Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Psychology of Business: Looking Inward, Outward, Forward and Beyond

Every organization needs to learn. Koliso has shaped its practice out of the experiences, tools, skills, styles and standards of the managing partners. We’ve also been shaped by our clients—by our interactions, by their understanding of what we’re good at and ultimately by the results we deliver. The clever bit is that while most people report what they do (“I’m a baker”) or where they do it (“I work at Target”), the much more important piece is how and why they engage in the work.

We have developed a model that serves as a simple yet powerful framework for reviewing your team, your organization and yourself. It works for our consulting practice; it will also work for your organization.

Koliso works with these challenges every day: A brand new CEO needs to be effective from day one; an extremely successful family-owned business believes their company is faltering due to personality issues; a Fortune 100 company has development plans but can’t seem to move forward; a very successful nonprofit organization wants to adapt to the current climate but is stuck doing what they did in the old climate.

Our framework drives home the needed perspective to meet these challenges and move your organization and leaders forward. Read on to learn about our approach to each of the above listed situations.

The five key issues at the cutting edge of psychology and business are leadership, change, engagement, culture and transition. Navigating these issues well is the difference between modest and premier levels of success. With our framework, you can analyze these key issues in a context that makes increased success much more likely. The framework views the organization across four aspects:

Looking Inward, Outward, Forward and Beyond

If you’ve done any kind of change or development work for your team, you know the place to start is with an assessment of the current state of play:
  • What skills does the team have?
  • What is the team’s style? 
  • What standards apply to the team’s work?
For example: a new CEO needed to transition quickly into managing his executive team and leading his new business. We provided self-assessment and multi-rater tools that enabled the CEO and the team to get a very quick snapshot of what they each brought to the table, how they might work together and the sorts of values and deliverables that were important to them.

Another example: a business redesign team comprised largely of internal subject matter experts was called on to lead a major ERP implementation. A look inward enabled us to identify both the strengths of the team and opportunities to supplement their skills, style and standards with external resources.

Practices such as Koliso are often brought in to address relationship issues. But we’ve found that relationship dynamics is usually the last thing that needs to be addressed. Instead the team begins to function well when they tackle the real issues. Looking outward helps identify what those are.

Looking outward from the team means evaluating the goals, roles, processes and relationships. The order of these is important. A great team has great goals, roles and processes. If these are in place, then you can examine relationships in their proper context. The result? In their proper setting, the relationships are usually collaborative and positive.

A real situation: an extremely successful family business believed they had a people issue in their executive team. We took the initial look inward and found a group of sincere, well-intentioned and extremely capable professionals. However, once we started to look at goals, roles and processes, the issues became clear. The goals were uncertain, and many people were unsure about their role and what they were really accountable for. There wasn’t a clear process for handling conflict, and there weren’t clear processes for delegating responsibility or holding people accountable.

Once these were addressed, the relationship issues disappeared as the team members focused on collaboration and the great results they were getting.

We often say that the work of the team is the work of the team. Moving a team forward is the work of strong leaders. They know how to get things done through other people, which means that getting the right individuals and teams in place is just the beginning. It is not enough to have a group of talented individuals. A great individual contributor helps move an organization forward because they influence their colleagues, community and customers.

Does this example sound familiar? A Fortune 100 financial institution had a development plan for their business-unit leaders. The program had many elements of looking inward and looking outward already in place. Unfortunately, the participants often would put the results of all those assessments into a drawer and forget about them until the next performance review. That’s not a very good strategy.

We activated a plan for engagement, motivation, peer influence and continuous improvement. It was transformative. Showing up and participating (looking inward and outward) isn’t enough when success above the competition is the goal.

Looking beyond means, obviously, seeing what’s coming next—beyond this situation—and preparing for the future with new resources and focus.

Looking beyond is one of the most important development activities needed at all levels: individual, team and organization. However, it’s the most overlooked—relegated to an annual off-site or yearly performance review. That’s not good enough for premier-success-level organizations.

For instance, a very successful nonprofit organization wanted to review their situation and explore how they could adapt to the current difficult climate in community services. We helped them do a strategic SWOT analysis. This was not just a look at the traditional areas of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; it also analyzed how the organization needed to look beyond their current circumstances to guide what they needed to exploit, confront, adapt and avoid—maximizing their chances of future success.

This also works for individuals. Many professionals want to take their present role’s success and transition it to a new position. This sort of advice in hand has proved to be like a career turbo-boost.

Interested in Driving Results? 

It is all too easy to take an assessment, hold an off-site or even hire a strategic planner and call it “good enough.” But by adding the right questions (how and why) to these initiatives and by using the framework of looking inward, outward, forward and beyond, “good enough” becomes “better than most.” And that’s well played.

Koliso helps individuals, teams and organizations achieve superior results with this unique way of framing an analysis and really understanding the current situation. With true perspective in hand, a strategy for success can be built.

Learn about adapting these tools to your organization and continue the conversation with Koliso.

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