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Dealing with the Failure Within an Organization

Think of this scenario. Competition is not the issue. There is need for what you offer. You have made efforts to increase options for your clients. However, you still can?t get your clients/customers to stick with you. They come, pay for your products/services for a while and then they are gone.

This unfortunate scenario occurs in many organizations. It is a dilemma facing many leaders. They can identify the problem but not the cause, therefore increasing the chance of wasting energy, time, and resources developing strategies that may never address the problem.

This reminds me of a Swalihi literature book, "Kikulacho ki Nguoni Mwako" that I read in my sophomore class, meaning, "What is biting you is in your clothes." This highlights the importance of addressing the problem within instead of devoting resources to deal with external symptoms.

I heard a newly hired president of one of the western states universities talk about his frustrations with the high dropout numbers for both traditional and non-traditional students. The students, he said, were motivated and lacked the pride of belonging.

He then proudly talked of his initiative to solve the problem--conduct a survey. Ask students why they are not motivated and why they may consider leaving the university?

The problem, however, was not the students. The situation at the university was not new to me. Some of my postgraduate schoolmates teach there. They didn?t like being there. Most professors didn?t feel they had a future with the institution. Their input was not sought in matters concerning short and long-term programs of the institution. Communications between departments was non-existence. A close friend had been actively sending resuming to other schools for five years.

Some of the adjunct faculty members complained about how they felt unappreciated. Most were not teaching because they needed extra money. They are achievers who want to challenge themselves, remain fresh in their professions and be involved in their community?s highest institution of learning. The administration made zero or minimum efforts to keep these unpaid professionals knowing the vision of the school and how they could help make it a reality.

As the president unveiled his initiative, I wished he would have started by addressing the failure within. Customers/clients will not be enthusiastic when served by employees who dislike their jobs, dislike where they work, and don?t care for who they work with or for. There must be a reason for motivation. When customers hear negatives things said by the people at the workplace, they (customers) have no desire to be part of that place.

Contrast this with the College of Southern Idaho where I was a featured keynote speaker for the faculty before the 2004-2005 school year started. The president mingled with faculty members as they entered the room. When it was his turn to give a speech, he talked and congratulated faculty members who had babies over the summer break.
This president knew the families of some of the faculty members. He mentioned several high school students with outstanding academic and athletic performances, the scholarships they received and where they were to attend college.

He paid special attention to the professors and staff members who were involved in community programs on a volunteer basis. Faculty members who had published their works and/or given presentations at academic conferences were recognized.

That faculty-appreciation and recognition part of his speech was about thirty minutes. This was followed by an input on what the administration was focusing on to improve things for the faculty, staff, and students at the college. He highlighted few foreseeable challenges but also offered strategies that may lessen the stress brought by the challenges.

In my speech, I acknowledged the relaxed mood portrayed by the faculty and the president?s astonishing knowledge that families are more important, for his faculty members, than their jobs. After I was done, a professor came and said, "Vincent, when I came for my interview five years ago, I sensed that relaxed mood and I saw the support teachers received here. I didn?t care for the several thousands dollars reduction in my pay. I just wanted a great environment to work in--this is it."

College of Southern Idaho students also show with their pride that they belong and their motivation is evident.

The best advertisement for any organization is the genuine enthusiasm portrayed by employees. That enthusiasm is a byproduct of how employees feel valued, how they perceive their input is appreciated and how much fun they have doing what they do.

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