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Good Leadership and Organisational Well-Being

Continuing with the last week’s theme and pursuing the subject of leadership and the question of whether or not you are a good leader, another area worth assessing is your organisational well-being. Is this a topic you ever consider and, if so, to what extent? Ideally you will regularly be asking yourself:

  1. What is the state of our organisational well-being?
  2. Am I doing enough or could/should I being doing more to improve it?

Yet you are perhaps unlikely to be doing so. Why? Because there does not even seem to be any generally accepted definition of organisational well-being!

Possibly because it is abstract and thus difficult to empirically assess, even with a workable definition. This also makes it a dubious comparative measure. Globalization and more intense competition result in more weight being given to measures that can be used to assess relative performance.  Thus spending time, effort and resources on purely internal measures holds little appeal. 

 

Yet it was Shakespeare who said, “Comparisons are oderous.” Just as individuals need to identify and adhere to personal values to validate their sense of self-worth, so does an organisation. Indeed, any organisation that does not do so, is just as likely “to come off the rails” as an individual. Therefore measuring well-being ought to be an imperative. So, let’s start to come up with a definition. 

My Webster’s dictionary defines well-being as, “Condition of being well, comfortable, happy etc.” while the Google definition is “The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”. Organisational well-being thus literally means applying this to an organisation rather than a person. Thus, basically, you could describe organisational well-being as “The state when an organisation is operating comfortably, healthily and happily.”

But how do you apply such human, and subjective, terms to an organisation which is ultimately a collective of people? What do the terms comfort, health and happiness mean in such a context? Certainly they could do with some clarification. The following table perhaps provides a start.

Determining the Nature of Organisational Well-Being

Unfortunately, it makes no attempt to address the “etc.” of the definition which indicates the ambiguity of the subject. It does, however, provide a massive step forward in pointing to some of the measures you might use to measure well-being and which are not immediately apparent from the original terminology. In fact it offers a pretty good basis for a full definition of organisational well-being, as “The state of an organisation in which its people are committed and collaborating, without conflict, to meeting their obligations to ensure the health of the organisation and thus to sustain its ability to effectively and efficiently meet its objectives and fulfil its purpose.”  

This certainly goes some way to filling the void. It also moves beyond the current tendency to depict organisational well-being more in terms of employee health and well-being. This is not to say these aspects are ignored: they are simply incorporated in the total people perspective. For, no matter what your starting point, it is clear that organisational well-being revolves around people. Your organisational well-being is ultimately entirely determined by the way your people perform.

Assuming we agree on that, this definition provides a reasonable starting point for addressing the subject. It also provides a measure of reassurance. After all, you already have a number of measures in pace to cover many of these points. It is likely that the only ones where you fall short are those dealing with your people. And, as I have said before, this is rooted in the fact that we persist in accounting for people as costs rather than as assets.      

It may be an inconvenient truth, but the fact remains that unless your people enjoy working in your organisation you will never achieve the level of performance you are seeking. I was made aware just how elusive that can be earlier this week when I read a Forbes article “Can you catch rudeness like a cold?” Apparently research shows that rude behaviour can be contagious. “Repeated rudeness at work, whether from co-workers or customers, leads to employees associating the workplace with rudeness, thus ‘activating’ the concept of rudeness whenever they are at work: a never-ending cycle.

One obvious example missed from here (perhaps diplomatically) is management rudeness. Any unintended slight or lack of appreciation can be perceived as rudeness. And this malaise is just as likely to apply to any other negative behaviour. So you can see that organisational well-being is no easy task. Fortunately, if negatives are contagious there is no reason why positives should not have the opposite effect. This means it is not so much a matter of policing negative behaviour (although obviously it should be highlighted and steps taken to eliminate it) but reinforcing positive behaviour.

Repeating what I wrote last week, this demands a more humane approach to business. This means optimising your human capital, but doing so less from the point of the benefits to you and rather from the benefits to them. Thus it still means winning employee engagement but by creating a common purpose and providing a culture and environment that provides the autonomy, mastery and purpose that enables people to enjoy their work and creates a sense of satisfaction and self-fulfilment. I call this love at work and I am delighted that the need for this is being increasingly widely recognised, as another article Mixing Love and Business illustrated this week.  

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