Siobhán Cahalan | What if…you knew your organization better than you knew yourself?

“What is it, then, that makes organizations and people so complex when its all, really, the same?”

Organizations are complex. Individuals are complex. The irony is that most organizations are made up of the same functions. Sales, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Procurement, Risk, Human Resources (HR). And individuals are mostly made up of the same parts too. A head, torso, arms, hands, legs, feet. What is it, then, that makes organizations and people so complex when it’s all, really, the same? 

Surely, organization number one which was developed hundreds of years ago with the functions outlined above would have been able to write everything down and pass on that know-how from one generation to the next. There would be no steep learning curve. There would be no figuring-it-all-out. There would be no bankruptcies and strike-offs.

Surely, evolved and healthy people could have documented step-by-step everything we needed to know about functioning in the optimum way as a human being. We could follow that. Health, wealth and happiness would abound.

Why hasn’t this happened? Are we living in a sort of a Truman Show and the last laugh is on us? Why aren’t we being given the message and, if we are, why are we not getting it?

“What if…you knew your organization better than you knew yourself?”

How can we come to know ourselves better? How can we come to know our organizations better? What are some of the elements we need to be aware of in order to capitalize on our knowledge of both?

Is it really possible that we could know our organization better than we know ourself?

Wisdom Tool Number One: Know Your Saboteurs

What are those things which block our way? What are those things which trip us up and stall or demolish our efforts? Where do they come from? 

In an organizational context, what is the main saboteur? Is it a product, service, process, person, external stakeholder? What’s makes it a saboteur? Or is it a poorly defined vision, an incomplete strategy, a poorly executed action plan? Or HR issues – too many, too few, too this, too that. It would really be worth the exercise to become aware of what is heading in the wrong way. And why. Is there a pattern with this? What is that pattern? How is the pattern connecting? How can that pattern be shifted?

“Are your clogs tripping you up?”

Wisdom Tool Number One: Know Your Saboteurs. Saboteur apparently derives from the French word ‘sabot’, meaning clog, which workers would throw into the mill to break it down. As an organization, what clogs are you throwing into the machine? As an individual, are your clogs tripping you up?

Saboteurs halt progress, movement forward, momentum. Saboteurs are the opponents within. Within each one of us and within an organization. First step is to identify the adversary. Could it be: being easily distracted? Limiting beliefs? Psychological blocks? Following other peoples agendas? Disempowering self-thought and self-talk? Beating yourself up? ‘Trusting’ wolves in sheep’s clothing? Having the belief that if something is ‘good’ in general, that it is ‘good’ for you too?

How are stakeholders leading the organization astray? Who is the main speaker in the organization? Where is groupthink slowly and steadily destroying the big picture potential of the organization? What is the need for duplication of tasks, processes, roles? What deems it smart to have more software solutions than wise people on board? 

Stand back for a moment. What is not working? What is the habitual pattern that breaks the machine? Next time, a saboteur arrives, don’t fight it, look at it straight in the face and ask: ‘what are you here to disrupt?’ Thank the saboteur for visiting you.

Wisdom Tool Number Two: Know the Truth Behind the Truth of the Numbers

Numbers. Loving them or hating them, they permeate our lives. On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel about numbers? On the weighing scale, how much do you weigh? What pay scale are you on? What indicators form part of your risk assessment scale?

Within the field of Risk Management, for example, potential risks are identified, evaluated and measured in order to show the likelihood and severity of occurrence. 

In the case of numbers, there can an element of focusing on certain numbers while not focusing on others. What are the ones you are looking at? As a Board Director, what numbers are being presented to you? What numbers are not being presented to you? What is it that you don’t know? 

“What numbers are in the shadows?”

Wisdom Tool Number Two: Know the Truth Behind the Truth of the Numbers. There can be a tendency to average measurements. What is the average telling you? What is it not telling you? Let’s say, you are five on the scale of wellbeing. Good and average, nothing to worry about. Yet, you live your life in extremes. Your bad habits are off the chart. Your good habits are off the chart too. However, the risk lies with the bad habits, it is those that will potentially kill you. The average won’t show the likelihood of a heart attack.

In an organization, looking to see what data feeds in to create the ‘average’ would be a wise approach. Are the outliers and extremes seen? Do you have oversight of the risks that are being hidden? The numbers we choose to see can present a situation in a certain light. What numbers are in the shadows? What could those numbers tell us? Could they give us an entirely different view, or a more balanced view. 

What numbers are we choosing not to see, not to look at? Are we so used to seeing a particular number that we have accepted it and our eyes glaze over. What numbers could we build a positive helpful relationship with, that could support our efforts?

Wisdom Tool Number Three: Know the Intricate Tapestry

Apart from the functions in an organization and the physical body parts in a human being, there are an immensity of other factors to take into account. How does each function, function? What individuals make up that function? How does the variation of the individuals impact the variation of the function. On a grander scale how does the variation of the board directors, the management team, the leaders, the employees impact the effectiveness and output of the organization? What impact have differing relationships on the organization? Does anyone really know the vision of the organization? Does anyone really know if the vision and values are being lived out 24/7? Who has the deep core view into all the cupboards and filing cabinets and thoughts and plans and actions and what is really going on? How much duplication of tasks is there really? How many software packages have been bought and installed, all meant with good intention, but where a yearning for simplicity and effectiveness turns into a cacophony of bewilderment?

On an individual human level, beyond the parts mentioned above, there are our inner organs which for all accounts are a mystery to us and pretty nontransparent! Then, the mind. Another mystery and the constant battle to get it working for us, not against us. Then feelings, emotions. Control them or they will control you! And our spirit. What is that anyway and how do we get in touch with that? 

“Recognize the resistance. Then face the ailment and resolve it.”

Wisdom Tool Number Three: Know the Intricate Tapestry. A difficult one. In some ways, almost impossible. But it is our duty to do it. We are in the oversight function of our organizations, and overseers of our own lives too. We need to strive to know what is going on, and also how all the parts tie into one another to make the whole. 

Again, stand back. When you close your eyes can you see a coherent mapping of the organisation? Can you clearly see the strengths? Can you clearly see that the strengths are given adequate attention so they can really support the flourishing of the organization? Can you clearly see what is ailing the company? Don’t look away. Keep looking at it. What is the reason for the ailment? Is there a resistance to it? Recognize the resistance. Then face the ailment and resolve it, before it dissolves the company.

Wisdom Tool Number Four: Know What to Listen To

As is the case for people and organizations, knowing what, and who, to listen to is important. Others may assist you with making decisions which may have a good or less good outcome, short, medium or long term. Others may support in ways which further their vision or further a vision which they think is yours, but isn’t.

It is said that spending time with positive and successful people impacts our positivity and success. It may be that listening to these people creates that outcome. However, the listening ear must have an independent thinking filter over it, sieving out what is constructive and relevant to your vision and allowing the rest to fall away or perhaps rest in the subconscious mind until the right time to use the information.

“Deciphering what input energizes you and what drains you is a good indicator.”

Wisdom Tool Number Four: Know What to Listen To. What and who we listen to could maintain us in a state of constant panic. And stress. It can lead to confusion, overreactions and poorly thought through decisions. Deciphering what input energizes you and what drains you is a good indicator. Another good gauge is what are you hearing that is forming a resistance with you? Resistance is important and it is important to face it. Oftentimes, what we resist, persists, and it is exactly that which demands our attention.

“Good self-governance leads to good organizational governance.”

It may be that our organizational and human ancestors have told us everything they could. There are thousands, millions of books published on both topics. They wrote the books with the same assumption, that there are similarities. The intrigue is that many of the things which create or destroy our ‘success’ are invisible. Invisible and innate to each person and each organization. We are all variations of the same. It’s the variation that keeps things interesting.

Learn how to get to know yourself and your organization by knowing your saboteurs. Know the truth behind the truth of the numbers, know the intricate tapestry and know what to listen to. Good self-governance leads to good organisational governance.

To further explore how you can access your innate wisdom to enhance your knowledge of self and knowledge of your organization schedule a coaching conversation with Siobhán. Drop a note to to set something up.

P.S. Here are three ways I can help you get to know you, and your organization, better. 

  1. Schedule a 30-minute exploratory call with me:
  2. If we believe we can collaborate, I will offer you a complimentary 90-minute deep-dive coaching session in support of what you want to achieve.
  3. Find out how well you know your organization. Take the Govern Wheelquiz!

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