by Dee Ann Turner
For years I have watched the decay of a tree on a lake near my home. Why would I notice a decaying tree? Because it teaches a leadership lesson. For the last ten years, the top of this cedar tree had been full and green. It looks especially pretty with the background of a bright and sunny blue sky on a spring or fall day. However, looking closer at the trunk of the tree, the roots are exposed, black and dying.
As lake water levels rise and drop around the tree, the soil erodes and the roots are rotting. One day, this tree that certainly looks healthy and green from a distance, will die and fall into the water because the infrastructure of the tree is failing.
That same scenario can happen to organizations too. Sales can be soaring, profits healthy and retention stable. However, if too much attention is focused on the outside facing optics without a balance of support for the internal infrastructure, the organization will fail.
It is much more fun to spend money on what appears to stimulate growth: advertising campaigns, sales contests and expansion. But healthy organizations pay attention to necessary elements that keep the organization healthy.
One of the most important ways to invest in the infrastructure is to invest in the people that support and grow the organization. So often, the focus is to bring staff on board, but little attention is given to them once they have been selected. Staffing is potentially one of the largest investments into an organization’s infrastructure. It’s imperative to leverage that investment. Here are 4 ways to maximize the investment in people:
1. Invest in the Culture
One of main reasons people choose your organization, is your culture. However, culture, does not take care of itself. It has to be communicated and demonstrate on a daily basis to become part of the DNA of an organization. Remind people of the purpose, mission and core values as often as possible and through all channels of communication. Most importantly, culture is a filter through which all decisions of the organization passes. Leaders committed to growing and strengthening the culture ask themselves this question before they make decisions: Does this decision align with the purpose, mission and core values of the organization?
2. Invest in Community
To build a strong infrastructure, build a strong community in the organization. Teaching people to collaborate and work together effectively maximizes the investment made in people. A team can accomplish far more than individuals if they are working together effectively. As Liz Wiseman says, it has a multiplier effect of the investment. Leaders striving to create community in their organizations ask themselves this question: Will this decision rally the staff in unity or create division?
3. Invest in Competency
A strong infrastructure requires organizations to continue to invest in the competency of the staff. Lifelong learning is essential to growing the organization. Individuals often need the support and encouragement to invest in growing competency. Not only does leadership need to invest in the competency desired for the current role, but they also need to focus on developing competency needed for a growing organization. Equip staff with robust development plans that prepare them to do their best work today and fill the needs of the organization tomorrow. Leaders who invest in competency of their staff ask this question: What tools and information do my staff need to support the organization’s growth and health?
4. Invest in Caring
Organizations that care about the stewardship of time, talent and treasure communicate that infrastructure is vital to organizational health. First, care about the people and their personal and professional needs. Communicate their worth to the organization. Care also about the details, such as how time and money is spent. Strong infrastructures require discipline around budgets productivity. Organizations who carelessly spend money, don’t adequately invest in the organization or ignore productivity measure threaten the health of the infrastructure. Leaders focused on Caring about people and the investment ask themselves this question: Does this decision communicate that I care deeply about the people and the stewardship of this organization?
Leaders who practice these 4 investments are much more likely to create a healthy infrastructure in an organization that has exponential opportunities for growth. Those who don’t are likely to find themselves just like the cedar tree. It’s hard to see the erosion of the roots – the infrastructure – until it’s too late. The roots will eventually fully rot, the leaves turn brown and the tree will be dead in the water. Invest in infrastructure to keep your organization growing and thriving.
Dee Ann Turner is leading the modern conversation about talent in business. The in-demand speaker, author, executive coach, and consultant was the first female officer at Chick-fil-A, for whom she served as Vice President of Talent and later, Vice President of Sustainability. There, Dee Ann helped shape Chick-fil-A’s historically remarkable culture for more than 30 years. In her bestselling first book, It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture, Dee Ann took readers behind the scenes of Chick-fil-A for explanations and action steps any business, non-profit, educational institution, etc. could adopt.
Her 2019 follow-up, Bet On Talent: How To Create A Remarkable Culture That Wins The Hearts Of Customers, dissects the strategies of numerous industry-leading organizations alongside explanations of Dee Ann’s original approaches to the most crucial decisions in business. Today, she leads her own organization, Dee Ann Turner, LLC, writing books, speaking to over 50 audiences per year and consulting and coaching leaders globally. Dee Ann is a mother to three grown boys and lives with her husband just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.