Every organization faces threats to its existence and future health. While leaders are often aware of external threats, such as changes in the environment, competition, or advances in technology, they often spend less time considering the internal threats that exist within their own organization. In many cases, internal threats are equally or more dangerous than external threats.Lack of clarity
Few threats are more dangerous than a lack of organizational clarity. Diffusion of focus means that different leaders within the organization will choose their own focus leading to multiple agendas and the resulting silos within the organization. This is a serious threat because it divides the organization from within. Many well-meaning but disparate agendas cannot substitute for a clearly articulated vision, mission, common guiding principles, and clearly delineated culture. Lack of clarity creates a dangerous diffusion of energy, focus, and strategy.
Every organization has a culture, a DNA. Unfortunately, many, actually have have multiple cultures, which means they don't really have a single, unified culture. This is not only confusing to staff, but differing cultures will bring with them division and conflict within the organization. Ironically, it is something that we can control and create if we choose to. Culture does not happen by accident. It must be intentionally created to be meaningful. And it must be emphasized and lived out on a daily basis, with leaders setting the tone and the pace.
In many business and ministry settings, we overlook behaviors that are toxic to the health of the organization. Either we don't want to lose the person (in spite of their behavior), don't want to deal with it (conflict avoidance), or just become used to behaviors that are destructive to others and the organization, but this corrodes trust, hurts others, and creates cynicism. When we overlook unhealthy behaviors, we allow those behaviors to sabotage the organization, and we send a message that such behaviors are OK. Overlooked behaviors sabotage healthy culture.
Lack of a leadership bench
This one is very dangerous. The test of great leadership is not what happens when we are leading but when we leave because it reveals what we did or did not leave behind. The most important thing we can gift the organization with is the next generation of leaders. Not only is it dangerous to ignore the development of future leaders, but it is selfish because someone will inherit what we leave behind.
Inadequate focus on real results
All organizations are busy with a great deal of activity. The question, though, is not whether we have activity but whether we have results based on our clarity (see above). Most organizations, especially in the not-for-profit space, assume the results are good but do not have a realistic mechanism for ensuring that they actually are. Remember, activity does not equal results. It may just equal activity. Accountability for results must be built into the rhythm of every staff member and team.
Poor staff development
Every organization says that its people are its most important asset, but many do little in the way of coaching, mentoring, and developing their staff. To not place significant and intentional emphasis on what truly is your most important asset is to rob your staff of becoming all they could become and to shortchange the impact of your organization. Organizations are only as good as the people they have, and the key to better organizations is the ongoing development of staff. When this is not a priority, it speaks poorly to the culture and the future of the organization.
Lack of focus on healthy teams
Organizations are made up of groups, and those groups are either healthy teams or dysfunctional teams. Aligned, results-oriented healthy teams working synergistically together under good leadership are the building blocks of a healthy and productive organization. Unless there is health at the team level, there will not be health at the organizational level.
The good news about internal threats to our success is that we can do something significant about them. We cannot control external threats but we can contain internal threats.