Organizational Self-Image

Feb 26, 1996

Everything you read on psychology tells you that we, as individuals, should each have a healthy self-image. It’s only common sense. Without a healthy self-image, we won’t live up to our career potential; we won’t have good interpersonal relationships with our family, friends, and co-workers; and we’ll probably have other mental and physical problems to boot. So we all understand self-image is important to people, but what about organizations? Does an organization need to think well of itself to be successful? Guess what, folks: the answer is “yes”— and it especially applies to A/E/P and environmental firms! Here are some things you could do to boost your firm’s “organizational self-image”: Develop a vision for what the firm will be like at some point in the future and share it with everyone. A/E/P and environmental consulting firms all seem to be looking forward to the Year 2000 or 2001 in their vision statements, but there’s no reason it couldn’t just as easily be 1999, 2004, 2008. The important point is that somebody at the top has a clear idea of the type of company you are all working to build— in terms of its size, client mix, service capabilities, and other, less “tangible” qualities, too. To have a good self-image, organizations need to know where they want to end up. Have a good plan for accomplishing that vision and “sell” it to the staff. Once they have a vision, some companies stop and think that’s enough to rally the troops. It isn’t. You also need a good business plan that includes very clear goals, strategies, and action items, all of which will help make that vision a reality. And this plan has to be communicated— and sold— to the entire staff. To have a good self-image, organizations need to know how they will get where they want to go. Make sure the principals have the confidence to stay with the plan even if short-term results aren’t there immediately. I’m convinced that this is one way to separate the real professional practice entrepreneurs from the mere “wannabes”— how well they can remain focused on implementing the plan even if the short-term results are no different than they were before implementation started. Good things take time to accomplish, and no one, save Nostradamus perhaps, can predict the future with 100% accuracy. Moral number one: If you want your employees to have faith that you can lead them to the promised land, you cannot waiver! Moral number two: Make damn sure you have a good plan that you and everyone else can get behind from the start! A significant external public relations program that works. You have to get your firm’s name out there in the limelight if you want to have a healthy organizational self-image. Make it happen now by spending some time and energy on a numbers-driven PR program (one that has a high statistical probability of success due to the volume of activity that you are undertaking). There’s nothing like seeing your firm’s name in print— repeatedly— to boost staff morale. œ Have really great office facilities/workplaces. Organizations don’t feel good about themselves when their employees have to apologize for their facilities. The A/E and environmental consulting business has a lot of smart, creative people working in it. Why should they have to work in a second-class dump, which seems to be the model some firms have for how an office should look? Clean up, paint up, spruce up— or move, if necessary— to get a decent office environment for your organization. Surroundings are important to self-image, productivity, and morale. Create a sense of exclusivity. People feel proud to be part of an organization that has high standards to get in and stay in. The organization that lets anyone in and then covers for those people, tends to have employees who aren’t proud to say they work there. To have a healthy organizational self-image, you have to have proud employees. Revenue growth, staff growth, and profits. Ahh...the ultimate test (and reinforcer) of a good self-image. Face it, you can try to kid yourself all you want, but if you aren’t growing volume- and staff-wise, and you aren’t making any money, it will be hard to convince the rest of the company that you are good, and deserving of success. High growth and profitability also make it possible to provide your employees with the best possible compensation, something that contributes to their individual self-image and the firm’s collective self-image. Having the numbers to back up your claims of greatness are critical to organizational self-image. The bottom line on organizational self-image: It’s important to manage it. The company will have a good self-image if the people working there feel good about what they are doing now and about their future possibilities. Originally published 2/26/1996

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