Are You the Lid?

I’ve written many times about the concept of organizations as complex systems in the context of transformation. I’d like to introduce another characteristics of systems that could be keeping your organization from being able to meet the needs of growing demand for your good or service – capacity. All systems have a finite capacity.

Sometimes that capacity is limited by physical constraints such as space or machine production time. There are plenty of business models to deal with those. However, more often capacity is constrained by something called “The Law of Lid.” This “law” states that leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. In other words, an organization cannot sustainably grow beyond its leadership.

Here are two things you can start doing immediately to make sure you aren’t the “lid” of your organization.

  1. Be accountable. It’s easy to think you are above the rules because of your position in the organizational chart. You are not. Most people know this intellectually, but fewer actually practice it. You need to be the person you want in your organization. That means delivering on your promises and modeling the behaviors you want all the time.
  2. Value people not just the job they do. There are all sorts of trite sayings I could use here. You know them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers. These sayings have stuck around because for the most part they are true. Sincerity is easier for some than others, but it is still critical. It’s important people feel valued beyond just their role in the organization. Be intentional about getting to know your team’s interests and passions. When it’s time to say thank you, use that knowledge to make the expression of gratitude all that more personal.
  3. Develop your direct reports. The most valuable contributors to any organization are those who can develop the potential in others. To do this, start making fewer decisions. As a young manager, I would often get great satisfaction from solving problems brought to me by my direct reports. I thought that was leadership – having the answers. However, that satisfaction quickly turned to frustration when my direct reports seemed to be lacking the ability to solve any problem on their own. Get your team thinking. This will require you to create clarity around expectations, objectives, behaviors, authority, and responsibility.

Does all this sound like work? It is. Does it sound like it takes time? It does.

However, if you don’t want to be the lid in your organization, it’s mandatory.

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