Creating a working environment seems simple. As It’s a Jungle in There describes, you can distill it down to the following:
- Care about your staff and coworkers (ch 21)
- Recognize and praise their accomplishments (ch 22)
- Help others out (ch 23)
But creating a successful organization takes much more effort and a mini-degree in psychology.
The challenge starts with how you hire people
What are your current criteria? Are you seeking intelligence, flexibility, compassion, perseverance, energy, enthusiasm, mental toughness, physical fitness, leadership, or adherence?
Then decide what makes a person a good fit for your organization by describing these aspects:
1) Characteristics that help someone succeed in your enterprise
- If your Friday dress code means that staff can ditch the suit but should still be professional, that says a lot about what you value.
- If your industry is rapidly changing and challenged with new technology, then flexibility and innovation may be your top priority.
2) Criteria that helped others in the past, assuming the environment hasn’t changed
3) Personal values that predict success in the position
- Options include money, autonomy, work-life balance, travel, quiet, minimal interaction, constant action, desire for big success, fear that effort will be discarded, etc.
Once the staff member is on board, it’s time to get them up to speed. Don’t just dump them onto the organization and assume they will figure it out. Have a plan for training and inspiration that conveys the organization’s core vision, mission, philosophy, and values. If someone doesn’t seem to buy the core organizational direction, you have a problem you need to fix promptly.
Then use qualitative and quantitative measures to assess the accuracy of the fit. Perhaps you thought that the person having energy was paramount. Then you realized that the person you hired based on that criterion was always pushing for change in a direction that conflicted with your obligations or timeline. Perhaps the proper criterion you are looking for is passion for your mission and goals. That passion will translate to energy for staying the course to achieve success.
The fit might be great, but the organization isn’t consistent or is providing conflicting messages. The solution is organizational, not personal.
Or despite your best efforts, the fit for this position isn’t right. Before you give up, maybe another area could demonstrate an improved fit. For example, you assumed that the person was more extroverted, but it seems that they’re quiet and like working one-on-one with people. Migrating them to a position that involves coaching instead of one with the leadership of a large team may be the right solution.
Finally, there are the red flags. Occasionally, some folks have a toxic side. They breed resentment, crave control, manipulate, and intimidate. You need a system to identify such people. It is unlikely they are going to tell you that harming your organization is their goal, and other staff are likely to be intimidated and unwilling to come forward. Folks who are bullied look to supervisors to take action—that’s your (unpleasant) job. You need a system in place to ensure you collect information from other staff so you can identify the problem and take action.
To summarize, It’s a Jungle in There recommends being kind and helpful to folks and giving out praise liberally for work well done. That is a tiny piece of ensuring that you are creating a working environment where everyone is working together, doing their best, and helping the organization meet its mission.
- Collinson Rachael, Bevoc Louis. Industrial/Organizational Psychology: A Basic Introduction. NutriNiche System LLC. April 9, 2016.
- Schussler Steven, Karlins Marvin. It’s a Jungle in There: Inspiring Lessons, Hard-Won Insights, and Other Acts of Entrepreneurial Daring. Vol Reprint edition. New York: Sterling. February 7, 2012.