Nurturing Organisational Health

Published: July 6, 2024

Read Time: 5 minutes

Nurturing organisational health

In the ever-evolving landscape of organisational management, the quest for sustained success amidst uncertainty remains a challenge. A quote from Professor Dutch Leonard at the Harvard Business School really resonated with me and the work we do in the not-for-profit sector.

“We cannot have low expectations for what we deliver to those we serve, nor for what they deserve.”

This should be applied to both our teams and our beneficiaries. In Life Ed’s case, we serve young people every day, and the core teaching practice is that we have high expectations for every child we work with. We apply the same thinking to our team.

As leaders entrusted with steering the course of our organisations, we understand the critical importance of organisational health. It serves as the bedrock upon which high performance, resilience, and sustainable growth are built. Our approach at Life Ed NSW revolves around three fundamental pillars:

1. Strategic Process Excellence

Strategic planning isn’t merely an intellectual exercise confined to boardrooms; it’s a dynamic process that demands relentless execution and adaptation. Our experience underscores the imperative of not only crafting robust strategic frameworks but also embedding a culture of execution within our organisation.

Effective strategic execution hinges on alignment, accountability, and the relentless pursuit of organisational objectives at every level. By fostering a culture of strategic agility and collaboration, we empower our teams to navigate complexity, seize opportunities, and drive transformative change. We dedicate an hour a fortnight to come together and review our strategic targets and milestones. Long-term outcomes are broken down into yearly milestones which are ‘owned’ by a team member who sets quarterly targets and reports on progress every fortnight. The investment in time and resources produces results and builds team accountability.

2. Empowered and Supported Teams with a Focus on Wellbeing:

As a service provider in a crowded space, the quality and engagement of our team is what our business thrives or dives on. We’ve made it our mission to cultivate an environment where individuals feel empowered, supported, valued, and most importantly, enjoy turning up to work every day.

Central to our approach is a holistic focus on employee wellbeing, professional and personal development, and inclusion. By prioritising initiatives such as flexible work arrangements, wellness programmes, parental leave (including a 12-month super guarantee at their current salary), and continuous learning opportunities, we foster a culture of engagement, resilience, and innovation that propels our organisation forward.

We believe in setting high expectations for performance while simultaneously providing the necessary support and resources for our team members to thrive. Having high expectations does not mean we expect people to always succeed, but rather learn from their mistakes. We encourage people to take risks and have a go, as long as we learn (collectively) along the way.

By prioritising the team’s wellbeing and professional growth, we ensure a motivated and engaged workforce that is equipped to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

3. Values-Driven Leadership:

Values aren’t just lofty ideals to be espoused; they’re the moral compass that guides every decision, action, and interaction within our organisations. At Life Ed NSW, we lead through our values—Integrity, Respect, and Tenacity—ensuring that they permeate every aspect of our organisational culture.

We recognise that values alignment isn’t a one-time endeavour; it’s an ongoing journey that takes time and energy. By embedding our values into the fabric of our organisation—from recruitment and performance evaluations to strategic initiatives and performance management—we cultivate a culture of trust, vulnerability, accountability, and organisation-wide leadership that fosters long-term success.

We believe that once an employee passes the probation period their development is our responsibility. We need to ensure we are providing the right training, support, coaching and guidance to help them achieve the level of expectation that we set. If they are willing to learn and adapt, we need to support them to do so. However, if a team member breaches our values, that is when it becomes hard to see a future partnership together.

Our commitment to organisational health has been validated by our participation in the McKinsey Organisational Health Index (OHI) global survey. Scoring 93/100 in 2021 and 2023, we’ve consistently ranked among the top 10% of participating organisations worldwide. This achievement underscores the effectiveness of our values-led culture and continuous improvement ethos.

The last few years have certainly been a challenge for Life Ed NSW, and in no way are we excelling and nailing each decision we make, but we know what core values and principles guide us, we learn from our mistakes, learning and adapting to the new normal.

By fostering a psychologically safe environment where individuals feel empowered to take calculated risks, experiment with new ideas, and learn from both successes and failures, we cultivate a culture of innovation and resilience. Each misstep becomes a stepping stone towards progress. As CEOs and board members, let us lead by example, demonstrating humility, vulnerability, openness, and a relentless commitment to learning and improvement.

This article was first published in the 2024 Better Boards Conference Magazine.

Further Resources

Reshaping the Board’s Role in Organisational Culture

The Essential Principles of Workplace Culture

Ethical Leadership at Board Level - What does good look like?


Chief Executive Officer

Jonathon (Jono) grew up in rural NSW, is a natural leader with a passion and commitment to assisting young people in the community. He is the lucky father of two and wants them, along with all kids to grow up feeling empowered to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.

Jono has been working with the Thrive by Five movement to promote equitable and affordable access to early learning so that every child can thrive. After a career in sales and account management in the commercial sector, Jonathon followed his passion and joined batyr (a social enterprise that focuses on preventative education in the area of young people’s mental health) as their Head of Partnerships in 2015.

Having supported and lead significant growth in the organisation, Jonathon took on a new leadership role as CEO of Life Education NSW/ACT, looking to build on the iconic Healthy Harold program, ensuring that kids are empowered to make healthy and safe decisions. Life Education engages around 280,00 students across NSW/ACT each year focusing on physical, social and emotional wellbeing, supporting schools and teachers to equip kids with vital life skills.

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