6 Steps to Fulfilling Your Organization’s True Potential

Falling back into a defensive posture is typical of organizations in all sectors that are faced with volatility and uncertainty. Especially in economically challenging times, many leaders tend to retreat from the storm rather than head resolutely into it, seeking the opportunities it provides. Here’s why: their limiting beliefs and expectations cause them to think and act in very narrow, “safe,” comfortable ways instead of enabling them to view the organization’s potential as expansively as possible and act accordingly. This perspective constrains the organization’s ability to optimize its available talent and delight its customers. While retreating from the storm is a very human reaction, it can have deadly consequences – e.g., people and organizations become paralyzed with fear, focusing on the myriad of “What if…?” questions instead of asking “How can we…?” When the organization’s perception of its potential is limited, the value it offers is a fraction of what it is capable of providing – i.e., its true potential. Here is one example of the dramatic difference between the perceived potential and the true potential of a women’s shelter:

Perceived potential: Provide temporary services to women who have been abused

True potential: Break the cycle of poverty that traps women who are abused

Here are six steps leaders can take to ensure that their organization lives up to its true potential:

1. Ditch the “survival” mentality.
Organizations whose leaders fail to do this may survive, but they cannot possibly thrive because the leaders are seeking the wrong outcome.

2. Create a crystal clear “big picture.”
The “big picture” is the impact the organization will make. To help identify this impact correctly, answer this question: “How will your clients or customers be better off when the organization is acting in alignment with its true potential?”

3. Communicate the “big picture” widely.
Leaders must operationalize the vision – i.e., describe in detail what it looks, sounds, feels, tastes, smells like. All stakeholders need to understand what the “big picture” means for them personally so they can understand fully what their roles must be.

4. Make the first sale to yourself.
Not only must leaders fully embrace the big picture, they truly must believe the organization has a moral imperative to provide its value to people who desperately want and need it.

5. Align all people, programs, processes, and systems to the “big picture.”
The infrastructure must support the vision. Focus relentlessly on the “big picture” when making decisions, setting priorities, and allocating resources. Things that do not contribute to achievement of the vision should be jettisoned.

6. Celebrate success.
Identify realistic measures and guideposts that enable stakeholders to recognize both progress and achievement. Keep the momentum going by appreciating efforts to live up to the organization’s true potential.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

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