Learning Your Environment
My daughter recently was trained and certified for scuba diving. This experience reminded me of when I went through the process a few years before. Learning to dive requires the diver to know and understand the environmental differences and potential dangers in the new environment they are about to enter.
As a student diver I was learning to stay alive – to survive in a potentially hostile environment.
Surviving underwater requires that you properly equip yourself. The new environment requires personal change.
Along with this change must come a new awareness of the surroundings and new, required behaviors for survival. While guiding my daughter through the diving process, I came to realize how learning to survive, being aware of your environment and setting goals for the dive is just as important in business as it is when underwater.
Business enterprises need goals, too. Sometimes the goal is as simple as: Satisfy the customer!
Earning a profit may be an indirect goal, but it is a direct result of an enterprise’s ability to attract and retain customers with the products/services it delivers; on time and within budget. Knowledge of the enterprise’s goals and understanding success measures when goals are achieved are critical to everyone within the enterprise.
Once the enterprise’s leaders have defined the goals, employees must understand the environments the enterprise operates in. Employees will benefit by knowing the environmental differences and potential dangers [points of failure] of their work environments.
There are two environments that we work in:
1) Technical Environment
2) Social Environment
The technical environment is the most easily recognized. It is comprised of the equipment, materials and supplies, and tools we use to produce our product or service. The social environment is probably the most familiar, and as such, we tend to overlook its ability to impact us. The social environment is the communications between people, groups, and departments. It is the conflict resolution process. It is problem identification and solving. Social environment represents the interaction or lack thereof between people.
When these two environments are healthy and thriving the enterprise and its employees achieve the established goals. When there is misalignment in the technical environment equipment is not meeting expectations, not running properly, or is not even the right equipment. When the technical environment is not aligned, the enterprise suffers. When the materials or supplies are not to specifications, the business suffers. When the tools are incorrect or not available, the goals are negatively affected. When we do not meet our goals due to technical environment failures, the enterprise has suffered from misalignment.
The same is true for the most overlooked environment: the social environment. When the social environment is not operating properly, i.e. is not aligned, there are critical breakdowns in communication and an employee’s ability to meet expectations. This breakdown creates negative conflict in the enterprise.
The Leader’s Role
As a consultant, I’ve seen many enterprises that are merely surviving. When referencing scuba diving, it is very stressful to be in a survival circumstance. My first solo dive was focused on surviving the dive. Amazingly, I went through sixty minutes worth of air in less than twenty minutes. Once I became qualified and skilled as a diver, I began to enjoy all the unique beauty this underwater environment had to offer. It is much more enjoyable to be comfortable and thriving in the environment instead of being focused on survival.
What every organization needs are people who are able to do their job, willing to do their job, and allowed to do their job. As enterprise leaders, we need to develop our employees and allow them to use the power they have to take the necessary actions to fulfill their purpose in the enterprise.
The bottom line is that when we miss our goal it is a sign that we are out of alignment somewhere in our work environments. It is in those critical moments that we need people with the integrity and courage to stand and openly ask, “What is happening? How can we prevent this from happening again?”
This is a leader’s role. When goals are missed, leaders will not ignore that reality. A leader will address the failure and ask the tough questions. The leader will use an approach to empower people and engage them in the improvement process. The leader knows that the solution is found in looking at the environments honestly, seeing where there is misalignment, and making the required correction. We appreciate leaders who demonstrate the courage to take on this challenging task.
How do you think about your workplace as an “environment” that people come into to work? Do you think of it as some place that you can help control so that your team can learn, grow, and prosper? Do you look at the workplace as a place that needs care so that it can help the people who work there? Are you providing the environmental leadership that will help you get better results from the people you lead? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please share.
Mark McCatty is Senior Consultant at Cornelius & Associates
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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