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What’s Keeping You Up at Night? Very often it is a symptom of something else…


Debra Thompson

As strategic planning and organizational development consultants, my colleagues and I talk often with  CEOs and senior leaders about the issues, problems, and challenges that they lose sleep over. Today, the most frequent answers to the “What is keeping us up at night?” question include:

  • Staff recruitment – where can we find people to work?

  • Staff retention – how do we keep our best people?

  • Burnout – how do we ensure that it doesn’t happen to us or deal with it now that we are feeling it?

  • Supply chain and economic uncertainty – how do we ensure sustainability in a volatile world?

Most agree that two years of managing a pandemic has taken its toll. And while the pandemic

may be waning, chaos and complexity are at an all-time high and getting worse. And while many of us worry about the latest thing that is screaming at us, we often fail to be mindful enough to address the underlying “root causes” of the things that continue to plague us.

Paul Connolly, author of the book Navigating the Organizational Lifecycle describes “organizational maturity” as having the appropriate leadership, management, technical and adaptive capacity in place to ensure sustainability. When something goes awry or the organization feels “stuck” (continuing to do what you have always done and expecting a different result), it is generally because one or more of the capacities are lacking and THAT is causing the problem.

For example, many CEOs and leadership teams fail to recognize that their recruitment problems likely stem from a combination of several sources: Lack of corporate culture that results in the type of place that people want to work. This is a function of leadership capacity (creating the vision and “walking the talk”) but also includes technical capacity (strategic human resources skills to build talent management systems to recruit and support the right people). It also relates to adaptive capacity in that the current compensation and benefits structure may not be adequate in today’s world. While my HR colleagues discourage companies to get into “bidding wars” with wages, they acknowledge that compensation adjustments may need to be made to attract and retain appropriate talent. The best thing that we can do as leaders is to be mindful of these underlying capacities and determine the best “leverage points” for change. 

These include:

  • Leadership capacity – The ability of leadership and staff to inspire, prioritize, make

  • decisions, provide direction, and innovate.

  • Adaptive capacity - The ability to monitor, assess, respond to and stimulate internal and external changes

  • Management capacity - Ensure the effective and efficient use of organizational resources

  • Technical capacity - The ability to implement all of the key organizational functions and deliver products and services.

More often than not, it is the lack of technical capacity, particularly within the disciplines that support other capacities that organizations most often struggle with. For example, it is difficult in today’s world to have strong leadership capacity without strong Human Resources technical skills. It is difficult to have good adaptive capacity without good listening, market research, and planning skills. The best thing that leaders can do is take a step back and do an organizational assessment to determine the “root cause” of the issues and challenges you are facing and build the appropriate capacity to grow and thrive. If this is something that you struggle with, give us a call for a free consultation. 

We can help you identify gaps and invest in the appropriate capacity to support sustainability.

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