Organizational Consciousness: Top Down and Inside Out

An Underlying and Unifying Force

Consciousness is ubiquitous; it’s a part of every aspect of life. It is an intangible force that has been a mystery to the human race and is now being actively studied by scientists. In the context of an organization, it is the living energy that defines the collective of the group of people in that organization.   Culture, values, and branding all feed into this concept, but what is important is the individual’s ability to embrace and respond to the organization’s consciousness – or what I like to think of as its “soul.”   Public companies, private companies, non-profits, and nations all have organizational consciousness.  For over 30 years, I have been challenged to evolve the soul of my company and lead Hollister Staffing with its soul as my compass.

An Enlightened Leadership Mandate

Leaders have to drive this effort. First, they have to understand their own presence (see my previous article) and incorporate the listening, learning, and leading skills that clearly communicate the principles and energy of the organization. The perpetuation of this energy is transformative. Once the organization’s consciousness is identified and clarified, it plays a major role in attracting the right personalities and effectively aligns the organization. Leaders that tap into this energy experience a flow that takes their team to a new level of productivity.

One of my favorite authors/speakers on organizational development is Simon Sinek. He enhances the discussion by proposing that a leader’s main role is to create trust in their organization, as well as a safe zone. By creating a safe work environment, the team is willing to put others first, make sacrifices, be in service to each other, and make thoughtful decisions. Trust is a key ingredient in organizational consciousness. His TED Talk on this topic, which I highly recommend, can be found here.

Leaders must make space and time in their day to focus proactively on this dimension of leadership. It cannot be delegated, but it can be emulated. In each and every discussion or action, we have to set the tone and model behavior that aligns with our organizational consciousness.

Challenging “Pop” Company Culture

Much of today’s discussion on organizational development is around creating a company culture (a term that refers to “behaviors” of a particular entity or nation). Trends in company culture appeal to the changing demographics of workers in a historically low unemployment climate. I am purposefully avoiding falling into the trap of Fun Fridays and on-site spa services. The list is endless for today’s perks that are tangible but easy to duplicate from one company to the next.

Consciousness, on the other hand, cannot be easily mimicked. It’s a “state of being awake,” or in this context, being aware of one’s human connections and how one fits into the said group. It happens over time. By way of a parallel, compare “networking” to “relationship building” – networking could be a one-time exchange of business cards or a ping on social media, but relationships require a lifetime commitment. I would argue that in good times and bad, these deeper connections present a more sustainable formula for a fulfilled professional experience and potentially longer-term commitment to the organization.

Creating and maintaining organizational consciousness is hard work. It requires 1:1 coaching and mentoring. More specifically, it involves breaking down an employee’s pattern of thinking, getting at who they are as a human being, and helping them remove the “armor” they wore when they arrived on the job. We have to provide feedback, encourage their feedback, and ensure that their voice matters.  We have to find ways to unblock individuals who are stuck. Embedding this behavior in every leader is a full-time commitment.

Testing our Resolve

As they say, this sounds good on paper – but I have many real-world situations that have reinforced my philosophy. One of note involved a very large brand we worked hard to win as a client. After onboarding, despite hard work and overtime, the team was failing. One employee was having a particularly difficult time on the account. Upon deep investigation, we discovered the root of the problem: a philosophical difference in the way we each operated as entities. Despite our admiration for the client, we had to respect that our employee was reflecting our values and that the lack of alignment was an organizational challenge that would impact many people in the long run.

At Hollister, relationships come before transactions – but this is not always the case in certain competitive industries or companies. We dug deep and decided to let the client go, not the employee. The values, organizational consciousness, and culture of our two organizations were not aligned; for us, it was not just about the money. We let go with grace and no judgment and learned an important lesson in the process.

The positive effects of doing this consistently grow over time. It provides a clear path, forward momentum, and renewed energy to the team. Organizational consciousness acts like a rudder that keeps the vessel on course, powering the future of work in ways that you could not have imagined.

At the Hollister Institute, we provide a platform for leaders to master the skills needed to create this type of healthy environment. You can explore these ideas further and develop a path to personal and professional growth in one of several Hollister Institute workshops, including Unlocking the Mind, Effective Communication, and more.