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.

Do You Have the Courage to Be Great?

Do you have the courage to be great?It’s easy to look at Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” or the “100 Best Companies to Work for” list and think, “That’s what I want to build.”

Why wouldn’t you? Can you imagine the talent trying to work for those organizations anytime there is a vacancy? I’m sure it is a who’s who list of the best and the brightest.

However, I’m not sure most leaders have the courage to do what it takes to build and maintain the organizational health necessary to make these lists. Our organization has worked with hundreds of business leaders around the world. One thing is consistent across different continents and cultures: true courage is rare.

In some ways, this seems obvious. It is, of course why we admire the companies on that list so much. Those organizations are not common. Where we often fail to make the connection is in the implications about the leadership of those organizations. The leadership being practiced in those organizations is uncommon too – by definition. If they were common, we would not celebrate them.

So what is the secret? In my 20 years of experience, I’ve determined it comes down to one thing: courage. The organizations’ leaders must have the courage to stand by the values and behaviors they claim to want in the organization, the courage to be held accountable and to hold others accountable, and the courage to remove those from the organization not willing to model and support those values and behaviors – NO EXCEPTIONS. There can be no individual so important to the organization he or she is above the organizations’ values

If it sounds strong, it is. If it sounds difficult, it is. If it sounds uncommon, it is.

That’s why we celebrate the best places to work.

How have you seen this play out in organizations you’ve been a part of?

It Brings Down Planes and Organizations

The statement that culture eats strategy for lunch (or breakfast – depending on your source), has been attributed to the late, great Peter Drucker.

In Good to Great, Collins develops the analogy of an organizational fly wheel.  He writes about the amount of focus, time and effort that goes into getting the organizational fly wheel turning.  Now imagine that fly wheel as the culture of your organization.

How does this bring down planes?

In a cockpit, much coordination and communication is required.  The captain is dependent upon a first officer, cabin crew, and sometimes a navigator to make sure the plane reaches its intended destination safely.  If you have read any of the other Cirrus Business Group posts, you know how much emphasis we place on creating professional trust in the culture of an organization.  An airplane cockpit is an environment dependent upon trust – trust in the crew, the mechanics, the airframe, and the air traffic controllers.  It is impossible for the captain to see everything that is going on from all the necessary perspectives at any given time. To get the plane safely to the destination (the strategy) there must be a culture of trust and an appreciation for pointing out errors or new information among the flight crew and supporting parties.  In other words, although the captain has the ultimate say, the rest of the crew better feel that it is their duty to put the lives of the passengers above titles and egos and speak up.  The captain must be willing and grateful to receive this information.  The more dynamic the environment, the better this team must perform.

It will likely be some time (and we may never know) whether or not the high power distance culture of Korea caused the recent Asiana flight 214 crash, but let’s assume that the flight crew was not incompetent.  When I heard the news report, my mind immediate went back to the observations Malcolm Gladwell made about the 1997 Korean Air flight 801 crash.  In high power distance cultures, there is a general feeling that the person with authority or in control must be right regardless of your own perception or understanding because he or she is in charge.  It is considered a high insult to question authority in front of others.  Even questioning authority in private can have long-term ramifications.  So, subordinates keep quiet.  Even if it means the approach glide slope is too steep or will miss the end of the runway.

How does this bring down organizations?

You may already be ahead of me here because of my brilliant airplane analogy  but in the spirit of clarity here we go.  Most “leaders” take pride in saying that “they hire people smarter than themselves”.  However, these same leaders often create a culture that discourages those very people from raising difficult questions or pointing out inconvenient facts.

All of this undermines trust.

There is a reason there is more than one person in a cockpit and the support of air traffic control from the ground.  It takes a well functioning team to get an airplane to its destination safely.  Your organization is no different.

Have you been encouraging a high power-distance culture by undermining organizational trust?

When was the last time you had someone on your management team disagree with you…to your face?  How long has it been since you had a healthy, heated debate in a meeting?  What was your reaction?  If it was anything other than gratitude for the passion and debate, you are creating a high power distance culture.

I am not encouraging insubordination.  I am encouraging you to promote honest, passionate debate around issues, strategy, new team member hires, and the other things that have the potential to crash an organization.

If you have been guilty of undermining trust in your organization, you need to call your team together, acknowledge the issue, and ask their forgiveness.  You also need to ask them to hold you accountable going forward.

While they will likely receive the acknowledgement and conversation well, don’t expect the culture of trust to change in your organization overnight.  Culture has inertia.  However, if you will persist and your team sees consistent effort and reinforcement on your part, it can be done.

You hired them for their knowledge and insight.  Without a culture that reinforces trust, you are wasting your money.

The Coaching Conversation

More and more people in leadership are looking at more effective ways to communicate with their employees.  Those making the investment in personality profiles, team building and even employee coaching are finding their investment paying off.

What if the leaders were taught a coaching conversation model that brought an entire new level to the conversation?

In such a model there is a great deal of listening intently and room for the employee to help discover their own solutions to any barriers they may feel are in front of them.  In such a two way conversation about the next steps in the department or business many new ideas may show up, some of which had not even been imagined before.  This model also enrolls the employee in the progress of the work and a new and higher level. Getting a clear grip on what is the current reality and progressing toward the agreed upon goal is vital to a healthy workplace, as is the follow-up and any adjustments that might be needed.  Using this model top down through all level of leadership would allow for a healthy and creative work environment that employees really feel a part of.  If you would like more information get with us at Cirrus Business Group for discoveries of the possibilities.

Author:  Coach Judi Harris, Licensed Facilitator of The Coaching Clinic  (Corporate Coach U)

Expectations

A group of us recently had a discussion about expectations. There can be many ways to look at expectation. Continue reading Expectations

Local Business Leader Completes Specialized Training

PRESS RELEASE

February 10, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Local Business Leader Completes Specialized Training

JumpStart February 2013_smallCirrus Business Group of Cumming, GA recently attended the Inscape Publishing JumpStart Business Workshop in Minneapolis, MN.  The business-building and training session highlighted the newest online learning tools used to deliver insights about workplace relationships and achieve organizational effectiveness.

With the growing demand for online learning assessments, Inscape Publishing is continuing to attract independent business owners who are committed to delivering the latest tools in workplace performance development.  “I commend Cirrus Business Group for their commitment to bringing the latest learning tools to the marketplace,” said Jeffrey Sugerman, Inscape’s President and CEO.  “Today’s workplace issues are varied, complex and challenging – these professionals are committed and equipped to helping the change happen throughout the entire organization.”

“Our high quality tools coupled with Cirrus Business Group’s expertise in training and development will serve organization’s well.  The need for skilled leaders in this industry has been leveraged with our training programs.  We look forward to supporting Cirrus Business Group’s business growth,” said Sugerman.

Cirrus Business Group, headquartered in Cumming, Georgia, is a group of professionals and firms providing management development, operations consulting, business strategy, brand strategy, finance and accounting services, Project Management, and Outsourced Solutions for small and medium business and non-profits.  Established in 2010 to bring value to small and mid-sized companies by helping create healthy, sustainable organizations, their goal is to be the single point of contact for business leaders.

Inscape Publishing, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has the largest network of independent trainers and consultants in the world.  They are the leading independent publisher of research-based self-assessments.  Renowned as the world’s leader in DiSC learning resources, Inscape Publishing has helped over 40 million people improve performance, increase job satisfaction, and value differences.

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