We all know by looking at our surrounding housing structures that a foundation is important for any lasting functionality during changing conditions. The foundation is the lowest supporting layer of any physical structure. It is also a supporting layer for any organizational structure. It could be argued that the foundation of an organizational structure is the highest supporting layer!
Several key ingredients go into a strong organizational foundation that will support a great venture. These ingredients include facilitative leadership, true empowerment, a winning culture, and an ownership mentality.
Facilitative Leadership – Passion is one of the essentially elements necessary for great ventures. Without passion, greatness is NOT a possibility. The road to greatness is just too hard without passion fueling the journey. Passion can not be commanded. Thus, a facilitative leadership style is necessary to allow passion to flow throughout the organization. As the organization grows, so too must the capacity of the facilitative leaders. They must understand that their job is to live and inspire the passion in others!
True Empowerment – Empowerment has been a popular term for a few decades now. However, it rarely lives inside an organization in a way that it was originally conceived. Empowerment requires that the empowered individual has an appropriate set of tools and skill sets to solve the problems at hand. It requires active coaching and development to enhance tools, skills, and decision making. It requires boundaries, guidelines, frameworks, and forgiveness to help the empowered individual do their job and grow from the experience.
A Winning Culture – An organizational culture is defined as “the specific collection of values and norms shared by people and groups in an organization that control the way they interact with each other and other stakeholders.” A winning culture is defined by Senn-Delaney as one where:
- decisions are made unselfishly for the greater good (so you need to know the greater good)
- individuals and teams are aligned on goals and priorities
- people walk the talk by living the values of the organization
- (and thus) people assume best intentions and interact openly with others
- teams encourage debate and dialogue to arrive at the best decisions and then fully unite behind them
- people participate fully and understand the shadow they cast
The specific purpose, goals, priorities, and values give the particular winning culture a unique personality. However, the characteristics above are seen across all winning cultures. Zappos.com is a very interesting example of how the above characteristics combine with specific purpose, goals, priorities, and values to create a unique personality. Culture is their number one priority and you can see their personality though their efforts to hire for cultural fit, investment of 5 weeks in training up-front, and their offer to pay new trainees $2,000 to quit.
An Employee Ownership Mentality – With the right culture in place, you can trust your educated employees to act as a vested owner in the business. When individuals understand the boundaries in which they can operate, where the company wants to go, feel empowered with a freedom to decide and act, they most often make the right choices. Also, leadership facilitates continual coaching and development and thus minimizes the impact of incorrect choices. Employees think and act like an “owner” and it enables them to take educated risks to achieve grand goals because they truly understand and embrace the purpose, values, and aligned goals of the organization.
Great ventures do not take the key ingredients of a strong foundation for granted. They cultivate them, plan them, monitor them and manage them so that they remain aligned and flourishing. Great ventures sustain success by maintaining a strong foundation and making sure it does not deteriorate.
© Copyright 2010 Jon L. Iveson, Ph.D.