Is Your Organization Living Up to Its True Potential?

Is Your Organization Living Up to Its True Potential?

Is your organization shortchanging its stakeholders? Unless it is living up to its true potential, the answer is “yes.” Even successful organizations fall short of providing the value they are capable of producing if they are merely living up to their perceived potential rather than their true potential.

Here’s an example of the difference between perceived potential and true potential. Recently I facilitated a strategy session for an organization that provides a safe shelter and services for women who have been abused. Although the organization has done wonderful work and previously had articulated an inspiring vision, the Executive Director and board members came to the session focused on answering a single question: “How can we ensure enough funding this year to keep the lights on?” They were so preoccupied with the presumed negative effects of the recession on their organization that they were unable to see beyond the narrow constraints that such a “survival” mentality imposed. This very limited view of their perceived potential was a disservice to the people who desperately want and need their help – and to other stakeholders as well. By helping them re-focus on their vision, we were able to identify clearly the organization’s true potential: to break the cycle of poverty that traps women who are abused. As a result, participants left the session at the end of the day electrified by the possibilities they had envisioned for the organization.

While the environmental constraints didn’t change, the leaders’ focus did. Although the challenging economic environment may delay the achievement of all the goals, the point is that once these leaders recognized the exponentially bigger picture, they were able to identify ways that their organization can have a profound, positive influence on their clients and their community. They have re-claimed their vision and are using it to inspire donors and volunteers to join their efforts and champion their cause.

This example of falling back into a defensive posture is typical of organizations in all sectors that are faced with volatility and uncertainty. Especially in economically challenging times, many leaders tend to retreat from the storm rather than head resolutely into it, seeking the opportunities it provides. Here’s why: their limiting beliefs and expectations cause them to think and act in very narrow, “safe,” comfortable ways instead of enabling them to view the organization’s potential as expansively as possible and act accordingly. This perspective constrains the organization’s ability to optimize its available talent and delight its customers. While retreating from the storm is a very human reaction, it can have deadly consequences – e.g., people and organizations become paralyzed with fear, focusing on the myriad of “What if…?” questions instead of asking “How can we…?” When the organization’s perception of its potential is limited, the value it offers is a fraction of what it is capable of providing.

Here are some questions for you:

  1. What is your organization’s true potential?
  2. How can your organization’s leaders embrace the opportunities that present themselves?
  3. How will you help your organization reach those who desperately need and want its help?

For suggestions about how to begin to answer these questions, please see our article How to Ensure Your Organization Lives Up to Its True Potential.

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.

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