Administrators and managers typically author and publish organizational policies, rules, and standards. But when it comes to actually defining those standards, and the meaning and purpose of those rules, the leaders of the organization will develop common understandings and commitments through those they lead.
These definitions, and more importantly the understanding they support, contribute to the tone of the group(s) working together and ultimately can go far in shaping the paradigm the members of the group hold for one another and their team. It then becomes critical those who hold positions among management and executive levels of the organization consider how their compositions can, will—and therefore, should—be interpreted and performed with a significant degree of perpetual attention and thought…all reinvested into the currency of the group that is equal parts vision, purpose and commitment.
The process of developing strong and translatable organizational policy should be a deliberate one. We should be asking ourselves, ‘Will this policy/standard be easily communicated and understood? Will it be easily teachable? Will it be easily supportable, and if necessary, easily and properly enforced?’.
There’s no need to rush to ‘make a rule’. Highly effective company standards are those in which the application and the assessment of the elements are active and fully responsive to new perspectives and conditions. And no company can remain highly effective if it performs to the very limits of its own rules, and no employee can swiftly communicate key data if the process to do so is cumbersome or extended.
Where might that special form of multi-directional connectivity be that supports the appropriate and timely delivery of guidance from the administration to the rest of the organization while at the same time accurately assessing the response and applicability and strength of those policies?
If you immediately thought, “our supervisors and trainers”, I believe you’re right.
First, The Trainers.
I learned long ago that if someone wants a quick snapshot of the values of an organization, simply look at the manner and demeanor of those who are entrusted to inform and prepare the newest members of the team for their new responsibilities. Indeed, when a new employee arrives to any organization, a trainer (see: Senior/Long-tenured employee) will demonstrate whatever is important and key, as well as what—and who—are less-so. Maybe even ‘unimportant.’
A trainer will have a substantial period of time with a new employee. That time will include an overview of appropriate subjects and areas of the organization so that the new team member is more familiar and prepared to do their job accurately. But if unchecked, a long-standing employee who at some point became even slightly disenfranchised may project their opinions on the strengths and, oh yes, the weaknesses of the organization. For a new employee, this can be a confusing scenario in which institutional values may be presented as incongruent.
Which brings me to an even more critical group: The Supervisors.
Several years ago, while meeting with a group of supervisors I had the privilege of serving with, I made a comment that has stayed with me for many years. At the time, I explained it was imperative we remain proactive in watching for successful efforts as well as successful outcomes from those we were leading. I emphasized that the members of our organization were visibly and tangibly dedicated to “doing things right”, but I also wanted to find ways to further preserve our commitment to “doing the right thing”. As I discussed this, I was trying to find a way to stress to them the value of being proactive.
And then I said, “…there’s a reason why a windshield is bigger than a rearview mirror.”
The point of course is that it’s far more important to look ahead than frequently look back. As leaders and supervisors, we should occasionally glance back and make sure we continue toward our goal(s) and that we are aware of things that may be approaching from other directions. I think it’s important we appreciate our growth by simply understanding where we’ve come from.
When it comes to the policies of our organizations, I believe it is essential that leaders facilitate the variety of roles that superiors, peers and subordinates perform to ensure the standards remain high and sustainable.