“There is no decision we can make
that doesn’t come without some sort
of balance or sacrifice!”
Early on the second Tuesday morning of each month I have the unique opportunity to gather with a group of individuals and discuss how one can balance faith-based values and their life’s work. Our discussion group includes a diverse mix of men and women including some retirees (like me), private business executives and public sector leaders, members of the clergy, and a few public officials. For the most part, the daily work lives of our members include making tough decisions, managing differing agendas, and juggling multiple demands. At the same time they are all persons of faith, committed to leading with principle and making a positive impact at work, in their communities and in their personal life. They are true servant leaders who, through our meetings, journey together to seek the balance needed to pursue values-based leadership.
Much has been written regarding the importance of balance, especially as it relates to our work and our lives. The message contained in many of these posts is the need to balance the demands of a career with the need each of us has to maintain a personal life that enables us to find peace of mind, maintain relationships and enjoy time away from the demands of our chosen profession. But what about that other balance, the one that requires us to make choices or decisions that are often in the best interests of an organization or support the broader good, but in our heart we know will result in collateral damage that will weigh heavily on our conscious? The question becomes, “How do we balance important, but sometimes conflicting aspects of our life, especially as this relates to our chosen professions?” One approach is though “Situational Analysis”
Maureen Metcalf is a contributor to the Innovative Leadership Institute’s blog. Her post, Balancing Authenticity with Organizational Expectations proposes that our ability to lead authentically hinges on our own self-awareness coupled with an understanding of the culture and systems of the organization; a process called “Situational Analysis”. Situational analysis is the process by which you use self-awareness and organizational understanding to determine how to behave authentically and effectively. You analyze with the intent of creating alignment between self and the organization—which can often be quite a balancing act.
To illustrate the process, Metcalf presents a case study of an organization that like many, is trying to balance cutting an employee benefit in an effort to retain service levels, while minimizing the impact on employee morale, engagement, and organizational culture. The company has a very strong commitment to service, which includes caring for its employees. The “Situational Analysis” process asks the leadership team to answer eight questions in four categories. This “process” encourages an open discussion to help them align personal beliefs, personal behaviors, organizational culture, and organizational systems in addressing the issue and make a sound decision.
THE SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS PROCESS
CATEGORY I: LEADER VALUES/BELIEFS
- List my personal top three values as a leader.
- How do my values impact this decision?
CATEGORY II: LEADER BEHAVIORS
- How will this decision impact my ability to live my values?
- How will this decision impact my behavior as a leader?
CATEGORY III: CULTURE ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES
- How does this decision align with our purpose and values?
- How does this decision impact our ability to meet our goals?
CATEGORY IV: SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES
- Is this decision aligned with our systems? If we implement it, will there be conflicts that confuse people?
- Will making this choice cause us to miss our goals in other areas of our business?
Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine. They will not hesitate to discuss and share their personal values and beliefs as they relate to organizational decisions. The first two categories of the process requires leadership to consider how their values align with the behavior required to adopt the change. The second two categories require consideration of the decision in light of organizational values, goals and systems. This approach is critical when balancing personal values and organizational requirements, as leaders will often find their personal values in conflict with organizational expectations and they are compelled to choose between two undesirable options: violating their values, or making decisions that are opposed to an organization’s goals.
Finding the balance is not an easy process. Authentic leaders are continually called upon to make difficult decisions, but they realize that these decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. Because this process takes into account values along with fiscal accountability, it builds trust among those involved in the decision-making that the process is ethical. While not perfect, this approach allows us to remain authentic and ethical, and still make the tough decisions required for the organization to survive and thrive. I think that’s about as balanced as one can get!
Embrace the Challenge