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Monday, March 18, 2013

The new leadership?

It seems that in the modern work environment, there is a growing expectation for leadership at every level.

Leadership is no longer something emanates solely from the executive ranks. Instead, it seems to be an expectation in every contributor's role.

This is a big departure from previous thinking where leadership was established as part of the organizational hierarchy, based on role and authority. Leadership in the traditional sense was more to about putting who were perceived as having the ability to lead in roles where they made decisions and enacted those decisions through command and control.

Today, we expect all contributors to understand their role in creating value for the organization. We expect employees to be empowered, solve problems, continually improve, innovate, influence others, mentor and coach others and provide superior service.

It seems like we expect some level of leadership from every employee. If this is the case, should we now consider leadership a skill, an expectation, or personal characteristic?

I am not sure.

I believe that the change in perspective of how we achieve success is rooted b on the rise of the knowledge worker. As Peter Drucker observed, the rise of the knowledge worker is proving to be a great challenge for modern managers.

Old ways of management which rely heavily on command and control don't have as much success. Instead, managers are expected to influence, motivate and empower employees.
The tactics used to do so align with l what most of us would recognize as leadership characteristics. In turn, employees begin to emulate these behaviors.

Does all of this water down leadership or make it a more powerful concept?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What is OCD and why is it important to your company?

The U.S.National Library of Medicine identifies Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).  Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.

OCD also exists in organizations, however, in organizations OCD stands for Organizational Compression Disorder. In this case, OCD exists when managers don't operate within the right realm of responsibly. It's often observed as managers at all levels (line, middle, senior and executive) focus a bulk of their efforts on tasks and objectives that should be the focus of a lowerI level of management. In essence, these managers are unknowingly compressing the natural hierarchy of the organization.  This compression often leads to huge inefficiencies and commonly negatively impacts employee engagement because of a perception of micro-management.

From my observations, OCD occurs for a similar reason as the well know psychological syndrome, individual anxiety. The difference is that the anxiety is commonly driven because of a lack of understanding and for a desire to control outcomes. The anxiety is normally based on the best intentions, executed poorly.  

The most common root cause is managers not understanding their role in the organizations.  Often, successful individual contributors are promoted or hired into management roles because they were highly effective in their previous role.  Most successful people continue to rely on the behaviors, skills and habits that made them successful in old roles (similar to compulsion).  While this does lead to some success (temporary relief), over time, it also leads to front-line managers acting as individual contributors, middle managers acting as front-line mangers, and so on. Getting managers to change these work habits requires them to stop doing many of the things they do out of compulsion - leading to increased anxiety, until they learn new patterns for success.

This pattern often leads entire management teams into routines and practices that only address immediate problems (a.k.a. fire fighting), conflict, increase stress and generally reduce effectiveness.  When asked, most managers who are working in compressed organizations will report that they feel like management is more than a full-time job, they are over worked and under appreciated.

The best way to address OCD is to first recognize it exists (you can't change what you don't acknowledge).  Then, support managers in developing awareness and understanding of their role and function within the organization.  Next, develop the appropriate support mechanisms (orientation, training, rewards, compensation, etc.) to encourage a high level of performance across the entire management structure.

Leaders in organizations that address OCD are often surprised and relieved when they begin to see the results - a high functioning organization where people are engaged and motivated to accomplish common objectives.

Have you witnessed OCD? What has it looked like in your organization? What have you done or seen to address OCD?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Defuse Difficult People

This is an excellent quick tip video. Three steps to help focus on how one should focus their responses to difficult people by understanding ones own reactions and managing them in the moment in an effort to influence positive progress.