While earning my MBA, I was able to sit down and interview Jan Torrisi-Mokwa for a research
paper. Jan held a special place at the Keeley Companies as one of our best, brightest, and most passionate leaders. She was an inspirational force in the world. Jan worked with Keeley Companies since 2006 as the Architect, Teacher, and Facilitator of our Strategic Planning Process.
In light of Jan’s recent passing, I thought it would be helpful to share these three key organizational challenges that she shared with me.
What are the key issues facing organizations in regard to Employer/Team Member relationships?
The biggest issue I see is finding mutuality. It is difficult to ‘find the win’ between the team members’ skills and the needs of the organization. One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Aristotle, says, "Where the needs of the world and your talents intersect, that’s where you find your vocation (or calling)." My passion is to help organizations understand this goal of mutuality, which is really easy to say but very difficult to practice.
Companies that operate under a shared set of values are stronger. By living those values and working hard, their people contribute to bigger and better things. Although the pace of growth is constantly increasing, that is how they thrive. But, it must be independent of any one individual. Interdependency is key. One of the improvements companies can employ is to gain career equity by explaining the culture and benefits of working on their team. Sometimes you have to scale back and build the infrastructure needed to support the growth and goals of tomorrow.
What is the impact of having a satisfied workforce?
That is easy, look at the results. Challenges can arise because of diversity among employee groups. Having different groups of people in different industries and with different backgrounds can be a strength, but an organization has to try to satisfy the group by implementing one type of organizational initiative. That is tough. I think that the results speak volumes. Growth and success with year-end results would not be possible if it was not for the people doing the work. At the end of the day, it’s the people that matter. Keeley Companies has a unique culture that employees want to be a part of, because they feel like they are part of something bigger and are able to contribute to the success of the company as a whole.
What do you see as the difference between management and leadership?
Management is the administrative side of leading others, including the right system and processes for performance evaluations, pay scales, and onboarding. Leadership is about inspiring and connecting with people. You need both in an organization, and often organizations make the mistake of calling managers leaders and vice versa. They are two separate things. Typically, these two sides are highly independent, and some managers can’t be effective leaders at the same time. They struggle to get out of the weeds long enough to build those lasting relationships and truly inspire others.
The challenge is finding those people that can play either role. Many perceived leaders are functioning as managers, that is where the disconnect starts and the reason why some organizations are missing that leadership, inspiration, and connection with people. To me, that makes all the difference. I think many companies have the opportunity to improve this by developing that deeper layer, where true leadership can exist instead of solely management. It is a cost, but the return can be instrumental for companies like Keeley Companies and their long-term goals, organizational development, and success.
These three organizational challenges can be addressed at one root level: company culture. Addressing the values of your organization will help you mitigate these challenges with both grace and effectiveness.