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26 Nov 2011

Cultural, leadership and systemic ills to avoid

Where are we heading the corporate cat asked.....

I've spent the last 10 years of my life working in a professional services, leadership coaching, advisory and entrepreneurial capacity. During this time I've made lots of mistakes, seen the patterns of mistakes that others and organisations make and also had the opportunity to work across multiple sectors, industries and cultures, so I'm learning about diversity of styles.

My experiences are by no means exhaustive, they are my experiences nonetheless and I feel its right for me to express some concerns I have for organisations that fail to address some of the issues I see and increasingly hear.

I get to speak to lots of diverse and interestingly talented people who are both within and external to the corporate world. Over the last few years I've heard fears, issues and themes that I seek to navigate through below.....purely for my own future guidance.....

Recognise any of these.....oh dear, time to take some responsible action

The following list is by no means exhaustive, see it as a simple guide to the organisational landmines that I keep hearing about, seeing and have in the past had the misfortune of being a part of:

1. Time to rewire the neural circuitry - it's alarming that during times of trouble, strife or unrest just how quickly organisational culture and of course people replicate this. What is it, the classic, running with an autocratic, superficial and outdated hierarchical frame of reference. Leaders we need to grow up, respect our privileged positions and start to not be fearful of the talent that is emerging, get with a rising tide, rather than chaining yourself to the mediocrity rock of a telling, directive or abusive style..listen, acknowledge, recognise, coach and be real.....

2. Politics, bigotry and fear - the acceptance by people of a political, cultural or organisational belief system that says it's wrong to challenge people in senior roles or my word....dare to speak your truth. The result is fear, the debilitating and pessimistic kind that is the death call of an organisation that is to thrive in today's agile, interconnected and change thirsty environment.

3. Serve ME please - leaders who are focused on their own agenda, who fail to act in the best interest of the organisation, customers and people. They love nothing more than creating their own little fiefdoms and centres of complete disillusionment excellence.

4. Paranoia - cultures that listen to the news too much, who fail to be optimistic and see the opportunities that surround them. Result, a tribe that find themselves debilitated in non action due to the paranoia about the long term future and growth agenda.

5. Physician heal thyself - we all love this one.....organisations that espouse and even sell on the back of espoused values that are when you scratch beneath the surface as deep as the proverbial puddle. These orgs and leaders love to tell you what to do to improve your circumstances when internally within their own cultures and organisations its a mess......we no longer love those orgs that fail to live up to their own expectations, we disrespect them and increasingly out them - for gods sake good in the world and mean it....both internally and externally.

6. The internal drummer is banging out a terrible tune - an informal communication network that consistently takes a pessimistic if not paranoid perspective about the leadership and leaders agenda. Caused often by the willingness of leaders to shy away from honest, open, frank and even confronting conversations. People, lets grow up and have adult to adult conversations, it will be ok, trust me.

7. We are a talent focused organisation, people matter to us - oh I think many people will recognise this little gem. Organisations and leaders espousing talent centric values that monumentally fail to deliver what they say they will do. Then....cynically use the dark pessimistic cloud of economic uncertainty and challenge as a very valid reason not to follow through. You may sometimes hear the most senior representatives of such organisations stating 'oh they wont let me make that decision' and who exactly are they.......if employees and organisations keep their promises and commitments to one another we can all get along just fine.

8. Let's both grow up - now this one is a classic case of breaking free of the shackles of our educational conditioning. Both parties are classically held accountable for this little ice on the one hand we have people in leadership roles that have not be fortunate enough to develop their emotional, social and conscious awareness/intelligence sufficiently to be able to know that people love to be supported to develop, grow, feel valued and trusted.....hmmm psychology 101 territory :)

Whilst at the same time we have a group of more junior people who are so lacking in the basis of confidence in their own abilities, voice and the future that they fail to be willing to tell it as it really is and challenge the status quo. Worse still they then find themselves caught in the negative cycle of blaming their boss when they have never been explicit about their needs. At the same time, the leader has never sought to stop and ask them what is important to them......let's have some honest dialogue....

In Summary
I hope that you have enjoyed my slightly tongue in cheek and playful delve into the rotten fruit basket of the proverbial bad apples. I think in truth we can all see elements of the above in the imperfect worlds in which we dwell and to some level that is just fine......the question is where is the tipping point and more importantly, how are you really feeling about work today......?

Have fun in the organisational sand pit, play hard but fair......




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