The Developing Leader’s Guide to Structure, Hierarchy and Organizational Culture
Welcome to the final installment of our Developing Your Character for Leadership series. It is one of the articles I posted at my old blog. I’m posting it here to help more young people become better leaders.
A mid-level manager or an emerging leader does not have trouble navigating the organizational structure and hierarchy of a small and medium sized organization. But as the organization grows in size, so does the complexity of its structure and hierarchy.
Bureaucracy! I could almost hear you cringe and puke at the word. It has received so much flak in the world today because of the way government officials performed in delivering public service. But bureaucracy refers to the structures and hierarchies that make public service possible. It can be bad. But the good news is, it can be good.
When you are a new leader in a large organization, you will have to deal with its bureaucracy. You will need to go to the IT department, coordinate with the procurement department, look for the decision makers in senior management and deliver products and services through the sales and marketing team. All that is part of the bureaucracy.
But it really can be quite a challenge. Getting to know your organization is like going on a date. You ask your date about some seemingly mundane questions but each one would reveal deeper things about your date.
1. Put people first before systems and processes.
Get to know your subordinates. Ask about their interests, their desires and also their hopes and dreams. This will help you understand their motivation, which you can use in helping them achieve their personal goals as well as organizational goals. Set aside a weekly (or monthly) time for coaching and mentoring with your subordinates.
2. Establish ground rules, expectations and reporting schedules.
Your team needs to understand the goals, how you plan to achieve them and how they can fulfill those goals. This will also minimize, if not prevent, possible conflict that may arise.
Monitoring the people who work for you and with you is very important. Are they up to date? Can you make it to the deadline of your project? Sure, when you develop greater trust between you and your team, you can pretty much leave them on their own and not worry about the timeliness and the quality of the outputs.
3. Get to know the heads of the departments you have to work with.
Take a look at the organizational chart. If your organization does not have one, list all the departments you’ll have to work with including the people who head them. During meetings, chat with them and establish rapport. Even outside formal settings, you need to talk with them, understand their motivations and their work habits. Ask yourself how you can work more effectively and efficiently with them.
Interestingly, you will also discover the dynamics of the organization through the interactions between and among these departments and divisions. Listen closely to how the heads of the department, how they view their department and their place in the overall system of the organization. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn.
4. Know your supervisor/s.
You will have to report to your immediate boss or supervisor. Your work will flow more smoothly if your relationship with your immediate supervisors. This doesn’t mean though that you have to kowtow to the boss or simply do their whims and biddings. When you understand your supervisors, you can adjust your expectations and you can deliver results that would satisfy them.
5. Discover who the gatekeepers are.
You need to understand organizational protocols and communication lines. At face value, reporting and communication lines are very helpful for you. You get to know who reports to whom; who to approach to get various kinds of decisions; and who calls the shot in which department among others. But this is just the surface; you will also have to learn the gatekeepers. These gatekeepers may be the secretaries of the bosses, or mid-level supervisors who do have access to them. You, yourself, may even become one of the gatekeepers with the power to refer or kill an idea or a message to the right person in the organization.
6. Speak the language of the organization.
Did you ever hear anyone talk about AHT? Or Aux1? These jargon belong to the call center industry. What are the words and terms that your organization uses? By speaking the language of the organization, you show that you are one of the gang. You’re an insider. You can understand people and they can also easily understand you.
Pay attention to both the formal and informal language that your colleagues use. They may be key to effective communication in the workplace.
7. Participate in the rites, traditions and rituals of the organization.
Every organization has a means to reward performers and reprimand underperformers. The way to do this is through the rites, traditions and rituals. These aspects of the organizational culture show what the organization values and how it treats its people. You may look at this as time-consuming and corny, but these rituals in the organization are necessary in inculcating important values, vision and mission to the newcomers. Who knows, you just might have the ideas to make these rites and rituals more interesting than they are.
8. Talk to people.
It is good to tell people what to do and expect them to deliver. But you’ll be a more effective leader if you talk to people, those who work under you and those you work with. So far, this is the most effective means of developing and nurturing relationships within the organization. If you focus too much on results without regard for the person working on these results, you may end up alienating people. If you talk with people, and by talk I mean really converse and communicate and listen to them, you are actually affirming them and their value to you and to the organization.
9. Build a community not just an organization.
An organization is a collection of people with common goals and ideals. But it has the potential to develop further. You need to build a community!
An organization can easily become a collection of transactions, results and outputs. A community is a collection of passionate individuals working for the common good. An organization can easily become impersonal and demanding. A community cares for and nurtures its members. In turn, people who feel cared for are motivated to work more effectively and efficiently.
Organizational culture, maybe difficult to understand, but it really represents what the organization is: how it conducts business, how it treats customers, how it communicates and how it performs. If you understand structure, hierarchy and organizational culture, you can use it to enhance your work and the life of the organization.
image credit: iexecuvision