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Growing your organisational health

Mergon Foundation’s Operations Manager, Werner Momberg, speaks to us on the critical role that strategy plays in nurturing healthy organisations and teams. In this overview of an Elevate podcast, takes us through some of the thinking that has shaped our understanding of organisational health and the tools we’re currently developing at Mergon to promote it. With extensive experience in international missions and leadership, Werner brings an expertise to the table as well as a clear perspective on what’s needed to assess and strengthen the health of your organisation.

Growing your organisational health

The energy of impact

God is most glorified when leaders and leadership teams point the energy of their people outwards, towards that which God has called them to do. If an organisation isn’t fully healthy, or if a leader is ill equipped for the task, the energy is conversely drawn inward and prevents the organisation from achieving its intended impact on the ground.

How do we ensure that we’re using our energy most effectively and releasing it towards the mission?

Werner says we focus on developing our organisation’s strategy – one that captures both the granular and bird’s eye view perspective of our organisational health.

To gain this kind of comprehensive perspective, however, doesn’t happen accidentally. It steadily unfolds, as the organisation and leader mature with time. Particularly when an organisation is just starting out, the leader may bring to the table nothing other than passion and commitment to the calling. With time, the organisation can grow, along with the complexities of stewarding that growth. As a result it starts to function like a machine or vehicle that needs constant service and maintenance. Without knowing, the leader’s focus shifts; their primary energy is given to keeping the vehicle moving forward rather than assessing its pulse and scope of impact.

Organisations are like jet engines

So how do we anticipate mission creep and ensure our leadership can grow in pace with our organisations? William Meehan and Kim Jonker’s book, The Engine of Impact, offers us some clues.

In the book the authors identify seven components of strategic leadership that they believe are essential to nurturing high impact organisations: mission, strategy, impact evaluation, insight and courage, organisation and talent, funding, and board governance.  Together, these components form an ‘engine of impact’—a system that leaders must build, tune, and fuel if they hope to make a real difference in the world.

Werner draws from the jet analogy to highlight some aspects of these essential components. ‘The airflow into the engine is essentially its life,’ he explains. An organisation’s mission is much the same. It generates meaning and vision, which mobilises life. Strategy is what comes out on the other side of the engine – compressed, like oxygen, and transferred into energy that fuels the mission forward.

Jets are obviously required to insert the fuel into the engine. This ‘fuel’ refers to your financial inflow, talent (your human resources or your team) and board of governance. Thrust indicators offer a dashboard to monitor your engine’s status – much like the tools and resources we use for impact evaluation. Lastly, turbines can be likened to the leader and teams who, through courageous leadership and vision setting, ensure the organisation is continually ‘thrust’ into its mission with measurable and growing impact.

How perception plays a role

Adding to this rich analogy, Werner suggests yet one vital component is still unaccounted for: seeing the organisation’s health through the lens of perception*. You can have all the parts of your engine firing, he argues, but if the perception of the team is negative or unhealthy, the organisation will struggle to have meaningful, sustained impact.

Perception has the ability to touch every aspect of your organisation – and yet it can often go undetected. Take money, for example. Werner says, if there is a perception that the organisation does not have enough funding to do the work, the team cannot naturally nurture a culture of innovation. They will feel demotivated to think outside the box or experiment with new ideas, because they will have adopted a scarcity mentality that squelches courage and creativity.

How then can we acknowledge and measure the critical role that perception plays in organisational health?

Introducing the OSP

The Mergon Foundation has developed an organisational self-perception (OSP) scan which identifies 11 dimensions of organisational health. Over time, Werner and the Foundation team have been working through the OSP scan with a number of different ministry leaders to help them determine and evaluate the health of their organisations.

Leaders need not feel they have to be proficient in all 11 dimensions. Few leaders are excelling in every area of their organisation, Werner reminds us. The most important thing is to be willing to learn and grow and engage with your teams on these various aspects of organisational health.

‘The most important responsibility of a leader is to lead people,’ Werner concludes , ‘and to see them do well and release energy towards the mission. To achieve that, it’s not about giving tasks but working alongside others to help them make a positive contribution towards a calling.’ The OSP is a practical and valuable tool to help you do just that.

To learn more about organisational health and how your organisation can benefit from the OSP, listen to the full podcast here.

The Elevate Leadership podcast series is also available on all other major podcasting platforms such as Apple, Google, Overcast and YouTube.

* Read more about the the role of perception in organisational health here: ‘Understanding and evaluating perception: the key to unlocking organisational health

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