Helping Organizations Calm Down or Brighten Up
(This article was published in our September 2010 newsletter)
I was reminded of an important concept while talking with a colleague this week. It’s one I learned from the Institute of Cultural Affairs (www.ica-usa.org). It’s one I use with every organization in my role as process facilitator for them. First, I think about the emotional state of the organization in general. Next, I think about the internal image I want to hold for myself that I believe will be most helpful to provide a different perspective to the organization. Whenever I interact with any member of the organization, I try to emulate this image. When you consistently hold this positive image for an organization, you send them a different message. You contradict what they have previously thought to be true and start to hold out a message of hope for positive change.
Here are 5 scenarios of typical ways we experience organizations when we begin working with them. I share a few examples of helpful internal images that I might use in these situations.
1. CHAOS, NEGATIVITY, DISORGANIZATION
Emotional State of the Organization: Organization is generally in chaos, disorganized, and/or nervous about current events affecting them. They may have recently restructured.
Internal Image I Hold to Offer a Different Perspective: I imagine myself to be as steady as a rock, as clear as a pure pool of water, a Zen rock garden. I ensure I am always deeply relaxed when I interact with members of the organization.
2. SHAME & LOSS OF CREDIBILITY
Emotional State of the Organization: Organization is “depressed”, negative about their future; members may feel some shame about a recent series of events. Organization may have lost credibility with the public.
Internal Image I Hold to Offer a Different Perspective: I imagine myself as a positive light force able to uplift organizational members’ spirits and sense of pride. I do and say things that make them realize what they are experiencing is normal in most organizations’ histories.
3. UNFOCUSED & UNPRODUCTIVE
Emotional State of the Organization: Organization is unfocused. They have no strategic plan. Most members have no idea why they do what they do and there is a great sense of unfulfilled productivity.
Internal Image I Hold to Offer a Different Perspective: I imagine myself to be razor sharp. I encourage organizational members to take a singular focus. I hold the image of visionary, opportunities, and strong direction. I imagine myself to be someone who will uncover their hidden brilliance.
4. CONSTANT MOTION, SHALLOW, IMPULSIVE
Emotional State of the Organization: Organization is constantly doing. They spend most of their time on tactics. They may have lost sight of the original mission. They do not take the time to plan or learn from their mistakes.
Internal Image I Hold to Offer a Different Perspective: I imagine myself to be a quiet pool of water or something that creates the ability to reflect back to them. ; I’m wanting the organization to be more reflective and introspective. I spend time coaching them to slow down and turn their thoughts inward.
5. TENSION, MISTRUST & TOXICITY
Emotional State of the Organization: Organization does not feel like a safe place to work. There are great levels of tension and mistrust. No one shares information, and there is a lot of employee absenteeism.
Internal Image I Hold to Offer a Different Perspective: I imagine myself to be a key to unlock the source of their tension. I am the epitome of compassion and trust. I treat members as though they are completely valued and trustworthy. I focus on creating safety and connection.
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