What words do you think of when you hear the word Ecology? Nature? Water? Animals? Soil? Plants? Air? Ecology is not just one of these elements, it is rather the interconnection between all these elements. An ecological system is a brilliantly woven tapestry of thriving elements. It is a system that grows stronger by inter-connections.
Ecology is by its very nature is so big and comprehensive that it is almost impossible to define. Yet, ultimately, ecology is about three things: balance, strength and tightly woven interdependencies.
Ecology also reveals the secret to thriving organizations, teams and leaders. We can turn to hundreds of books on leadership and teams, journals and courses to unlock the secret to thriving employees and organizations. Or, we can turn to the most time tested systems in the world, our natural systems. Our ecological systems are the greatest teacher we have on how to create, support, and sustain balanced and strong organizational systems. I call this learning from ecological systems the Ecology of Strengths.
To begin to understand this concept, imagine, yourself standing on a beach at the moment when the tide is low. The sand and rocks of the inter-tidal zone are completely exposed. In the corners of tide pools you see starfish, mussels, fish, algae and shorebirds. There are dynamic connections between each animal, plant, rock and molecule of water. There is a scurrying about because time is critical, all the species must thrive before the waves return. For that brief moment of the “slack tide” you see how each element is filling its niche in the tidal zone. Each species knows what it must do to thrive.
The same can be said for organizations. When individuals are encouraged to thrive in their roles and connect with colleagues who are thriving then team performance soars. Leaders who are trained in how to weave together these unique talents and strengths build the most resilient, productive and energized teams.
In the book First Break All the Rules, Gallup reports on the interviews of over 80,000 managers and thousands of employees. They distilled the data and identified what makes individuals and organizations thrive. They discovered exactly what we see in strong ecological systems: each individual has a role, is clear about his/her role, everyone has what is needed to function at an optimal efficiency, and each person gets to spend some time doing what they do best every day. There is balance from the interconnections of individuals playing to their strengths. This creates a strong organizational ecology.
Learning from natural systems to inform organizational systems is what I call the “Ecology of Strengths”. In the coming weeks I will explore the concept of “Ecology of Strengths”. The topic will look at individual, team and organizational ecology.
For now, look up, look down, look around. Whether you live in the city, the mountains, on a lake, in the plains or on the coast. What can you learn from the ecological systems that surround you? Turn your eyes to a corner of a garden or any open space. What can you learn? I’d love to hear what you see and learn. How can this help you build an “Ecology of Strengths” in your organization.