The 3 Essential Traits Of A Successful Organisation

This blog post was based on a Mindvalley Talks episode with Keith Ferrazzi, New York Times Best-Selling author of ‘Never Eat Alone’ and ‘Who’s Got Your Back’. Ferrazzi is also a renowned international speaker and professional management consultant who’s helped Fortune 500 companies overcome the limitations of traditional organizational management. You can watch the full episode here. 

The organizational landscape of businesses is changing. 

Millennials now make up the largest workforce generation in the US.

It’s a generation distinctly different from the Baby Boomers, and the difference shows – casual dress styles, flexible work hours, and progressive work cultures have become treasured values in the workplace.

Traditional organizational practices and hierarchies are dying out, slowly being replaced by a modern workforce that demands more innovation, more honesty, and more connection. 

Keith Ferrazzi, New York Times best-selling author and professional management consultant, says that modern companies must focus on three key areas to ensure the success of their organization.

1) Candor – Overcoming Conflict Avoidance

One of the biggest threats to any organization is conflict avoidance.

Conflict avoidance is when a member of the team would rather keep quiet just to avoid conflict than to share their knowledge. It’s one of the biggest signs that the company has a dysfunctional work culture. 

It’s usually a sign that team leaders have failed to create an environment conducive for voicing out feedback.

“The worst eroder of shareholder value is conflict avoidance. If you have conflict avoidance in your organization, you’re a shitty leader. There is no room for conflict avoidance in organizations,” says Ferrazzi. 

“You need to have full transparency, full fluid dialog, full risk-taking, full feedback, and full interdependency – that’s what makes a high-performing team. If you look at a sports team, the coach isn’t just the coach; the coach is the team. Especially when they get into the locker room, talking about plays with each other.”

According to Ferrazzi, one of the biggest weaknesses of traditional organization management is that feedback primarily comes from the top down. Typically, managers would give feedback to those under them.

“The funny thing is, today’s managers could barely give you appropriate feedback anyway because most of our managers are not even seeing the work that we’re doing because we’re on so many dispersed teams.”

But how do you create an organization that encourages candor?

Ferrazzi says via two ways;

“One of them is to only hire assholes who are very well paid, and who are absolutely competitive and evisceratingly candid. DALEO has 250 people – he’s paying them all millions. He can afford candor as a primary value.

“The other way is that you build enough of a relationship contract between people so that they realize that holding back candor is doing a disservice to somebody they care for.

“When I coached an executive team, I will say to the executive team, ‘If any of you believe that one of your peers could improve something they’re doing, is it high or low-professional behavior to withhold that information?’

“It’s low, of course. I actually feel that somebody withholding that information is stealing from shareholders and stealing from your peers who could have benefited from your belief system.”

The bottom line is that everyone on the team should be able to offer feedback to any other member of the company – including those higher ranking than them. It allows everyone to be accountable and able to improve themselves.


2) Collaboration And Inclusion – Unleashing The Team’s Ability To Work Together And Innovate

Another modern challenge for organization leaders today is encouraging every member of the team to contribute to the company goals in their own way – a process he calls ‘co-creation’.

“As team leaders, your job is to lead the co-creation of the success of the mission. I think there was a historical time when it was expected that leaders would bring the strategy – but you have to recognize that the first person you invite into your team, you’re actually inviting them into their team.

“Nobody wants to join your team. They want to be on their team, so get it out of your mind that this is your team that you’re inviting people to.

“There’s nothing worse than buy-in or consensus. Buy-in is bullshit – it means you’ve cooked an answer, and you’re trying to sell it to someone. Nobody wants to be sold your shit.

“Buy-in is probably one of the least effective forms of transformational thinking because it assumes that a limited number of people were able to create a transformational answer without radical inclusion. Inclusion is what’s going to give the breakthrough answers.

“What I often say is that when you have a vision for something, you should say to yourself and to other people, ‘I’ve got an idea that I think is 30% baked. Would you join me and us and help get it to 60%?’ That should be your standard operating language when you birth a new team or birth a new mission.”

Ferrazzi says that the idea is to make everyone feel invested and included in the company – and the only way of doing that is by acknowledging that they’re bringing in their skills and helping co-create it.

“Your job as a leader is to ignite movement leaders in your organization that co-create the movement that needs to occur.

“For example, who knows how better to define the movement of change in the sales organization than role model salespeople? Salespeople who are committed to redefining the way they sell and turning around to helping and coach their peers to adopt a new way of being movement leaders?”

The bottom line is this; to create a successful organization, traditional top-down hierarchies simply can’t get the job done. Finding ways to include all members of your team, and then giving them space and freedom to co-create your company will do far more towards creating a successful organization.


3) 360° Accountability for Results – Holding Teammates And Leaders Accountable 

The third strategy in managing a successful business or organization is accountability. It’s crucial that for every team, each member is able to hold each other accountable, including team leaders themselves.

Ferrazzi calls this an ‘open 360’.

“Open 360 is where if you had 10 people in your team, you always start with the CEO. Everybody else goes around and tells the CEO what they appreciated about him/her first. You say, ‘Shane, what I most appreciated about you last quarter was X.’

“We do this once a quarter. Everybody tells Shane what they most appreciated about him. Then we go around again and say, ‘Shane, in the next quarter, because I love you and you are so important to our success, I might suggest X.’

“Now the power of this is that is if you were to say, ‘Shane, I thought you did shitty last quarter,’ Shane would now be on the defensive. But if you just say to him, ‘Shane, because I love you and I think you’re so important to our success next quarter, I might suggest…’ that is giving him a gift that he can do whatever he wants to with it.

“And then when he’s done hearing all the feedback, he gets to pick one or two things he’s going to work on for the next quarter –  which becomes his contract of development with the team.”

Ferrazzi believes that the most powerful difference in this approach is that it still allows space for truly constructive criticism, without making any member of the team feel attacked or defensive.

Another way Ferrazzi holds himself and managers that he trains accountable is by what he calls the ‘Yoda in the room’.

“We all know the fuzzy little Yoda character. I love that thing. And what I love about Yoda is the wisdom in Yoda.

“Here’s what I fundamentally believe – every team has the wisdom of Yoda in it, but not in one person.

“And you, as CEO or as a leader, should walk into a team and say, ‘We have the wisdom of Yoda; we can crack absolutely any code, but we can only do it IF we extract inclusive ideas, have debates, and broaden our team to a network of individuals that can give us ideas that we wouldn’t have had in our own damn company.

“And so one of the things I do in the middle of a meeting is before any meeting I have, I pick three people who are the Yodas and it rotates. And then somewhere halfway in the middle of the meeting when I’m facilitator, I stop and I say to the Yodas, ‘Okay Yodas what’s not being said right now?’

“And I’ve told everybody in the room, we’re celebrating you taking risks – you can say what isn’t being said. We’re celebrating the courage of that individual to speak up, and celebrating this little ritual of having Yodas speak the truth.

“I worked with John Chambers at Cisco and his team. He had a leadership meeting of 200 people, and I was there coaching them too.

“Halfway through the meeting, I just stopped and said, ‘John, may I try something kind of daring?’ and he allowed me to.

“I said, ‘How many of you feel that the topic of conversation right now is a favorable topic conversation that’s going to lead us strategically to where we’re going? And how many of you feel opposite to that?’ Surprisingly 80% felt opposite that.

“And this is one of the pillars of conversation that was being built around through John, but he’s smart enough to say, ‘Okay, great!’

That honesty and feedback allowed Chambers and Ferrazzi to steer the discussion towards a more productive discussion. Not only was it a more efficient and productive use of the company’s time, but it also allowed Chambers to re-examine his focus and create a contract of development with his team.

To summarize, building a successful company in the 21st century requires a few fundamental shifts away from traditional organization management.

First, it’s important to develop a culture of candor and to encourage honest feedback in the workplace – information is crucial in making progressive shifts in the company.

Second, a sense of inclusion and co-creation is fundamental to getting your team invested. A team that’s disengaged will do the bare minimum – to get the best out of your team, they must feel a sense of ownership. You can develop that by allowing your team to be co-creators of your company.

The third most important trait is accountability. Just like candor, accountability isn’t just one way – your team members must be able to hold team leaders accountable.

It’s essential for team leaders themselves to develop what Ferrazzi calls the ‘contract of development’ – a promise to improve certain aspects of themselves based on feedback.

Developing these three traits will help elevate your organization and unlock their fullest potential!

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