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How do you measure success? Is it money? Is it fame or influence is it the ability to do what ever you want or is it something else? I'd like to argue that it is none of these, you may end up with one or all of these things of course, but is that really the way to think about it? When you think about family, friends, you think if the many memories and experiences you have with them, when you think about your best, or worst boss, it's about the experience and how you felt about them and how they helped you, or not. If you think about an organisation you have worked with or dealt with, I'm sure it's similar. So surely success then is about leaving a positive impact? It's about that you leave behind. So, what if you approached things thinking about how you would ensure that what you leave behind is a positive result, what would that be like?
When we think about our family, our children, what we hope to leave behind is well adjusted adults who are a positive influence on the world around them. If we help them understand right from wrong, if we teach them to tolerance for others and expose them to a range cultures so they truly understand them, we hope that they become world citizens and understand their responsibility to help make it a better place. We perhaps make decisions based on how things will potentially impact them in the future, these investments may be as simple as a savings account you start when they are born hoping there is enough for college so they don't leave with dept to the decisions you take on critical causes like environmental issues so perhaps you choose an EV because don't want to contribute to pollution and so you hope to leave behind a better environment.
As someone responsible for running a team of people you have the option to drive them and work with them purely to help you advance or you can support them and grow them to help them advance, the 2nd is most certainly a leader and I've worked for both types. When I think about them, I know the impacts both have had and what each left behind. The one who was only out for themselves left behind a group of individuals who constantly had to watch their backs and second guess what was really going on, no one was developed or knew what team work was, we would go out of the way to avoid this boss. The 2nd boss, his focus was on 1 thing, how can he build better people and build those better people into a team, everything he did was geared to that, he coached, he listened, like a parent he let us fail and then helped us understand we had the options to change and helped us learn there too. He had a vision that gave us direction and drove us on, as a team where we supported each other and would literally walk over hot coals for each other. What he left behind when he left was a mountain of positive stuff, he left behind a high functioning team, he left behind a range of people capable of stepping up into his role and ultimately his successor was from our team, he left behind a shared purpose and a sense of what the team was about, a high level of mutual accountability, joy and laughter. What he left behind was better than what he started with.
An organisation can focus on generating returns for shareholders above all else, drive as hard as they can for that one thing, ultimately what they leave behind is nothing. There are of course short-term gains, dividends for shareholders which they may or may not invest in something worth while and long term but if those dividends are only short term then how much can you invest and help others. I worked for at the time the worlds largest contract electronics company, their focus was 40% growth in sales year on year, no matter what, they no longer exist, like so many organisations with this view, the markets changed and they couldn't and were broken up and sold to competitors. Their only legacy really was what not to do.On the other hand, like the family and leader examples an organisation, or the custodians of the organisation, can look ahead 100 years and ask, how do we want to be remembered, what do we want to leave behind as a legacy for others. They can decide that they don't want to cause environmental harm, they don't want to ever intentionally or unintentionally hurt their people, they want to help others grow and understand each other, they want to be a positive impact on the everything they do. So, if that's the thinking then what must the organisations custodians do? What must be put in place to ensure this is what they leave behind? That the organisation will be remembered for positives and for highlighting and fixing their own negatives along the way?
In all the cases above it's about making a conscious decision about what you want to leave behind, what will people feel about you when you are no longer there. That conscious decision stems from your own or the organisation's values and the desire to be a positive impact. If you start from the point of view that when a historian looks back at the last 10 years or 100 years will you or the organisation be remembered fondly for the good that you did? Will people tell others of the support you gave them, of the priority you made to help build them up, give them the tools to succeed. As an organisation will they highlight how much you did to improve conditions for your teams, for your suppliers, the environment, the plant or will you be remembered for being an organisation of short-term thinking with a limited existence so left nothing other than debts and things to be cleaned up?
When they ask what you left behind, what do you want the answer to be? Was it a success story?
If you need any support in developing or improving a vision of what you want to leave behind then click here to make an appointment and find out how we can help you Make Things, Better
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