In the end, organizational strengthening is all about respect, care and love.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve departed a bit from my usual observations about our work in Nicaragua and focused instead on some of the content from The Gathering of Games, the national open-book management conference in St. Louis. The themes from that conference- knowing the organization’s numbers, broad participation of all members and the power of people working together- are so basic and essential that I thought they were worth the amplification. So if the essays here of late have sounded a bit academic or instructional, well, I confess that they should have!
In the end, though, building a successful organization is not about any specific leadership methodology or magical program that will cure all organizational ills; organizations are far too diverse for any single strategy to fit all of them. But if we could take the time to examine the most successful approaches to organizational strengthening, to “peel away” the layers of public relations and hype and esoteric terms, we’d most often find three elements: respect, care and love.
I hope that statement doesn’t sound soft. Indeed, there is nothing soft or simple about applying such notions to the excruciatingly hard work of organizational development. Honing skills in these three arenas requires patience, learning, practice and intense desire, none of which are easy attributes to cultivate. Where people are too impatient, not open to learning new ideas, unwilling to undertake the repetition of practice, or if they just don’t care enough, then respect, care and love are notably absent. They are simple ideas, but not easy; understandable but elusive; omnipresent yet rare.
One finds them in the most successful open-book companies. They are deeply imbedded in the hearts of the best employee-owned organizations. The very strongest cooperatives manifest these throughout of their relationships, internal and external. They may be wrapped in different names; after all, it might not be considered professional or tough enough to use terms like these when talking about building something. But they are at the very core of what it takes for any enterprise to develop around its people. In the end, it’s what each of us is expected to bring to each other….