Are You Running a Congruent Business?
In a congruent business, work is more flowing and also more satisfying for everyone. But sometimes we need to overcome our blind spots to get things right.
When I asked a very smart friend of mine to review the draft manuscript of my first book, his first response was rather unexpected. In one section of the manuscript, I mentioned the importance of creating a congruent work environment. My friend thought that this concept was probably too advanced for the average reader to get their head around. I disagreed, perhaps naively. But I always trust the intelligence of my audience, so I decided to keep that section in the book.
Nonetheless, my friend had a point. Congruency in business is rarely discussed. And even though any business owner you talk to is convinced that they do the right thing, the reality is very different. In my experience, a congruent business is as rare as hens’ teeth.
In fact, one of my well-connected allies, who is not a cynical person, actually laughed out loud when I asked her to introduce me to a congruent organisation. Perhaps I asked too much?
What does a congruent business look like?
It’s hard to tell. In a congruent business nothing really sticks out. Everything works seamlessly, so you’re able to focus on doing meaningful work.
However, the absence of congruence is clearly visible.
Let me illustrate this with three stories.
These examples are from the world of workplace consulting, where I spend most of my time. But there’s no shortage of similar examples in other types of business.
Envision a business with the words ‘collaboration and transparency’ written all over its mission statement and culture code. When the time came to upgrade their office space, leaders made careful plans to ensure that the new environment would support these core values. However, during the workplace change process, employees had little opportunity to have a say. Most information about the upcoming changes was kept confidential, and communication with employees was mostly one-directional.
Why did this happen? It seems that the ‘rules’ that applied in certain areas of the business didn’t apply in others.
Picture a team leader who is an expert in creating inclusive workplaces, and even shares her knowledge on this subject in the media. She believes that everyone in a team should have an equal chance to be heard and acknowledged. In her own practice, this person spoke much more frequently with a tight inner circle than with the rest of the team. When disagreements arose within the team, she only heard one side of the story and rarely sought out the other side.
Why did she do this? It seems that the ‘rules’ that applied to her clients didn’t apply in her own team.
As a third example, here is a consulting firm which understands the nature of building work relationships, as well as the limitations of digital communication technologies. A situation arose when decision makers needed to assess the personality and character of a potential partner they had never spoken with. They decided to do this over a brief phone call so that they wouldn’t need to deal with the challenges of setting up a video-conference. The quality of the phone line turned out to be poor, but they proceeded anyway.
It seems that the ‘rules’ they were fully aware of didn’t apply to them when it was just ‘too much effort’ to get things right.
I’m sure you can think of your own stories. They are abundant.
Why is this bad news?
This kind of behaviour feeds conflict and mistrust. It alienates people and creates unnecessary friction within teams. What’s more, it can damage the brand and credibility of the business.
It can be uncomfortable to stand up against incongruent actions or practices, so these issues often remain the elephant in the room.
You experience more problems, and projects fail more frequently. In fact, in each of these three stories, the results were less than ideal. The workplace change project didn’t fully deliver the expected outcomes. The team with the inner circle had recurring unresolved conflicts and collaboration issues. And the phone meeting turned out to be a waste of time for all involved.
I struggle to find a convincing explanation of why these issues are so common. I trust that the culprits in these stories are all intelligent and well-meaning people who want to do their best. But they clearly have some blind spots.
So how do you run a congruent business?
It, of course, starts with living up to your values. Practising what you preach. Walking the talk. I’m sure you do all this already.
But you need to do what you know is the right thing in a variety of situations and contexts, not only when it’s obvious, easy and convenient.
Try following the same rules, values and principles in all areas of your business, including your business development and product / service delivery. Be your own best client whenever possible.
Yes, this will sometimes take time and effort. And if it doesn’t seem worth that investment, you might want to ask yourself: ‘Is this idea or advice good enough to offer to my clients?’
Acknowledge that you too might have some blind spots. Find some people who care about you enough to give you honest feedback, and ask them to call you out when they see you doing or saying something incongruent.
Here are the rewards
Running your business more congruently ultimately makes everything easier and more flowing. Your brand becomes more attractive, and clients have a better experience of working with you.
Your team solves problems better, and your projects have a greater chance to succeed. You may also find it easier to sleep at night.
Thankfully, we can see several inspiring examples:
- One of Melbourne’s leading innovation consultancies operates in an office which has been designed – using scientific evidence – to support creative thinking and innovation.
- A global construction engineering and design firm, which prides itself in its pioneering approach to problem solving and design, has recently created a workplace for its Melbourne team, which is indeed groundbreaking.
- And finally, a different kind of example. My naturopath, who practices and teaches natural and gentle healing methods is natural and gentle in every aspect of her communication.
2020 should be a great year to make your business more congruent.
And when I ask my ally again who previously laughed at the idea of finding a congruent business, I’d love to hear her say the name of yours
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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