Dreaming of Greener Pasture

How do I find personal satisfaction in an organization that doesn't seem interested in being effective?

This is a very important question for all of those who have spent time working in seemingly heartless or meaningless organizations.  In January’s newsletter we defined an effective organization as one that meets its stated goals and accomplishes its stated mission.  But of course, by this definition, low goals and unimportant missions can create effectiveness and this would miss the point, therefore we add that effective organizations are those where the mission and goals are ones that people would want to invest in and/or participate in because they bring value to not only the individual, but also customers and society in general.

So what about the employee who is stuck in an organization that doesn’t seem to meet these criteria?  The easy answer is to simply quit and find a better organization.  While this may seem to be the prudent decision, is it the right one?  Let’s now refer back to the original question and focus on a key word in the question - “seem”.  Often times employees can only guess as to what their organization’s goals and mission may be because they have not been clearly articulated (our February Newsletter topic).  Until one clearly understands where leadership is wanting to take the organization, employees should not make bad guesses about their willingness to be effective.  This is where candid and frank conversation with leadership is critical to clearly understand the mission.

For argument’s sake, let’s make the assumption that the employee is actually working in an organization that simply has no intention of meeting our definition of an effective organization.  How do we find personal satisfaction without simply leaving for greener pastures?  At this point the employee needs to focus on what they can control and influence within the organization.  They have control over their own performance and influence over the performance of their team.  To this end, an objective setting and strategy exercise can help the person move toward higher satisfaction.  We would recommend that the employee set short, intermediate and long term objectives for themselves and, where possible, their team.  These objectives should meet five SMART criteria.

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Attainable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time Bound

Once we have SMART objectives in mind, the next step would be to create a task list which would take us step-by-step to the accomplishment of each objective.  The key to reaching our objective is to stick to the plan while measuring its effectiveness.  These measurements of effectiveness are critical to determining if we are on the right track.  If the measurements are in-line, we should continue on course until the objective is met.  If the measurements show that we are somehow failing, we need to either tweak the task list, or reassess the objective.

We find that those who focus on individual and team objectives, with a sound strategy for attaining and measuring, have greater satisfaction and better performance than those who simply go to work every day, counting the days until the next paycheck.  In the end, organizational effectiveness is impacted by both organizational mission and employee performance.  Not all of us have control or even influence over mission, but we all have considerable impact on our own performance and the objectives that we set can help improve that performance and ultimately our satisfaction.