Across the United States, we are in the Arc of Good Cheer that spans the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This season brings out the best (and sometimes the worst) in us. In this season, we enjoy seeing the many people we see every day even more, as well as those whom we rarely see. This is the season to be more, care more, give more and be uncommonly tolerant.
For those of us who, like career and executive coaches, work to help advance the careers and overall success of everyone who works for and with us, let’s not focus on only individuals but also on the forgotten organization. There is each one of us, and there is all of us. This is a good season to remember the “all of us” part.
If you work late at night, when the office corridors are quiet, you might hear a faint voice. It is usually difficult to discern where the voice is coming from or what it is saying. The voice is so faint that it only makes you occasionally look up from your computer screen and dart your eyes to the right and then to the left.
The next time it’s quiet, listen closely. It is the voice of your organization. The “all of us.” It’s not an official pronouncement from the C-suite. It’s not the company line published in the newsletter or annual report. Those voices are good, but that faint, small voice is the actual voice of the collective values, beliefs, hopes and fears of the organizational population. It’s the organization’s voice.
“What about me?”
If your ears are sufficiently attuned to recognize what you’re hearing, you might respond by asking, “What about you?”
The voice of the organization might respond in any number of ways. It might cop Audrey II from “Little Shop of Horrors” and say, “Feed me.” It might do a Bill Murray imitation from “What About Bob?” and say, “Give me, give me, give me. I need, I need, I need.” It might just say, “Please, don’t forget about me. I don’t want the payroll checks to bounce.”
Like any other complex organism, an organization made of carbon-based life forms must have its essential needs met to survive, much less thrive. Most free-economy organizations must also fulfill the desires and expectations of their customers and constituents.
Broken down even further, for-profit and non-profit organizations alike need to generate enough revenue to cover payroll and all manner of expenses to keep the doors open. Regardless of how organizations meet their needs, they in turn meet the needs of those who depend on them.
The real needs of an organization and the people who depend on it can be very different from the perceived needs of the organization itself and its people. One of the greatest benefits of coaching is the opportunity for individuals to reflect on their personal and professional circumstances, challenges and opportunities and to distinguish between the things that are good for them and the things that are less desirable.
Most humans can clearly articulate their wants, needs and desires. Organizations don’t have audible voices. They need our help to verbalize their wants, needs and desires. To express themselves, organizations borrow the vocal cords and writing abilities of their members – each of us – to speak for all of us.
Whether we work in small but mighty organizations or enormous juggernauts that count their employees by the tens of thousands, being good with people is being good for the organization. This season, let’s be more mindful of how the kindness, courtesy, patience and professionalism we extend to others, especially where we work, will make life better for all of us.
Don’t forget the organization – the “all of us” – and all it does for each of us. Don’t forget the customers and communities our organizations serve – that’s even more of us. Invite the organization to the holiday party. (After all, the organization is paying for it.) Let each one of us deliberately align what we do best with what our organizations need most and extend the Arc of Good Cheer through the rest of the year.