Getting started is usually the easy part, whether it is a diet, an exercise program or an organization. Continuing in a sustainable way—now that is a different story.
I believe that sustained organizational growth is the direct result of intentional development in three key areas: you as the leader, your team and your organizational structure.
The growth of an organization will always be in proportion to the personal growth of the leader. In one way, self is the easy part of organizational growth. You only have one person to be concerned about—you. And yet, as the leader of any size organization, if you don’t get this right, the entire organization will be stunted in its growth and potential.
A good reflection of a leader’s growth will be seen by their ability to anticipate the future and plan accordingly. Growth never happens “by accident.” In fact, failure to plan = failure to grow. Leaders need to plan and prepare for growth.
The rapid changes in Artificial Intelligence, digital technology and other areas all demand that the leader continues forward planning. Strategies, customer needs and expectations, products and talent pools are changing. While the speed of change makes it difficult to plan long term, those who fail to do so will pay the ultimate price of organizational decay.
A great way to help manage the complexities of growth and the speed of change is to have a team of wise counsellors—a personal advisory board. William Wilberforce built a personal board of directors that he called his “Chummery.” Without their support he would never had been able to abolish slavery and transform British society. Every leader needs “chums” who will advise with truth, wisdom and clarity.
Your “chummery” should include people who speak into all aspects of your personal life as well as your organization. They need to be people who will speak truth in love to you, and you need to have the grace to listen to them in love.
Empower Your Team
Organizational growth requires the ongoing growth and development of your team. As the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link.
While a good HR department and ongoing training are critical, there are two specific ways you can ensure the ongoing health and growth of your team: deep, long-term vision casting and building a culture of empowerment.
As the leader, you need to cast a long-term vision that settles deep into their spirits. This means that the “Why” and the “What” is instilled into everyone’s heart and mind. In my organization, we set a 30-year goal and have been working on it for the past 20 years. You will also need to break the vision into clear goals with specific time frames.
A deep, long-term vision will foster ownership, which in turn almost ensures continued organizational growth. For example, at Empart we have a goal for 100,000 communities to be transformed. I challenged all our leaders to take a share of this goal. We have fostered such ownership, and in a recent survey, we found the total goal of all our leaders added together comes to 127,000 transformed communities.
Empowerment is not a program but a culture that needs to be built intentionally and wisely at all levels of the organization. Yes, empowerment is risky, but this risk will be significantly minimized if your teams have caught the long-term vision. So, you need to embed the “Why” and “What,” then allow them to grapple with the “How” in their own context.
A truly empowered team will be engaged and satisfied, with deep personal ownership of the organizational vision. Empart is working across 1,400 different ethnic groups with many languages and cultures, yet we maintain an annual growth rate of 23 percent. This growth has only been possible because of the collective ownership of our empowered team.
Check Your Structure
Structure will foster growth, inhibit growth or even prohibit growth.
As I was starting Empart, I had the joy of spending a few days with Pastor Wayne Cordeiro in Hawaii, where he introduced me to the concept of endoskeletal versus exoskeletal structures. A structure that is internal, gives stability, yet allows rapid growth. A structure that, on the outside, gives much better protection will limit growth. The structure you develop will have a big impact on the growth or lack of it.
At Empart, we focus on being a “movement” rather than a rigid, hierarchical structure. This has been very intentional as we strive to foster significant and sustainable growth. We liken ourselves to a living entity rather than an unyielding structure. Some of the implications of this focus include:
- There will be ongoing changes and movements because the structure is alive.
- It is led by values and principles, instead of rules and regulations.
- People will have multiple hats; their titles and roles will have less importance.
- Influence is based on relationships rather than the positional authority.
- There is relational accountability rather than hierarchical accountability.
- Success is what we achieve together, not our individual results, therefore rewards are shared.
- We are able to respond quickly and adapt to rapid changes and challenges.
Functioning as a “movement” does not eliminate the challenges, but I believe it does enable us to keep our focus on the important things rather than get caught in the mechanics of a rigid structure.