3 Steps to Increase Organizational Bandwidth
By Jay Forte
Though a workplace continually changes, the past year showed us just how fast the changes can be. How does an organization stay current with the skills needed to keep the organization growing and performing as the environment around it changes?
The answer: organizational bandwidth.
The historical way of hiring employees has assessed them for the specific abilities – their strengths, skills, and experience – as it relates to the role they are applying for. If well aligned, they are hired. But that employee comes to the organization with additional strengths, skills, interests, and abilities that are unknown to the organization; they were hired for only part of their potential. They bring with them an expanded bandwidth that is not available to the organization until it makes the effort to more mindfully understand the potential of each employee and develop a process to tap into it.
Developing organizational bandwidth is a three-step process:
- Help employees develop a mindfulness practice to learn how to be more present, aware, and tuned in.
- Help employees learn how to focus the mindfulness internally to discover and articulate their abilities. Most of us don’t know the full range of who we are and what we are capable of.
- Develop an organizational initiative to discover and use the full range of abilities in each employee to respond to today’s fast changing workplace, focusing on internal talent before recruiting and hiring externally.
Step 1: Develop a mindfulness practice.
When we were born, we didn’t come with an owner’s manual, something that summarizes our abilities, passions, and values, and how to connect them successfully in work and life. Instead, we must learn who we are by being present, tuning in, and paying attention to how we interact with our world. To be able to notice – to gather information from our moments – requires developing greater awareness and mindfulness. The mindfulness activities I routinely include in my leadership programs and coaching are journaling, meditation, rhythmic breathing, and intentional listening/observing. Each of these interrupts the habit of moving through life without noticing and replaces it with a more intentional and focused approach.
Learning to tune in takes practice and can be a great self-development program you offer your teams. Or, consider sharing your personal mindfulness practice with employees and what your practice provides for you. You may also consider engaging a coach or mindfulness expert to introduce your organization to ways expand their awareness.
Step 2: Guide employees in self-discovery.
Once you’ve developed greater external mindfulness, you can direct it internally to start to notice your abilities, emotions, interests, strengths, and triggers. These are all part of who we are but few know these about ourselves. Everything starts with you. You must know you to determine how to connect successfully in the relationships and situations of life.
To help your employees expand what they know of themselves, guide them through self-awareness activities that include assessments, reflection, interactions with others, launching questions, interviews, and feedback – all to expand what they know of themselves. Each of my clients completes a robust Inventory of Abilities, completed through the activities just mentioned, to help them see a more complete picture of themselves.
The Inventory of Abilities simply summarizes the observations employees have about themselves so they can develop a more accurate understanding of their abilities and challenge areas. Mindful leaders use this information about themselves to know how to manage their strengths and amp up their liabilities, to be better at answering this question, “Who do I need to be in this moment to get the results I need?” Having a robust understanding of yourself enables you to make wiser performance decisions.
Step 3: Start an organizational initiative to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the potential and capabilities of each employee.
As employees are guided to complete their Inventory of Abilities, ensure that management is aware of the details in their Inventory of Abilities, whether or not the abilities are actively used in their roles. Ensure that all managers have an Inventory of Abilities discussion with each employee; include it with a conversation about the changing needs of the workplace and the places for employee development. Share the completed Inventory of Abilities with HR/Talent Management and work on creating a comprehensive list of the organization’s strengths and skills. Update it regularly as employees discover additional information about themselves (self-awareness is not a one-time event). There’s a very important reason to create this internal resource: review it before you do any external hiring.
Employees are the greatest asset in most organizations, yet the working world has undervalued this asset by not knowing its full performance potential. When we undervalue this asset, we then under employ it, limiting the opportunities both for employees and the organization.
Know what your organization is capable of by knowing what your employees are capable of. They may have been hired to do A, but they are capable of B, C, D, E, and F. But employees can’t rally if they don’t know their full range of abilities, or if they’re not given the opportunity to use them. Help them discover a more expansive version of themselves and help them see how this prepares them for greater connection to the organization and to advance its and their success.
The Potential Future of your Organization
Sure, you may need to hire externally for some future roles. But, with a clear understanding of the capabilities of each employee, you can more wisely tap into your internal resources, and ensure you know exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate to fill a specific role, before you expand your search to include external options.
Mindful leaders take the time to understand themselves; this is the most effective way to ensure they can always perform at their best. Make it an intention to guide others to expand their self-awareness, and to share what they discover about themselves, to help them perform at their best, as well. Not only does this help the organization in a constantly changing world, but it gives employees the information they need to improve their lives in and out of the workplace.
As President and Founder of The Forte Factor and certified executive coach, Jay Forte speaks to thousands of CEOs and Talent Management / HR professionals each year, introducing them to practical approaches to hiring, engaging, managing, developing and leveraging talent. He helps organizations build high-performing teams through his coaching, educating, and consulting. He is the author of The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform the World. You can learn more about him and his services at www.thefortefactor.com.
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