We need to feel like we matter. Movements throughout history have proven that this idea is universal to all human beings. More than feeling like we matter, we want to feel like we’re contributing. We want our specific skills, talents, and insights to be valued and utilized. We want to have a sense of agency in the work we do. We want to be architects.

If you have formal authority, you can experience this sense of value and agency. It’s up to you to ensure that this need is both acknowledged and addressed for your organization members. But how does agency support a mission? How does valuing people help your further develop your organization? Valuing people means creating opportunities for them to assert their competence. Asserting competence means leading your organization toward a better chance of successfully fulfilling your mission. Those closest to the action are more likely to have a better understanding of what is needed and will increase their loyalty to your project and company if invited to participate as architects rather than mere executors.

More than feeling like we matter, we want to feel like we’re contributing.

If you want to be successful, increase your bottom line, reach important mission goals, and to create a sustainable, healthy culture, you need to build a culture of architects.

How to build a culture of architects
To build a culture of architects, you’ll need:

1.  Participation
A healthy, successful organization not only invites participation in decision-making on all levels but also actively works to ensure that participation occurs. Participation can happen through weekly meetings, collaborative online documents, and democratized media threads, for example. The key is to create regular structures for participative decision making that guarantee that this is “the way we do business here.” However, meetings are only useful when there is a commitment to allowing all topics to be discussed.

2.  Open communication
Both verbal and written communication should be open as often as possible to encourage trust. By encouraging open communication, leaders can make it easy for people to surface difficult issues. Without open communication, misunderstandings may arise, undermining trust and losing an opportunity for exchanging ideas and creating innovative solutions.

3.  Shared responsibility
Most leadership researchers point out that the best leaders grow other leaders. The best leaders actively transfer authority and power to others. They know the organization rises and falls not on the power of charismatic individuals but on sustainable, mission-driven values and skills passed on to others.
By sharing leadership, we share responsibility. And most welcome it. It feels good to exercise all of our strengths and skills for the benefit of the organization’s mission. In this kind of culture, there is a real sense that the whole organization belongs to everyone in it. Shared responsibility can have an amazing impact on motivation and purpose.

This post is part 1 in a three-part series about creating a workplace that is more likely to yield the best results for your mission. Step 2 is “How to design a healthy work environment.” Step 3 is “How to promote genuine cooperation.”

The key to successful organizations is the intentional creation of structures and norms that bring out the best in people – their highest capacity for empathy and appreciation for others’ experiences and perspectives. Any style of leadership that excludes this capacity will be ineffective at best and destructive at worst. Support Your Mission puts forth the Three Supports model for guiding leaders toward creating a workplace that is more likely to yield the best results for their missions. “If you want your project, organization, community, or group endeavor to succeed, you have to believe in and care about people. In every way possible, you have to create opportunities to build a sense of agency in those you are working with (or who are working for you),” says the website. Simply put: empathy for workers impacts the bottom line. The goal is to organize ideas and patterns in a way that is easy for others to recognize. Patterns must be repeated enough to be reliable and predictable in determining the way forward.


About the Author Steven James Lawrence

Steven James Lawrence is an educator, organizational consultant, and writer who divides his time between the North Shore and Boston, Massachusetts. Much of Lawrence's training in professional communication, organizational psychology, and workplace health was received at the University of Massachusetts, Boston as part of the Masters Degree program, Learning, Teaching and Educational Transformation.

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