I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for the truth; and truth rewarded me.
~ Simone de Beauvoir
There’s comfort in friendship and community. There can also be blind spots and status quo problems inherent in comfort-based systems, sometimes tragically so, when the blind spots are very large. Here are a few samples of some recent tweets from twitter, an on-line micro-blog community, to illustrate:
- ACouchofMyOwn: is wrestling with her blind spots; the ones she can see, the ones she’d rather not see, the ones that everyone else can see all too clearly
- WorkIntegrity: Ethics & Morality ARE taught in some business schools, yet corp ldrs have big blind spots & don’t solicit enough fdbk.
- bsouder: Returning from LOHAS conference…. “the status quo is an opiate” we all need to take at least one action to contribute to sustainability!
- ralfcis: Innovation is a threat to the status quo and the quo don’t like to be threatened.
- m2sE: RT @ryanbrazell “Innovation that challenges the status quo usually fails.” Isn’t that the point of innovation?
…cultural traits with the most impact on employee performance are risk-taking, internal communication, and flexibility …[with] the potential to increase individual performance by as much as …39%.
Similarly, a Corporate Leadership Council 2002 Performance Management Survey, Benchmarking the High-Performance Organization, found that the cultural traits with the most impact on employee performance are risk-taking, internal communication, and flexibility. Those traits have the potential to increase individual performance by as much as 22.9 to 39%.
In my last blog post, tucked under the video of our three-legged, recovered cat, is a link to examples of those who “think differently” and change the world. It’s still worth a look here, a classic 59 second clip. How likely is it now, even now, that those who are future thinking and out-of-the box will make headway? Entrepreneurism is good, but tends to be self-contained in start-up incubators and with groups of risk-takers and consultants who may cycle through until something hits home and finds success. What happens with the legions of survivors in organizations that continue to come to work each day post-layoff? What happens with those laid-off who find work in new positions in organizations in varying states of post-financial crisis recovery?
A recent article from the Harvard Business Review is titled, Why do good leaders make bad decisions?
Excerpts: One reason major mistakes happen is self-interest. Most people don’t realize self-interest operates at a subconscious level. We’re not even aware of how self-interested we are. [Consider] the John Thain bonus story. Is there anyone who believes that he is not a smart enough guy to figure out that taking or giving [such large] bonuses [was not] a sensible thing to do?
A Wall Street Journal summary of the article by Erin White also highlights these three lessons:
- People need to recognize that we are biased in every single situation. There’s no such thing as objectivity. The first thing leaders should do to reduce their odds of making bad decisions is walk into an important decision situation saying, “Ok, I know that we are potentially biased in a variety of ways. Let’s try to identify what those are.”
- Second is to avoid the “yes man” trap. You have to bring different people and different data sources to the table. You want to add a “no team” to argue against the proposal, and put some teeth behind that no team.
- Another idea is around governance. I’ve studied boards for …15 or 20 years now. I’m completely convinced that the biggest differentiator between high quality boards and weaker boards is the extent to which they actually engage in real debate.
In dealing with blindspots, emotional connections that are actually damaging to organization health and growth, and using connection power inappropriately, I offer a definition of “right action,” again citing Mike Jay mentioned in an earlier post (IMULL – decision tool), a master coach who trains other business & executive coaches using powerful and elegantly simple models. One element of Mike’s coaching approach defines “right action” as:
Doing the right thing, at the right time, with the right people, for the right reasons, in the right way, in the right place.
What I’ve experienced with management over the years, and I do mean management, not leadership (as defined by followers and tribes), is that managers at times create bottlenecks, undermine upper management (misalignment with organization strategy and needed change) by missing one or more of the “right action” steps.
The bottlenecks can also happen below with managers becoming insular and territorial about advocating for their silo, department, perspective, or belief without openness to seeing the implications to the whole. The story of the blind men and the elephant comes to mind. This could include doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and seemingly getting results that at the time maintain the status quo, but long term breakdown into moderately to severely wrong actions. Do examples in our current world state of affairs come to mind?
I will look for and share positive examples in future blog posts of leadership alignment in organizations where all layers are also communicating well. I plan to help organizations and leaders find ways to build right action, to deal with status quo and blind spots.
NOTE: This blog was originally posted in 2009 when it moved to Deb’s new Reveln.com website in 2009. It was reformatted and with updated references in 2013.
For higher education clients, I can continue to be contacted at: email@example.com
I’m also now most easily reached at DebNystrom@Reveln.com. If you have a need for facilitation, data gathering from an objective perspective, consultation, business/leader development coaching, or if you need a referral, I’m happy to talk with you. This includes those situations where the status quo just isn’t going to be good enough. For many of us, sustaining your business requires:
- Flexing and adapting to change,
- Helping yourself and others see multiple perspectives,
- Building agile teams and groups,
- Nourishing the adaptability competency for all who work for you.
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.
~ John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963)