As a leader and manager today, you must have read at least one article telling you how important it is to be emotionally intelligent and self-aware. In recent times this has been taken a step further and we are now required to be “organisationally aware” too! Before you run and hide under your desk, let me tell you that developing organisational awareness may not be as challenging as it sounds.
Firstly, let’s look at what organisational awareness is. Organisational awareness is the ability to see and understand the different aspects of the organisation including the day-to-day workings, structure, and culture of the organisation as well as the understanding of the political, social, and economic issues affecting the organisation. It is the knowledge of who makes the real decisions, which individuals are the influencers, and who are potential allies.
Smart leaders develop insight into the workings of their organisation through deliberate curiosity and the development of cross functional relationships, to ensure strategies and operational requirements are considered from a whole organisation perspective.
A sound understanding of organisational awareness is the most important factor in managing proactive change in an organisation. It helps to improve staffing decisions, team building, strategy, communication, and leadership effectiveness, which in turn can result in an increase in revenue and profitability.
A leader with organisational awareness can see what and where attention is being placed within the organisation by its people. Understanding this can lead to an increase in the level at which attention is paid, the information retained and understood, and the strategic decisions made about how best to respond.
One of the challenges facing us today, and which we need to be extra aware of, are our aging workforce and the inevitable competency shortage which may result. It is anticipated that large numbers of senior managers will be retiring in the coming years and into their retirement they take with them their skills as well as their intrinsic knowledge of their organisations.
As more organisations adopt change to meet social, economic and political needs, it is imperative that leaders can facilitate change successfully. Effective change occurs when the person initiating it has a sound understanding of the organisation and everything within it. Research tells us that the sophisticated use of organisational awareness by leaders leads to more successful restructuring. When people are redeployed through change, power dynamics shift, and conflict can arise, so an organisationally aware leader will know who is likely to resist and how to exercise a multi-step process of involving others to truly embed change into the organisation.
Start by being aware of the changing political, social and cultural environment in which your organisation operates. Awareness can be achieved through developing your internal and external networks, so you are keeping abreast of significant changes in the organisational environment; however, you are then charged with ensuring that such considerations are reflected in strategic, operational and human capital decisions.
Well-focused leaders will operate competently on three levels, namely:
People put their focus on what has meaning, and so leaders can direct attention by the goals and mission they articulate. The best leaders display their organisational awareness by capturing and directing the collective energy of their people toward the strategic goals that matter most.