How gardening best practices can be applied to management and organizational behavior.
Gardening best practices affect landscaping behavior. As you drive through your neighborhood, the conditions of the lawns either make you feel better about yourself or question your abilities. It may be much the same when you assess the conditions of the marketplace when you size up your competition. Beautifully manicured lawns are a site to behold and the majority of the population, the status quo, wonders who has the time and resources to maintain such a high level of performance. Management best practices affect organizational behavior.
Status quo does not create success.
Organizations that sit atop their industry are revered in much the same way that the best garden in your neighborhood is. How do they do it? What is it about these individual and team practices that lead to such a consistently high level of organizational behavior. We revere their productivity so what can we learn from their approach that will help us improve our own systems? What do we need to do in order to compete in that same level of success?
Let’s explore some of the lessons and similarities between gardening and organizational behavior.
Organizational behavior: The misuse of the grass isn’t greener ideology
Those in a position of leadership often lament how modern employees show no loyalty to organizations. A common phrase among short sighted leaders revolves around how employees will leave for fifty cents more to a sub-par competitor but they don’t realize, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” Unfortunately the reverse isn’t true, its not as though organizations have remained distinctly loyal to their employees in a manner that would warrant reciprocal loyalty. In their book Insuring Tomorrow, Author’s Tony Canas and Carly Burnham discuss this workforce schism, “Millennials have a different definition of loyalty than previous generations did. For Millennials, loyalty means, ‘I worked very hard while I was there.” Both parties have grown to distrust each other and organizations that want to thrive will need to reinvest in means to demonstrate to their existing employees and recruits that they value performance.
Organizational behavior: The cattle isn’t always fatter on the other side
Organizations need to understand that the cattle on the other side of the fence aren’t always fatter. Leadership may think that their employees can be easily replaced, but it may be harder than they think to find good talent. Additionally, their competition may not be working with any greater talent than they are but perhaps their structure, systems and culture enable people to thrive in their areas of strength rather than focusing on their areas of weakness. Good gardening and good management practices facilitate organizational performance by working with what you have. If leadership does not want good employees leaving for marginal increases then they will need to create workplace environments that communicate greater value in the person, position and development of their team members. Leaders have to care for their gardens.
Organizational behavior: The grass is greener where you water it
Do you want your team to grow and thrive? You have to water it daily. Areas that you neglect in your yard become obvious rather quickly as the grass withers, flowering weeds pop up and crab grass infiltrates the landscape. Each of these conditions is a symptom of a lack of care or neglect in areas of your yard as well as your organization. Within the organization these indicators are not always as obvious, they require greater awareness of the people, processes and productivity of the team. What can we learn if we take a few of these under performing manifestations from gardening and apply them to organizational behavior?
Management best practices: Withering grass within the team
Keys to change:
Management best practices: Flowering weeds within the organization
Landscaping that has flowering weeds is one that has the resources to flourish but there is a misapplication of effort and/or values. This team has resources and may well be stocked as well as staffed for success but negative behaviors are being rewarded. Greenery can be observed across the yard but it is riddled with weeds that from a distance appear to be flowers. This type of organizational behavior is common in high producing teams where structure is ignored. Cultures that are led exclusively by the numbers or results, regardless of the long term impacts are often the ones that fail to correct negative behaviors before they come back to bite them hard.
Keys to change:
Management best practices: Crab grass woven into the fabric of the team
What is the definition of crabgrass? Crabgrass (n.) a creeping grass that can become a serious weed. This may be the more difficult of the three examples to identify and resolve as symptoms such as crabgrass are rather sneaky in how they infiltrate teams. From a distance it looks like its green and healthy but up close it isn’t right. The underlying leadership issues is the failure to identify and address issues when they are small. Bad behavior isn’t being rewarded but it also isn’t being addressed and the culture is not being proactively cultivated. This could be the wrong people on the bus, to borrow concepts from Jim Collins Good to Great, meaning team members that don’t fit the vision and values (if those are even clear). It could also be that the right people are on the team but they aren’t yet in the right positions and therefore are struggling to affect change due to misplacement.
Keys to change:
Average effort applied to organizational behavior will result in below average team performance
Any business today that embraces the status quo as an operating principle is going to be on a death march. – Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks
If you want to have a presentable (above average) yard, it does not require a great deal of effort but it does require consistency. A good yard does not require super human abilities. To cultivate a beautiful yard, you will need to make an above average effort in the system and maintain consistency. A beautiful yard does not require a wizards touch. Much of the work is in the preparation of the yard in a manner that it can be maintained. Often the difference between the results is found in the consistency of the effort. Understanding the best practices for management and organizational behavior can help you move in the right direction for the performance of your team.
Above average effort applied to organizational behavior will result in above average team performance
We cannot effect meaningful change if we become complacent, if we become comfortable with our own positions in the status quo. – Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa
Good leaders find enjoyment in the challenge, the process and the results. Good leaders are not super heroes they just refuse to melt into the mess of the status quo. High performing organizations are not unicorns, they are composed of teams of people who take pride in performance and rise to the challenge of their competitive environment. There is no myth or mystery to consistently building towards high performance as an organization, it takes a lot of hard work. The tools for success include vision guiding effort, values directing productivity and consistency in the collective contributions of the team to reach the goals of the organization.
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If an organization wants to be able to expect consistent results their managing must be consistent with their messaging.
In a recent research project reviewing organization psychology studies as they specifically applied to criminal justice, I was pleasantly surprised to find applications to my work experience. These multi discipline studies held many important observations relevant to any organization with regards to the impacts of supervisory interactions. Managerial input, supervisory qualities and team performance are key components impacting the health of the organization. What can we learn from these studies that helps our efforts as supervisors?
In a study published with the Journal of Organizational Behavior, the authors observe how managers can have a positive impact on employees working in what are considered dirty work industries. For those, like myself, working in water damage mitigation, carpet cleaning and property restoration, dirty work is an understatement. A key finding of the report was that the recruitment should be geared towards finding those employees that would be a good fit for the organization as much as they would be a fit for the duties they will be performing. Managers provide a critical communication of, “You can fit, you are fitting and you still fit,” as it related to motivating team members to engage in their responsibilities and develop a strong organization.
Incivility in the workplace, according to Harold and Holtz, is experienced both as behavioral as well as perceived. It is known that incivility in the workplace impacts employee-supervisor as well as employee-coworker interactions. The question posed by this study was how much of an impact that passive leadership has in mitigating the effects of incivility. From the research it has been determined that employees who work under a passive manager are more likely to experience incivility in the workplace and reciprocate by acting out in an uncivil manner towards others. Across both studies, only passive leadership yielded significant effects on experienced and behavioral incivility as well as intent and intensity of the incivility. The findings involving passive leadership are consistent with previous research that suggests negative social interactions are more harmful than the helpfulness of socially supportive interactions. It’s not enough to simply be nice or supportive, those in management and supervisory roles need to be active in creating an environment that reduces incivility.
A study published with Crime & Delinquency sought to answer where supervisor feedback and perceived organizational support had a relationship with organizational commitment. For those slow on the draw, this is another means to discuss cultural buy-in. Johnson identified that supervisor feedback, perceived organizational support, peer cohesion, organizational size, job variety, and job autonomy each had positive correlations with organizational commitment. Persons in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) understand that these things are important but often organizations don’t know how to implement them consistently. Previous studies had led to conclusions that officer demographics and job characteristics were related to attitudes leading to commitment, but this study has revealed that the overall environment has a much greater impact. These findings indicate that the culture or environment have a much broader collective impact than any specific feature.
Equality is an issue that affects our nation but it also affects our organizations. Results of a study published in Sage Journals share lessons being learned by law enforcement as a public service entity that are directly applicable to many industries. When officers act in an inequitable fashion it creates questions whether their organization is promoting, passively or actively, these attitudes. Turnover, buy in, compliance and job satisfaction can be improved with an emphasis on organizational procedural justice. The inner workings of justice impact the external workings of justice, “Justice received and given.” Officers who have good relationships with their supervisors will have a direct relationship with increased job satisfaction, organizational commitment and in turn affect their interaction with the public. Supervisory behavior has an impact on officer behavior on the streets, an indirect effect on officer compliance. Police departments, and by extension all organizations, that place an emphasis on procedural justice with training for supervisors will see a positive impact in the extension of that justice to employee and customer interactions.
Organizations that are able to create a positive environment have accomplished this by investing in recruiting people that embrace and enhance their values. The key to consistency in performance in these character areas is that the messaging is consistent with the managing. Organizations who set an example from top down, show by their actions that they are serious about their values and thereby reap the benefits of accountability to those values from the bottom up.
1. Ashforth, B.E., Kreiner, G.E., Clark, M.A., Fugate, M. (16 April 2017) Congruence work in stigmatized occupations: A managerial lens on employee fit with dirty work. Journal of Organizational Behavior. Retrieved from https://d2l.pdx.edu/d2l/le/content/677304/viewContent/3259165/View 2. Harold, C.M., Holtz, B.C. (24 March 2014) The effects of passive leadership on workplace incivility. Journal of Organizational Behavior. 36, 16-38. Retrieved from https://d2l.pdx.edu/d2l/le/content/677304/viewContent/3259156/View 3. Johnson, R.R. (2015) Police organizational commitment: The influence of supervisor feedback and support. Crime & Delinquency. Vol. 61 (9), 1155-1180. Retrieved from https://d2l.pdx.edu/d2l/le/content/677304/viewContent/3259159/View 4. Wu, Y., Sun, I.Y., Chang, C.K. & Hsu, K.K. (2017) Procedural justice received and given: Supervisory treatment, emotional states, and behavioral compliance among Taiwanese police officers. Sage Journals, Vol 44, Issue 7. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/doi/abs/10.1177/0093854817702407
IZ Ventures more than business coaching & consulting - we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer.
Another key area that managers have direct impact upon is the annual review, which is traditionally terrible and irrelevant, let our video on this topic help you optimize this tool for your team.
1) Risk Assessment
What is the opportunity you are considering?
What are the potential risks related to pursing this opportunity?
The point of this exercise isn't to convince you that there is no risk or nothing to fear. Rather than pretend we can simply will ourselves into a positive outcome, we want to ensure that we are following best practices by identifying risks prior to making decisions.
2) The Risk Formula
A simple tool for calculating risk is to start with the end. The risk formula starts by calculating the worst case scenario for the opportunity than an organization or individual is considering. Can you picture it?
If we go down this path, what could (and probably will) go wrong?
If everything went wrong and we completely failed, what would that look like?
Could we survive the worst possible outcome?
3) The Classic Pro's and Con's
Sometimes those tools that are tried and true are considered such because they work. Referring back to our risk formula, if we cannot survive the worst possible outcome we will have to ask ourselves honestly if pursuing our opportunity is worth the reward.
Does the potential reward (which isn't guaranteed) outweigh the potential losses?
Are the risks low enough that we can offset our losses as we pursue our opportunities?
Are we in a position that we can afford to move (or not to move)?
Failure to launch can be just as traumatic to our long term growth as launching only to fail. As we have noted previously, some of our most creative solutions and our life long lessons are born from failures along the way that have caused us to adapt.
4) Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail
We have considered the worst case scenarios, and we believe we can survive them.
We have analyzed our opportunities and believe that we must make a move on them.
The risk is identified, the fear of failure has been addressed and not it's time to prepare to move forward. Smart operations are not oblivious to risk nor do they sweep their fears (or reservations) under the rug, they make them visible and work for progress without allowing fear to deter them from the goal.
Much is made of risk, but fear of failure and/or fear of success may be the biggest underlying obstacles to personal as well as professional growth. The homework has been done, the map has been laid out to the best of everyone's abilities, and so it is time to get the wheels of opportunity moving.
Action may lead to unexpected forks in the road but inaction will only lead to the eventually demise of having a fork stuck in your operation. Adaptation should be valued over deterioration.
Risk Management Best Practices in Business
Risk management should be a process in the decision leading to opportunity identification, growth mapping and the celebration of a job well done.
Risk management is essential because growth is essential and there is no growth without some level of risk.
Risk management does not stop the engine, it guides the vehicle safely through the obstacle course of growth and vision.
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Structure your team for success with the right view of span of control, interactions and direct reports.
When an organization grows beyond the one-person operator delivering goods and/or services out of their garage, the process of building systems for success becomes essential to long term health. What works as a small company has to evolve as the company grows or the organization will outgrow the preceding systems. As an organization grows, adapts, changes and evolves, one question every leader and organizational system must answer is how many direct reports any given person in a position of leadership should have. At the end of the day this question has no right answer given that each organization is unique and each manager has a different threshold for efficacy. Let’s take a look at some of the metrics, discussions and insights related to the topic of finding the right number of direct reports.
Gauging interactions (energy output)
How do you measure efficacy when assessing the right number of direct reports? Business Insider took a peek at the number of reports of Tim Cook, the COO made CEO of Apple, who was believed to have upwards of 17 direct reports. Hal Gregersen, Ph.D., the executive director of the MIT Leadership Center states, “It's a question of how many people a leader can have a constructive conversation with when everyone is in the same room (Lebowitz, 2015).” Time is a limited resource that every manager only has so much of and trust is the greatest asset in developing employee engagement in an organization, the question is not how thin can a leader stretch themselves but how effective they can be in leading the members of their team whether directly or indirectly.
Business journals and many persons in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) site Japanese management philosophy and regard 6-7 direct reports as the maximum number that a leader can effectively manage. In his own defense, Tim Cook emailed a response to Business Insider countering that, “"If you have smart people, a strong organizational culture, and a well-defined and articulated strategy that everyone understands, you can [have] numerous direct reports because your job isn't to tell people what to do.” Whether those analyzing a leader from within the organization or from the outside agree with the direction and decisions that they make, at the end of the day they will rise or fall based upon how they approach their leadership responsibilities.
Measuring span of control
So much of this discussion on the optimum number of direct reports is opinion based, one metric cited by Schaffer Consulting remarks that span of control is something which can be measured in this discussion, “When a manager goes from four to five subordinates, his potential interactions with them increase from 44 to 100 over a given period; and going from seven to eight subordinates raises the total interactions from 490 to 1,080 (Inc.).” This is a classic business concept that continues to be of relevance and value to organizations such as the United States Air Force in their goal of focusing missional clarity. Size of the organization obviously comes into play and the overall structure of a team must be crafted to support it’s necessary functions as well as it’s growth goals.
As for the ethereal question "What is the right span of control for a manager," a consultant Jamie Flinchbaugh blogged, "Some factors to consider are: The narrower the span of control, the more coaching at the point of activity can be done; the broader the span of control, the more the entire process can be encompassed within fewer decision makers and more aligned decisions (The Build Network, 2014).” This is a simplified means of looking at the bigger picture, but a leader must analyze the position they are in with regards to the development of their organizational structure to determine where their immediate efforts are most valuable. Does the leader need to be directly involved in the training of key share holders in the building process or do they need to take a few steps back from the process to empower those on their leadership team to take ownership for their areas of responsibility.
Avoiding top heavy management
If the number of direct reports is too low, because the team has built multiple layers of upper and middle management to insulate those in positions of executive leadership there is a potential for disconnect. When an organization becomes slow and top heavy by way of structure, there are too many layers to weave through in order to accomplish anything in a timely or mission centered manner. As far back as 1989, Jack Welch, the CEO credited with turning GE around, was an advocate against the six direct report rule for many of these reasons. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, the management guru shared his candid thoughts on the matter, “We took out management layers. Remember the theory that a manager should have no more than 6 or 7 direct reports? I say the right number is closer to 10 or 15. This way you have no choice but to let people flex their muscles, let them grow and mature. The leader can focus only on the big important issues, not on minutiae (Tichy & Charan, 1989).”
Systems should be built to support the people in the field who are making the products and/or delivering the services that make up the core functions of the organizations value interaction with the market. The question of the right number of direct reports is not a matter of ego nor strictly of science, but rather is a key discussion that will evolve with the needs of the organization in a manner that is unique to that team. Mike Myatt, Forbes contributor and chairman of N2 Growth, shares, “Where many leaders become disoriented is by confusing platform with people, and position with responsibility. Here’s the thing – it’s not about the platform, it’s about the people. Without the people there is no platform, and ultimately nothing to lead. It’s not about you (the leader), but what you can create and influence through those you lead (Myatt, 2012).” Rather than looking for the perfect number of direct reports, a leader should ask how many people they can effectively support to keep the vision and mission of the organization moving forward with relationship to the team’s values.
Clarity. Consistency. Accountability.
Lebowitz, S. (July 8, 2015) Apple CEO Tim Cook now has 17 direct reports – and that’s probably too many. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-ceo-tim-cook-has-too-many-direct-reports-2015-7
The Build Network (April 3, 2014) Wait, how many reports direct reports did you say you have? Inc. Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/the-build-network/direct-report-challenges.html
Tichy,N., Charan, R. (October 1989) Speed, simplicity, self-confidence: An interview with Jack Welch. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/1989/09/speed-simplicity-self-confidence-an-interview-with-jack-welch
Myatt, M. (November 5, 2012) Span of control – 5 things every leader should know. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/11/05/span-of-control-5-things-every-leader-should-know/#7f921b0328c8
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