Forget the Org Chart: Where is Everyone?

The uncertainty of how to clearly and effectively get your job done irrespective of your organizational level is often the norm inside organizations today. No longer is it enough to just do your job. Being proficient and known to have a certain skill or ability that the organization places value on isn’t quite sufficient either. “Redundant resources” have long been taken out and many individuals are responsible for doing multiple jobs; have varied responsibilities with titles and job descriptions that often don’t come close to describing what they do much less what they are responsible for. Also there are multiple bosses to answer to – that dotted line and solid line relationship is often painful. Most importantly, none of this is on any organizational chart. Sound familiar?


So, in today’s work environment, the question becomes, “How do you navigate within an organization to get a task accomplished when who or what to connect with is no longer obvious? Simply stated:


“Where do I go?”


The fact is that it has become increasingly important for you to understand how to effectively master the skill of navigating through your organization but not knowing all the players or where the resources are or who really does what.


Why? Because you still are being tasked with getting your job done and delivering on your commitments. You are ultimately accountable.


Unfortunately not knowing can be crippling to you when you are trying to complete a project or assignment if you don’t know where or who to go to. And many times, to our detriment we only think about the obvious people or groups that we know – what “comes to mind” at the time. However, what “comes to mind” is often not the resource(s) that we actually need. So, as a result of this, we spend many hours trying to solve for something that if it was already known (who, what or where to go to), the results would not only be a better outcome for you, but the organization overall.


This is why the skill of understanding and knowing how to successfully navigate through your organization is important. Many times being able to do this is not thought of as a skill. Plus it is not something that you can go to a training class to obtain or receive a certificate of completion in. More importantly, it doesn’t seem to matter until it is needed.


So what’s the secret? The secret in mastering this skill is in really understanding how to cross multiple entities or groups within your organization to engage or garner the right type of support or assistance from others well before you need it. This enables you to get your work done successfully when you do need it. Often this is what separates how organizations unconsciously view or determine if an employee is successful (irrespective of their skills or abilities) or not. Individuals who successfully master the ability to cross multiple boundaries in their organizations are often viewed as valuable to the organization which often translates into promotional opportunities, higher compensation as well as important organizational exposure.


How should you master the skill of navigating not only through but across organizational boundaries or entities before it is needed? Here are a few proactive ideas:


Pay attention to the actions of your others that are viewed as successful. It’s called watching your informal network. Watch who they go to for help and how they obtain the resources that they need to accomplish their work from individuals within your team or function but more importantly outside of your group. Often seeing how others in your function or on your team navigate helps you understand how you can do this as well. Also ask individuals not just within your team but across your organization how they achieve their goals and objectives. It’s great to observe, but having a dialog helps minimize the issue of interpretation and enhances what you are seeing. Also try asking some of them to serve as a guide or mentor to you.


Develop your own network and increase your organizational capital. As you develop your network build your social capital as well. Doing this means that as you meet people, you take the time to not only to think about how they can help you, but how you can help them as well. Also think about how you can connect them with others based on what you have learned or know about them and their work. Overtime you become a valuable resource to others in your organization because of the knowledge and information that you have. So not only are you able to achieve your goals because of your understanding of how your organization is informally structured and works, but you become known as a connector and valuable resource to others. Your social capital increases.


Step completely outside of your immediate function or team. Many times we go to those groups that we have adjacent or similar skills to. It is sometimes just easier as they understand what we do. However, going to a person or group in a totally different area that has nothing in common with what you are doing for your company leads you to think of things you hadn’t before. Is there a function or group that connects with or across the organization such as Finance or Human Resources that you should get to know? You’d be surprised about the information and people that they know and have to connect with due to the nature of their roles and the work that they do. Don’t forget about those groups that often have to have a broader view of the organization than you.


Mastering a skill means that you practice it. In order to learn how to effectively navigate through you organization, you have to be active and ensure that you are engaged. No one will come to you and once again, this is not a skill that you obtain in a classroom setting. Take the time to really understand your organization which no organizational chart will ever show you or tell you before you really need it. Here’s to navigating and practicing!


Flickr Photo: Calsidyrose


I am Francine Parham. My focus is professional and leadership development. I help individuals in the development of the critical skills they need in their careers to be successful in achieving their professional goals. I speak publically about the value of professional networks and networking as well as navigating through corporate cultures. I am also the creator of “Maximizing Your Network!”™, which instructs you on how to build, interact with and maintain your professional network. . Please connect with me at or attend one of my upcoming speaking events.

From CEO Responsibility to Accountability: Women and Minorities on Corporate Boards

The conversation about the small percentage of women on corporate boards and even smaller percentage of minorities is not new. Diverse corporate boards are just sound business sense, but we still keep moving at a snail’s pace. No sometimes, snails move faster.

Here are some facts according to the 2014 Gender Diversity Index Study by the 2020 Women on Boards organization:

– Fortune 100 (97 active) Companies: 22% of board seats are held by 250 women, for an average of 2.6 women directors per board

– Fortune 500 (462 active) Companies: 19% of board seats are held by 965 women, for an average of 2.1 women directors per board.

– Fortune 501-1000 (405 active) Companies: 15.9% of board seats are held by 620 women, for 1.5 women directors per board.


For minorities the numbers do not look any better. They actually look worse.

– According to a special report in the July/ August 2014 edition of Black Enterprise, “Where are the Black Corporate Directors”, in looking at the 250 largest companies within the S&P 500 (based on market cap as of May 16, 2014), it was found that 74 companies of the S&P 250 or 30% did not have a single black board member in 2013 with no improvement as of the publication of the report.

– In the “Alliance For Board Diversity’s Report, Missing Pieces: Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards Report ABD Census, released in 2013, only 5.5% of the Board seats on the Fortune 500 largest publicly traded companies were held by African-American men and 1.9% for African-American women. As it related to other ethnicities, the numbers were no better as found in the study. In Fortune 500 companies, Asian-Pacific Islanders represented 2.6% of the board seat population and 3.3% for Hispanics/Latinos respectively.


Bottom line, the results are abysmal and slow, continuing to remain in the teens or below.

Many companies have made official declarations to the public about their commitment to diversity in the organizations in which they serve; to their shareholders; the communities in which they operate, etc. Also such declarations are in every annual report almost to the point that it often sounds like rhetoric. Have you ever read an annual report that doesn’t have a commitment to diversity statement in it? You even read and hear from the CEOs of these companies reiterating their “commitment” to diversity in everything that they do, in other words, supposedly their actions. But that makes me pause and ask myself one question:


“Who is ultimately accountable for driving this change?”


The answer that I come back to time and time again is:


“The CEO”


I simply base this on what I’ve read and heard many of these senior leaders declare. But the declaration is more on the side of what they purport their responsibility to be, but not necessarily what they choose to be accountable for. As we know, you can be responsible for something, but not accountable for it. Responsibility is safe, but accountability means you own it – the results.

Many will weigh in and say it is a complicated issue and how could one person be accountable. Well my response is that is why CEOs get paid the “big bucks” and their title and job description denotes such. They have accountability within their organizations to make change and are to act in the capacity of the steward and more importantly the ultimate decision maker. Such leaders at these levels get rewarded to work with and through tough business issues that they are accountable for solving. The issue of lack of women and minorities on corporate boards or such small proportions is no different.

So how does one shift from responsibility to accountability concerning this issue of lack of gender and ethnicity at the board level?


Make it a true business issue and solve it as such.


Make this an imperative to be solved for within that CEOs respective organization versus “the right thing to do” as so many talk about. There is no additional need for any more data to build a business case. Advocacy groups are doing a fantastic job to increase the awareness and the pressure; shareholder activism is present; search firms are engaged and have been for years on the talent front and; the government is starting to weigh in wanting to provide support. So this leaves the CEO who truly has the insider view, perspective and control. They know all of the constituents, the current landscape and have been told (as well as know) the benefits of having a diverse corporate board. They have more information than needed. We have all seen key business decisions that have been made (good and bad) with less data, context or dialog within the corporations we have worked for or with.

So what else is needed? Is there a one shot strategic formula?

The answer is obviously, “No”.

But there are practices that are currently within the organizations that could be applied to solve for this challenge such as succession planning practices; talent pipeline development approaches or talent acceleration work. Companies should be looking at their own female and minority talent and thinking of ways to accelerate and prepare them for Board level positions. They should be going deeper in their own pipeline to prepare their talent for Board ready positions. Why not? Biogen Idec and their leaders are doing such having recently launched an internal program called, “Raising the Bar: Women on Corporate Boards. The program is a very innovative approach to strengthening corporate board participation of their senior women through proactive sponsorship and competency building which prepares and positions these women. Biogen Idec is investing in their talent internally to position them for external board opportunities. That’s CEO commitment and accountability.

Should there be a set of metrics for corporations to be measured against? How about the metrics being tied to overall executive compensation? Individuals often get skittish when it comes to tying their compensation to diversity work, but CEOs have the ability and control to explore this within their own companies. As we know what get measured gets done.

Is there a way to really open up the network and share with women and minorities what it actually takes or what the requirements are early on in one’s career to become a member of a corporate board and not waiting until they are in the mid to late part of their career to find out. The answer is, “yes”. External organizations such as the Executive Leadership Council do such work within their community because both preparation and exposure is critical. Understanding what is required early on in one’s career is paramount allowing for career choices to be made purposefully by the individual. As simple as knowing the pipeline jobs and what they require leading ultimately to a board role is important when charting out one’s career path. It is not just about being a CEO to be considered for a board role, but the career experiences that are needed.

These are all things that can be done within a corporation that no outside group or entity can do as effectively. More importantly, things in which the CEO (and his/her leadership team) of any organization has control, direction over and ultimate accountability for making happen. This work starts at the top. Let’s continue to place the accountability where it belongs and can be most effective in helping more women and minorities obtain corporate board positions in a much more accelerated and purposeful manner.

Flick Photo: Jeffrey Zuckerman

I am Francine Parham. My focus is professional and leadership development. I help individuals in the development of the critical skills they need in their careers to be successful in achieving their professional goals. I speak publically about the value of professional networks and networking as well as navigating through corporate cultures. I am also the creator of “Maximizing Your Network!”™, which instructs you on how to build, interact with and maintain your professional network. . Please connect with me at or attend one of my upcoming speaking events.