why it is a difference that matters, and not just a difference that can be measured.

How To Use This Guide:

The guide is a picture. Ask questions about how the organization corresponds to each part of the guide.  Talk about what your purpose, mission, values and vision are. Ask about what are the guiding ideas that most people in your organization share. Identify the different types of relationships that exist within the environment of your organization. 

You can use this picture as a problem solving tool. Identify an issue that seems difficult to resolve. Ask: Is this an Idea, a Relationship or a Structure problem?  Ask each person to identify which dimension that they see as the focal point of the problem.  The solution is not with that one dimension, but utilizing each dimension's strengths to resolve the problem.

For example, a communication problem may be a lack of clarity. But the lack of clarity may not be an idea, but rather a poor relationship issue made worse by a poor delivering system for communicating ideas.

Practice with the guide and fairly quickly, you will see all three dimensions in dynamic relationship with one another. You'll get it.

The next few posts will explore other aspects of this picture.


Creating Impact In Life & Work During Times of Transition: Circle of Impact Conversation Guides

This one of a series of post describing updates to my Circle of Impact Conversation Guides.

Creating Impact In Times of Transition - Life-Work Coaching

This guide has remained virtually the same since I originally created it four years ago. 

Here's what you need to know to use this guide effectively.

1. Make the shift from speaking about change to about transition. Change for many people seems random and disruptive. Transition is still change, but it can be also seen within a historical context. It is important to identify the continuity that is involved with change.

2. We identify the transition by describing the experience of change. What has changed, and how can that be identified. If your performance has flattened out or declined, then you know you are in transition. If your performance has suddenly risen, unexpectedly, then you also know that you are in transition. It is important to recognize this.

Transition Points-Space

3. To recognize this transition is to identify what I call a transition point. This point in time means that we must make some decisions about how we are going to handle this transition. If we are at on a plateau performance-wise, then mostly likely we need to make some changes. There maybe things that we stop doing, and things that we start doing. What is needed is a plan, not necessarily a long-range plan, but a plan that determines how we are going to conduct ourselves in what I call the Transition Space.

4. In addition, by seeing change as a process of transition from one point to another, we also must recognize that this is normal. Change is normal. It is more disruptive and problematic when it is continuity and sameness is viewed as what is normal.  Organizations are human institutions, and therefore living organisms. Either they are growing, in a proper, balance, healthy way, or they are in decline or disarray.  Seeing change as a normal way of life is to be able to identify the big picture of development and decline that has been taking place.

5. It is essential that we try the best we can to anticipate the changes that might be coming. Taking this approach to change enable this mindset to develop.

How To Use This Guide:

Together, with your group or team, read through each paragraph, and discuss how this picture fits your organization. Answer the questions in section four, and begin to look the changes that you need to make to be able to transition to the next level.

This is one in a series of descriptive posts about the Circle of Impact conversation guides. Next is The Circle of Impact. 


Circle of Impact Conversation Guides Updated

Conversation is an essential skills for all leaders. Of course, a lot of conversation can simply be chat or disconnected grunting. This one of the reasons that I began to create conversation guides that provide me and others a way to dig deeper into the conversation that we generally need to have.

My Circle of Impact guides are in a constant state of redesign and rework because of the conversations that I have with people. I thought I'd post the latest versions here with some explanation of what is there, and how to use them.  You can download all of them here and follow along as address one page per day.


Aligned for Impact

Reading one of the economics blogs that I visit, Truth on the Market, I came across a post on The Economist's Schumpeter columnist, Adrian Wooldridge's piece, The Eclipse of the Public Company. Wooldridge is co-author, with John Micklethwaite,of The Company: a short history of a revolutionary idea.

Truth on the Market blogger, Larry Ribstein, is the author of The Rise of the Uncorporation. He points to the importance of organizational forms like professional partnerships and LLC's (limited liability corporation) in contrast to corporate form of the publicly-traded company.  The history of these forms is quite interesting and enlightening if you are looking about how to create new opportunities and advantages in your company through the design of its organization.

Most writing about business doesn't actually address the structure of the organization. Their are ideas about marketing and sales, about human resources management, product innovation, and leadership. But not really that much about the structure of the organization itself.

This is unfortunate because the design of the organization determines whether your purpose has a possibility of being fulfilled or whether your people will have the opportunity to fulfill their potential service to the business. All this may seem academic, if the only reason to decide between a corporate or a uncorporate structure is legal and financial.


3Cs of Alignment - image

However, what if the organization of your company was focused on the optimum way to build an aligned system of communication, collaboration and coordination. What if your impact as a company, which is the change that you create, is not simply the numbers you measure, and is dependent upon the kind of organization that you form.

There are many ways to organize. The important consideration to remember is what is the driver. What is the impact you are trying to create? What form gives you the most leverage, the greatest flexibility, and the wide possible opportunity to build a system that aligns the three dimensions of ideas, relationships and social & organizational structure.

In addition, given the changes that we are seeing in the economy and society, which form, corporate or uncorporate, provides you the best, most stable and sustainable one for creating the impact that you want to achieve.

If this is a question that is important to you, then talk to a lawyer, a CPA and an organizational consultant. Invest in their time, and have them all at the same table discussing what is the best approach to creating a company that is marked by high functioning systems of communication, collaboration and coordination.  From that conversation, I'm confident, the right approach, or the right changes to your current design will show themselves.

This is how you can create a structure that is aligned for impact.