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Welcome to the March issue of Alignment Solutions! This month’s theme is “Aligned for success: Removing organizational and personal barriers.” Is your organization preventing its employees from succeeding? We take a look at some unrecognized and unintentional barriers that might be keeping your employees from realizing their potential, then suggest ways to eliminate or minimize these obstacles to business success.

The Feature Article describes how organizational blockages create misalignment between the contributions employees would like to make and those they are able to achieve, and it suggests how to identify and remove those barriers.

The Business Solutions section offers a set of questions to help you identify blockages that prevent your employees from contributing to the organization’s success.

The Personal Solutions section challenges you to remove barriers to your personal success by testing self-imposed boundaries that may prevent you from living a richer, more joy-filled life.

I invite you to visit my web site at to find articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!

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Aligned for Success: Removing Organizational Barriers

Is your organization preventing its employees from succeeding? Do you have employees who are frustrated by their inability to contribute fully to achieving organizational goals?

My observation is that people want to feel they are part of, or connected to, something larger than themselves. Often they choose to work for a specific organization because they want to “do good.” Yet their dreams of achieving great things often are dashed by unintentional obstacles to that success, such as crippling bureaucracy, archaic assumptions and processes (i.e., the “we’ve always done it that way” syndrome), or what I call contextual misalignment, which results when a practice or behavior that serves the organization well in one area is repeated in other areas even when it causes dysfunctional outcomes. In such environments, employees become disillusioned, burned out, and/or disengaged – and the organization suffers the consequences of the resulting misalignment.

Recently I heard a sermon in which the priest said, “People come to church looking for the ‘boom’ (i.e., a connection to something bigger than themselves) but all we give them is organized religion.” It struck me that this idea often is true in business: in addition to making a living, many people join organizations to make a contribution and/or to feel connected to a cause or group in which they believe or to which they want to belong. Yet their initial excitement and enthusiasm often is extinguished by institutionalized barriers to their success.

What things are getting in the way of the “boom” that your employees are seeking? Here are two steps you can take to identify and correct the misalignment between employees’ willingness and ability to contribute to organizational success and the elements needed to support those efforts (e.g., environment, structures, processes, and skills).

  1. Find out whether your employees are able do their jobs easily, without impediment by asking them the two questions below. Listen carefully to what they say. Support the elements that enable desired performance and remove as many of the barriers as possible.
    • What aspects of the organization enable you to be successful?
    • What obstacles prevent you from contributing as much as you would like?

  2. Seek out instances of contextual misalignment. What behaviors, actions, or practices that serve you well in one part of your organization cause dysfunction in other areas?

Imagine how quickly your organization could achieve its goals if your employees were unimpeded by institutional barriers that hinder their success! I invite you to begin today to take the actions necessary to make that picture a reality.

For examples and more information about removing obstacles to organizational success, please see my article Aligned for Success: Removing Organizational Barriers on my web site.

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Aligned for Success: Identifying Organizational Barriers

The first step in removing obstacles to organizational success is identifying the barriers accurately. Here is one approach to getting the information you need to take action.

Ask employees to think back to the time they joined the organization. Have them answer these questions:

  • What excited you most about the organization?
  • How did the invitation to join the organization make you feel?
  • What did you hope to contribute?

Once they have responded, ask these questions:

  • Are you just as excited about the organization now as you were then?
    • If so, what things enable you to maintain that excitement?
    • If not, what things prevent you from re-capturing that feeling?

  • To what extent have you made the contributions you initially envisioned?
    • If to a great extent: celebrate and ask what they would like to do next.

    • If to a small extent: ask what obstacles are in the way. LISTEN, then take action to remove them.

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Aligned for Success: Removing Personal Barriers

What obstacles prevent you from being successful in your personal life? I have observed two related barriers that result in misalignment between people’s abilities and their desired outcomes.

Obstacle #1 comes in the form of conscious or unconscious beliefs that limit our expectations of what we can or cannot do. In addition to the boundaries that others impose on us by virtue of stereotypes related to characteristics such as race, gender, or profession, we create our own artificial barriers to pursuing and achieving our dreams.

Obstacle #2 occurs when we wait for someone to tell us we can break through these barriers. Often I encounter people who feel, consciously or unconsciously, that they must get permission to move beyond self-imposed boundaries, which often are based on others’ assumptions about our abilities. Too many people wait in vain for this permission to do things they would like to try, such as make a lot of money, or take a risk by changing jobs, or write a book, or train for a marathon.

Both these obstacles cause us to short-change ourselves because we fail to experience all that life has to offer. Here are two suggestions for removing these obstacles to personal success:

Suggestion #1: identify one self-imposed barrier, something that is holding you back from achieving a desired outcome that seems beyond your reach. Test the limits of this boundary and see what happens. I would be willing to bet that you find you are able to go a lot further than you had imagined – i.e., there is a lot more “stretch” to that boundary than you had thought!

Suggestion #2: in addition to giving yourself permission to test your beliefs, give others that same gift. When you run across someone who appears to be held back by erroneous beliefs about his/her abilities, encourage that person to test those limits. Or help others raise their expectations by challenging them to identify higher level outcomes than they had imagined possible. The reward is likely to be a richer, more joy-filled life.

For examples of removing personal barriers and more details about how to implement the two suggestions above, please see my article Aligned for Success: Removing Personal Barriers on my web site.

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Date of Publication: March, 2008 | 562.985.0333
Copyright 2008 - All rights reserved, Pat Lynch