In his recent book The 8th Habit, Stephen Covey defines an organization as "a group of individuals who have a relationship and a shared purpose".
While this is a relatively simple definition, it contains within it much wisdom. It cuts through the weeds (often represented by company competency lists) to what is foundational to all companies. In effect, companies are about, 1) people networks and connection, and 2) promoting a common purpose.
So what does this mean for you? As an employee, this gives clarity as you strive to deliver as much value as possible to your company. And as you build a strong personal brand. The 4-Bridge approach provides a useful framework to put this into action.
People networks are all about connection - the building of bridges between individuals. Defining these bridge types provide you with a means of assessing your effectiveness in networking. It also guides you on how to use these networks effectively. This second point is critical. Networks can work against you in a company if you are not using them to promote what the company stands for, i.e.. its values and purpose.
Building and optimally leveraging strong bridges is a potent means of showcasing your value. It will also contribute to an enhanced sense of fulfillment as your engagement level grows as well as your success.
1. Business Bridges
Regardless of your role in your organization, you have customers. Whether these are external or internal, the ability to create win-win solutions is a sure way of showing your worth. Effective business bridges-builders strive to find common ground at all times. They employ resilience and perseverance to bring to bear the required resources to meet another's needs. They also never lose sight of the bigger picture. Strong relationships upon which business are built take time. Business bridge-builders understand that the giving of one's time, effort and resources in the short-term often leads to significant longer-term gain.
Business bridge-builders are well known in organizations. They are the ones who are the top drivers of results. As importantly, they network tirelessly beyond their immediate team, creating a wealth of allies they can turn to when the business requires it.
2. Team Bridges
In my years of managing teams, I have observed that the most effective ones are those in which bridges between its members are well-fortified. Often times, these effective team cultures exist because leaders emerge within them that proactively work to create a foundation of trust. Through their everyday actions, they model the essential aspects of teamwork. These include: open and honest communication, creating opportunities for connection, development of and adherence to team norms, recognition of individual and team successes, authentic caring of others, etc.
Team bridge-builders understand that conflict is bound to occur in a team. As such, they work tirelessly to create an environment in which the seeds of conflict are recognized and steps taken to address them before they take root.
While building bridges throughout the organization is critical, the most important ones exist in your own backyard. Within your immediate team. Team bridge-builders are worth their weight in gold to an organization because successful companies are built on the back of successful teams. It is also these people that companies look to when selecting future corporate leaders.
3. Cultural Bridges
Employees adept at building cultural bridges within an organization form the matrix of organizational culture. They are the organizational cultural ambassadors. It is for this reason that companies place high value on them. Cultural bridge-builders...
-Develop and maintain a wide-ranging network of internal connections.
-Leverage these connections not only for personal benefit, but also understand the power of these networks to benefit the company as a whole.
-Use their networks to convey positivity in times of change and uncertainty and offer others moral support during these times. As a result, cultural bridge-builders are also effective change agents.
-Refuse to engage in rumour spreading (which so often powers the corporate grapevine).
-Model company values at all times.
Assessing your current behaviours against this list will give you an idea of where you stand. With this awareness, you can then take action to develop yourself as a cultural bridge builder in your own organization and grow your influence and corporate presence at the same time.
4. Personal Bridges
Personal bridge-builders practice introspection and value self-learning and ongoing development. Employees who are strong in this area have the ability to self assess and to highlight areas in the their current state that they wish to develop. They are also able to visualize a preferred future state to which they aspire. This could include such things as improvements in a certain skill, learning new skills, taking on a new challenge, etc.
In building bridges between current and future states, these people exhibit high levels of motivation, learning capacity, and "coachability". For this reason, this bridge-building ability underpins all others. One's desire to learn through introspection makes them most likely to develop in the other three core bridge-building areas.
For the reasons noted, companies place high value on employees who demonstrate these 4 bridge-building abilities. Taking the time to regularly self-assess relative to these four areas, and developing and practicing these, are proven ways to enhance success and fulfillment in your career.