Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Do Institutionalized Management Practices Create Formidable Obstacles to Change?

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Every organization must adapt to change whether they like it or not. Customers, competition and technology compel organizations to adjust. The success and speed of change is dependent upon several key factors that are closely associated with leadership.

However, institutionalized management practices and structures can create formidable obstacles to internal change and can prevent organizations from taking advantage of short windows of opportunity. These obstacles present a challenge to all managers.

In most organizations individuals are taught to manage not by leading but by controlling and directing. Within these organizational cultures, this style of management is often equated with leadership. This key fallacy often prevents organizations from effecting change and taking advantage of afforded opportunities.

Management is a precise set of processes that keeps a complicated system of people, resources and technology running smoothly and, hopefully, without problems. These processes include functions such as planning, budgeting, organizing and controlling. Yet management as leadership goes well beyond these activities to include the set of processes that initially creates an organization and allows it to adapt to a variety of changing circumstances.

It is important for managers to understand the difference between the two processes. Leadership is what defines the future for the organization, aligns people with a vision and motivates them to carry on despite the obstacles. Transforming an organization in the face of change requires a majority of leadership skills and a minority of controlling and directing skills. While management in the traditional sense was required to build and staff the large corporate organizations of the past, leadership is what is required to transform them in the face of change for the future.

The key factors of change within any organization are all leadership-based. In the past, management was essential to internally build and maintain large organizations and bureaucracies. While such management is still important, organizations faced with rapidly changing technologies, markets and competition must focus their efforts externally to effectively handle change and take advantage of the subsequent opportunities. This external focus is part of leadership.

The reasons behind this strategy are self-evident. Internally-focused managers and employees tend to be myopic in their thinking, which makes it difficult for them to identify the external forces presenting both threats and opportunities to the organization. Insular thinking is designed to protect internal bureaucracies and political power bases; thus, it denies the existence of the forces of change that are buffeting the organization.

Since they disregard the forces of change, these managers are highly resistant to alterations and build walls within the organization. These barriers are difficult for managers as leaders to overcome. Before they can emerge to challenge these internal barriers, they must understand how the key factors of leadership compare with the traditional management structure, and how the two vary in style and approach to change. While controlling and directing management can support leadership in the accomplishment of goals and objectives, most organizational cultures have traditional managers dictating what managers as leaders should and can do; this is the opposite of what should be happening. The following comparisons are where many of the directing/leading conflicts occur with traditional management imposing its principles and constraints upon leadership.

Planning and Budgeting vs. Establishing Direction

The role of management in the traditional sense is to establish detailed steps and schedules that direct the organization toward the accomplishment of its goals and objectives. Individuals and organizational resources are allotted according to need and assigned to specific tasks.

The role of management as leadership is to develop and define an organizational vision for the future. Managers initiate strategies to produce the necessary changes required to achieve their vision.

The conflict in traditional manager-run organizations is that they wish to have managers who lead work within the constraints of the established plans and budgets, which limits their ability to act and effect overall change. Rather, planning and budgeting should be used to support the manager’s goals and vision to implement necessary organizational change. This presents a challenge for managers as leaders: they must effect internal change before they can achieve external change.

Organizing and Staffing vs. Aligning People

The conflict between organizing and staffing on the one hand, and aligning people on the other, is an argument of form over function. Many entrenched managers have institutionalized a number of management functions, which creates highly structured programs that help the organization to achieve its institutionalized goals and objectives. Employees and resources of the organization are controlled and directed through these goals related to policies, procedures, methods and systems.

While managers as leaders understand the validity of a management structure and a need for it to support a leader’s vision, goals and objectives, they are primarily guided by the principles of aligning people to their vision. Managers who lead accomplish their goals by communicating direction, via words and deeds, to everyone whose cooperation is needed for the creation of teams and coalitions that understand the vision and accept its validity.

Once teams and coalitions are internally established, managers understand the need for the functions of organizing and staffing that support these efforts, but are not constrained by them.

Controlling and Problem Solving vs. Motivating and Inspiring

The use of control methods and techniques is management’s way to monitor results and identify deviations from the plan. Problem solving techniques are instituted to use the organizational resources that resolve the problem.

The manager who leads will use these methods and techniques only after motivating and inspiring people to overcome the major internal and external barriers to change. A key difference is that controllers and directors use methods to implement solutions while leaders motivate people to change.

Predictability and Order vs. Change and Opportunity

The fundamental difference between controlling and leading management is in the final results.

Controlling management focuses on the short-term results that are expected by various stakeholders in the organization, such as meeting budgets and quotas and producing an adequate return on investment. Their focus is on predictability and order, which inhibits organizational adaptation and transformation to meet the forces of change.

Management as leadership aims to drive the organization through change vis-à-vis their vision. While this focus may alter the organization’s short-term goals, it has the potential to produce extremely useful change by taking advantage of emerging opportunities and transforming the organization in a positive manner. The results of this endeavor can produce new products, services, approaches and methods that positively impact the organization in the long-term.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Well Do You Set the Tone?

What Does Luck Have to Do With It?

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Conflict is Inevitable With Persistent Resistance to Change

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Resistance is experienced in most teams as they struggle with the concept of change. The purpose of creating teams is to tackle difficult issues and tough organizational problems. Invariably, the resulting solutions teams develop result in active transformations that disrupt the status quo and personal agendas, which also tends to remove personal positions of power. Consequently, there is a natural tendency for individual team members to resist pending changes.

The main challenge in leading teams is to allow the full complexity of individual personalities, talents, qualities and insights to emerge. These must be actively harnessed in order to achieve major team objectives.

While it is easy to set limits on verbal expressions and behaviors, doing so severely diminishes overall team potential and performance. Since various personality traits of individual members actively shape their general and immediate focus and perspectives, leaders who understand them are able to estimate their direct responses to change. Ultimately, with this related knowledge and understanding, they should be able to anticipate and minimize overall team member resistance. And they should be able to demonstrate that resistance results from differing perspectives that can be reconciled with the objectives of the entire team.

Resistance is an instinctive and energetic opposition to new ideas or someone’s expressed wishes to do something differently. If individual team members persist in their resistance, conflict becomes inevitable. Often resistance is framed as a struggle for control or as a problem that has been eliminated. The lines of conflict are often quickly drawn. Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand the concepts of resistance and conflict within their team environments and to learn how to harness and control them.

Avoidance of Conflict

Conflict should not be seen as something to be resolved, but as an experience to be explored. Opposing views in regard to team direction and change are never totally unrelated and can have great value when considered “different parts of the same story.” Leaders will often find that resistance and conflict are consistently initiated by many of the same individuals on their teams as a result of their inherent personality traits.

Avoidance of conflict either drains interest, enthusiasm and trust or results in concealed tension, internal fighting and impaired team performance. While some leaders meet resistance head on, others often do everything possible to avoid the attached conflicts. Rather than keep conflicts from erupting, avoidance causes increasing internal team resistance. It is extremely important to keep in mind that appeasement in order to diminish conflict is not effective, and instead creates a host of additional challenges to overcome.

Denial of Conflict

When leaders propose change and team members feign agreement, the actual degree of resistance can be immense. This often occurs when teams have strong norms, where dissention and negative views are rarely tolerated and expressed. The core of resistance lies with a particular side of the team or with individual leaders that no one is fully prepared to address or discuss.

While the denial of conflict might be considered a normal process within many team environments, it more often than not builds to the point of erupting into a far more serious problem. Therefore, when active resistance is initially encountered, leaders must ensure that conflicts within their team environments are not denied, but adequately addressed and worked through.

Anxiety

Avoidance and denial of conflict are rooted in personal anxiety. Oftentimes, members can be intimidated by their team environments, their lack of seniority and/or experience, or their own inherent personalities. The concept of change also frightens many people due to associated fears of the unknown and feelings about how change will personally and directly affect them.

It is important for leaders to recognize these factors and the subsequent anxieties that may be created within their team environments. These factors need to be identified and openly and fully discussed. Leaders must address the consequences of allowing anxieties to take root in order to diminish individual fear factors that tend to create undue apprehension, nervousness or panic. Once these issues are addressed and individuals fully understand the root causes and the impact these factors have on their team, personal anxieties will dissolve. When this is accomplished, individual stress levels are reduced.

Addressing the Concept of Change

In team environments there will always be members who desire change and members who wish to keep the status quo. Both of these positions give insight into what members perceive to be the true needs of their team. To ensure that insights are not lost, leaders need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • What is currently happening to and within the team?
  • What force for change is directly impacting the team?
  • Within the team, what counterbalancing forces seek to minimize change?

When leaders are able to identify these factors, both positions are respected, and those who resist change can be viewed as the guardians of the team’s traditional norms and beliefs.

Viewing Resistance as a Strength

Rather than something that must be actively overcome, leaders should be aware that resistance deserves respect for its ability to help teams discover how to change. Since resistance is characterized as a mobilization of energy, leaders must learn how to channel it in positive ways. Resistance should be viewed as a healthy and creative force that can be applied to effectively meet individual challenges. It can be used to frame problems and issues in new ways that all individual team members can appreciate and respect. The team process can be used to work through complex issues, tackle difficult problems and their attached implications and ramifications, and arrive at a consensus in regard to the most workable, practical and effective solutions.

Related:

Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

When Building Trust, By All Means Avoid These Six Behaviors

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One of the pillars of leadership is developing and fostering a deep sense of mutual workplace trust. One of the most vexing problems faced in organizations is a simple lack of trust between employees and their managers. For managers to experience successful growth and positive results in their respective department or unit, trust must be established on all levels. Without a deep sense of trust, their vision, goals and plans—as well as unified workplace cohesion—will be unobtainable.

Establishing trust is difficult, time-intensive work. It is earned when synergistic working relationships are established with individual employees. These relationships are characterized by active communication and listening, open and candid interactions, and a total acceptance of all persons as unique individuals. Trust also includes the manager’s personal involvement in ensuring employee as well as departmental success.

The fact that managers are granted authority over employees does not guarantee trust between both parties. Trust is based upon truth, which implies open, honest and direct communication free of personal or hidden agendas. For managers to become totally effective leaders trust must be earned and established. In the absence of trust, leadership principles will be of little consequence in the workplace.

Managers have a unique role within organizational workplaces. While they are responsible for individual employees and are required to guide and direct their activities, many are working on different assignments, projects and tasks in varying phases of completion. Many times it becomes impossible for managers to oversee everyone’s ongoing daily activities. This type of environment demands that high levels of trust are established and sustained.

Lack of trust in the workplace stems from areas managers can fall short in, including:

Establishing a Work Environment Free of Fear

Most managers are generally under extreme pressure to produce ongoing results. Many are focused on agendas that are able to secure or enhance their chances of organizational advancement. In the process, they often create zero-tolerance policies for mistakes and failures. This produces work atmospheres where employees become afraid to discuss problems or results in honest and open dialogue. Rather than trust their managers to support them, they hide pieces of information or mistakes that can hurt or jeopardize them in any way.

Communicating with Employees

Many managers have direct contact with their employees, but often fail to actively listen and engage in conversations that encourage interaction, feedback or input. Some are only interested in picking out certain information that they want to hear without thoroughly listening to anything else being said. Even though they fully believe they are communicating effectively, selective listening and targeted talk work to demoralize their employees and reduce their levels of trust and loyalty.

Interacting in Person

Many managers choose to communicate with their employees via email, written memos or posted messages. Very few efforts are made to interact directly with them on a regular and active basis. This becomes a major pitfall, as only when they make it a point to seek out employees to have open and free discussions and conversations can they become attuned to workplace problems, concerns, and attitudes and know which motivational methods need to be applied to whom.

All employees must be treated fairly, compassionately and honestly and be appreciated for their own particular characteristics and personalities. All have unique needs that must be addressed and met if they are to feel an important part of the organizational team. Since many tend to function with daily frustrations and pressures associated with their assignments and responsibilities, managers as leaders must become actively involved with them daily in order to encourage and sustain the motivation needed to assure they do not succumb to burnout and other psychological problems.

Specific Steps to Building Trust

If leaders wish to establish and build workplace trust, there are specific behaviors that must be avoided.

Criticism

Discussions concerning documented performance results and how to improve them are always necessary and appropriate as one of the manager’s primary responsibilities and functions. However, they must make it a point to avoid making unwarranted negative comments regarding an employee’s performance, attitudes and decisions, as they are directly perceived as personal criticisms, not constructive performance or work-related input.

Psychological Analysis

Managers as leaders must avoid assuming the role of amateur psychiatrist and analyzing employees’ motivations and behaviors. This includes resisting the urge to prejudge their circumstances, situations and actions.

Advice

Managers can easily provide solutions or advice without making the effort to seek employee input. As problems are often more complex than they appear, managers can short-circuit the learning process and alienate employees by not allowing them to identify why things happened, how ineffective solutions were reached, or the particular factors that contributed to inferior results. It is important that managers seek employee input in regard to specific problems in order to understand, analyze and learn from the facts and pertinent information they possess. Only then do they provide their advice, suggestions or solutions.

Command

Some managers tend to coerce, manipulate and force employees into completing assignments on time or accepting increased responsibility. As leaders, they need to avoid these types of actions, and instead motivate and encourage their employees to achieve desired results and/or increase their personal effectiveness and efficiency. They must know their employees well enough to be able to match the appropriate motivational strategy with each individual.

Control

Managers as leaders must avoid controlling actions and behavior through intimidation techniques and practices. Threatening employees with negative consequences does not motivate them. Employees need to be consistently and positively encouraged to produce results. Intimidation only serves to demoralize them.

Intense Questioning

Managers as leaders must avoid second-guessing and questioning employees on every decision, idea, recommendation or suggestion they make. Employees must be trusted to make decisions on their own without intense scrutiny and oversight. A barrage of suggestions or intense questioning as to their employees’ rationale or methods on every assignment only creates more obstacles to them doing their jobs properly, and sends a clear message that their manager thinks them untrustworthy and even incompetent.

Excerpt: Building & Nurturing Trust in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Eight Ways Others Evaluate Trust in Leaders

Five Strategies to Build Trust

Six Ways to Destroy Trust and Credibility

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Measure What Needs to Be Measured

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Performance plans are action plans, not static documents. Effective performance plans must detail the specific actions leaders and employees must follow to accomplish the goals and objectives set within it. Leaders understand that without meaningful performance standards, measuring and evaluating individual performance becomes difficult if not impossible. Once the plan is implemented, meaningful performance standards allow leaders to modify and adapt their plans to actual conditions.

Leaders must use solid standards to monitor and evaluate all aspects of performance. Any measurement used should determine and create an action both on the part of the employee being evaluated and on the part of the leader performing the evaluation.

There is a natural tendency for a leader to focus his or her activities on more prominent areas that will be highlighted and spotlighted, yet every element of the performance plan must be fully addressed.

It should be noted that any standard a leader creates will direct, limit and change the behavior and performance of their employees. This is important for leaders to understand because what and how they choose to evaluate can have either a positive or negative effect on the performance of their organizational unit.

A common pitfall in establishing performance standards is overdoing them. It burdens all involved with excessive factors and controls. Leaders know that to be effective, they need to set performance standards that are relevant and meaningful. It is far better to have fewer meaningful standards than to establish many useless ones. When applied, these standards will present a true picture of the performance of their organizational unit at any given point in time. Four areas to focus on in creating meaningful performance standards are:

What to Measure

The specific elements that need to be measured will vary by organizational unit. Typically, performance standards are set around productivity and profitability. Most leaders establish performance standards by setting specific performance expectations. Examples include:

  • Progress is evaluated by the reaching of specific milestones linked to individual goals and objectives.
  • Profitability is evaluated against the budgets established for each activity.
  • Efficiency is evaluated by the resource utilization within the organizational unit.

Each organizational unit has key factors that determine their success. Leaders identify these factors as indicators of performance and look for trigger points that are early indicators of the success or failure of these factors. For instance, if a leader is managing a manufacturing unit, he or she may focus on projected orders as a key indicator of their unit’s future activities. While a production supervisor may not be interested in these future indicators, a leader looks beyond the immediate horizon to maximize the efficiency of their unit.

How to Benchmark

Once leaders know what they want to evaluate, they need to benchmark each critical measurement. This establishes degrees of confidence and reliability in their numbers. They review these statistics over a meaningful period of time to establish a benchmark of past performance in each area. The longer a leader reviews the past performance of a specific area, the higher the degree of confidence and reliability he or she establishes.

Once key performance standards are benchmarked, leaders establish “triggering events” that result in taking immediate action. Since the benchmarked statistic is the standard, a triggering event can be predetermined. This event or “flag” occurs when performance rises above or falls below a specific percentage of the benchmarked standard. This provides leaders an early warning system to proactively deal with performance problems before they get out of hand.

How Frequently to Measure

Leaders are careful not to overburden themselves with needless information. They use performance standards as a means to keep their finger on the pulse of their unit’s performance. They can easily determine the frequency for receiving reports of their unit’s performance. Some statistics are meaningful on a daily basis, some hourly, and still others only when reported over prolonged periods of time.

What Measurements Indicate

Key performance standards need to inform leaders of the overall performance of their organizational unit. Specific measurements can trigger corrective actions, while others indicate the progress of the unit against performance plan goals and objectives. Effectively utilized, solid performance standards lead and direct the leader’s actions to fine-tune his or her unit’s performance. The right balance of key standards points the way to improved overall performance and productivity.

Excerpt: Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Strategies and Solutions for Solving Team Problems

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manDelegating

Teams are complicated and complex structures since they are comprised of individuals with different personalities, biases, strengths and weaknesses. Before people can form into an effective team, they must first learn to work together. Participants must work through personal differences, find strengths to build upon, and balance collective commitments against the demands of individual job requirements.

Leaders must deal with team needs arising from the pressures of personal differences, biases, strengths, weaknesses and the demands of the individual jobs apart from the team. Addressing these issues is as important as the team’s task of making organizational improvements. Often both leaders and team members underestimate the need to develop themselves into a cohesive group.

Teams that run smoothly can concentrate on their primary goals. Conversely, teams that fail to build internal relationships waste time on internal control conflicts and unfocused efforts.

It is important for leaders to understand that the more they know what to expect as their teams progress, the better equipped they are to handle difficulties and problems as they arise. This knowledge enables leaders to recognize many problems and work through the ones that cannot be avoided.

The most obvious team efforts are associated with the task of improving a process or solving a problem. This includes holding meetings, gathering and analyzing data, planning improvements, making changes and writing reports. However, when individuals are formed into teams, the complexity of group dynamics seems to inhibit their ability to work well together.

The issues associated with group dynamics include hidden problems, concerns and agendas that create specific undercurrents and distract the team from the accomplishment of its assigned responsibilities. Some of these undercurrents can be seen in a host of conflicting emotions: the excitement and anxiety of being a part of the team; an individual’s loyalty to their department or division; a nervous anticipation regarding the team’s success. Left unaddressed, these conflicts can inhibit the team’s effectiveness.

Leaders must involve their teams in activities that are not directly related to the assigned task, but those that build understanding and support within the team. Only in this manner can leaders resolve these internal issues and undercurrents. Some of the common issues encountered by leaders in these areas include:

Personal Identity in the Team

There is a natural tendency to wonder how individuals will fit into a team. When individuals come together for the first time, there is apprehension, anticipation and questions concerning the value of the team and their contribution to it. These feelings of uncertainty are greatly reduced for individuals who have worked together previously on other projects.

The rest of the issues discussed in this lesson are closely associated with these feelings of personal identity.

Membership Inclusion

There are basic psychological needs associated with membership inclusion. Individuals have a natural desire to be part of a group and are motivated by a sense of being part of something larger than themselves.

Leaders must be concerned about membership inclusion as individuals who feel alienated from the team’s vision and purpose will represent sources of continual conflict until the issue is resolved.

Leaders can enhance membership inclusion with the use of team-building activities and assignments that will quickly unify the team and instill a shared desire to work toward mutual goals.

Influence, Control and Mutual Trust

Much of the apprehension and anticipation of new team members arises from issues of influence, control and mutual trust. Within new teams, these issues will not be resolved until individual members naturally establish themselves and emerge as leaders and influencers.

Mutual trust will not be obtained until individuals begin to work together and become familiar with each other’s personality differences. Deadlines, team pressures and external crises increase team members’ reliance on each other, foster trust and build team cohesiveness.

Mutual Loyalty

Loyalty is built upon mutual trust, respect and cohesiveness. Leaders can utilize these factors by developing and enforcing guidelines and boundaries that establish a foundation on which to operate. Without these guidelines, leaders will discover that individuals tend to dominate and intimidate other team members. Such domineering tendencies will destroy loyalty and trust, and greatly inhibit the team’s ability to operate effectively.

Relationship Between Team Members

While there are always exceptions to the rule, most people want their team to be successful, and as such, will cooperate toward that end. However, people are often personally concerned with the tone that will characterize the team, namely whether it will be friendly and light at times or all business. Additionally, members want to know whether they can be open or have to be guarded in their comments and about the team’s ability to work together to resolve issues. These are specific issues that need to be addressed by the leadership of the team. The group dynamics resulting from the influence and control of leaders and the guidelines enforced by the team, should be dealt with accordingly.

Organizational Identity

Team members will usually identify with their departments and divisions. Their apprehension lies with any conflict that may arise with team membership. When conflict develops between group and departmental loyalty, leaders will see their team’s effectiveness diminish.

As teams must also build relationships with the organization, it is critical for leaders to identify influential individuals who can champion the team and its projects. Leaders will find that this is a critical element in developing organizational support. The more visible a team’s contribution, the more motivated team members will be since there is a payoff in increased perceived value of their success.

Excerpt: Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ $17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Five Pitfalls Teams Need to Avoid

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Four Attitudes That Hinder an Empowered Environment

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The forces requiring companies to continually change, transform and improve are becoming progressively more compelling in today’s business environment. This is the result of a globalized economy, the shifting sands of deregulation and regulation, accelerated technological advances, and the competitive challenges posed by emerging companies.

Dealing with these forces can precipitate a crisis atmosphere in many companies as they attempt to retain market share in the midst of breakneck industry changes and political shifts. As these challenges have a definite effect on organizations and their ability to remain flexible and competitive, leaders can easily stumble into any number of pitfalls when striving to meet them. Empowerment is needed for an organization as a whole to surmount problems, issues and events that surface without warning, and to achieve the necessary growth these new pressures demand.

It is important for an organization and its top leaders to understand that power needs to flow to lower-level leaders and employees whose tasks, projects and assignments are needed to deal effectively with critical problems. The capacity of a company to strengthen itself comes from the empowerment of its members, which has its origin in the degree to which the organization is willing to share power with its leaders and employees.

In today’s climate, “power” is not found in controlling events and circumstances within the organization or outside its boundaries. Power is not focused on the personal gain, recognition or advancement of its individual leaders. It is a collective synergy found among all organizational members, a dynamis, or tireless energy that permeates the atmosphere. This is the inevitable result of delegating and including all leaders and employees in all processes that move the organization forward.

Pitfalls emerge when organizations fall short in actually sharing power where and when called for. This is most often the reason why the concept of empowerment fails to take root in an organization and become a concrete, beneficial driving force.

Many organizations often hold beliefs and views that run counter to empowerment. They are often shortsighted and ignore the fact that collectively, their members are the most critical resource they have to move forward. When organizations take a myopic view they fail to realize the actual potential strength they have at their disposal, and do not utilize their leaders and employees to their best advantage. They often claim leadership and empowerment as primary goals, but fall short in actual attempts to develop a climate conducive to supporting them. This is generally the result of falling into common pitfalls.

Maintaining that Power Is a Fixed Sum

Traditional organizational thinking promotes the idea that power is a fixed sum; i.e., if one person has more, others have less. Organizations and individuals within it who share this belief are also reluctant to share power. They hold on tightly to it. However, this philosophy seriously retards the accomplishment of extraordinary things through mutual, collective efforts. This is the real barrier to empowerment: when managers and even employees hoard whatever power they have.

This generates powerlessness in others. In turn it generates organizational systems where political skills become “business as usual.” These are actively used to “cover oneself” and “pass the buck.” They become the preferred styles for handling interdepartmental differences and lagging productivity and results. At the same time these actions and their motives create disharmony and hindering roadblocks to cooperative and creative efforts for necessary innovation. An organization will find its products, quality, and services suffer when these wanting political skills are consistently applied, and where eliminating them is overlooked or ignored.

Failing to Provide Organizational Discretion and Autonomy

Applying discretion and autonomy within an organization comes from actively supporting its members and trusting in their ability to take decisive action whenever and wherever necessary. It includes the right to exercise independent judgment, and to make decisions that affect how one does his or her job without having to check in with upper levels every time issues and concerns surface. Without embracing and promoting elements of discretion and autonomy, an organization’s total support network is diminished and ultimately destroyed.

The opportunity to be flexible, creative and adaptive is what enables an organization to make most productive use of its resources in moving ahead and overcoming challenges. If organizations allow for individual discretion, leaders and employees will have greater opportunity to apply their creativity and collective intelligence. They will have more choices about how to successfully accomplish given goals and objectives.

In addition, when an organization practices flexible discretion, it generates higher levels of responsibility and a greater sense of obligation among all members, as all individually feel more powerful and in control of events and circumstances that would otherwise overwhelm them.

Falling Short in Identifying the Real Sources of an Organization’s Power

Within an organization, traditional power is generally thought of as having and maintaining control over its resources. However, the real power of an organization is found in its individual leaders and through their employee groups. This is where the organization’s crucial problems can be solved to ensure its long-term success and viability. An organization can emphasize its willingness to acknowledge the power of its leaders and employees by:

  • Involving all members in its planning and directives.
  • Allowing delegation to be an active part of its culture with full trust and confidence that goals and objectives will be met.
  • Creating and implementing an empowered spirit and team attitude throughout the organization.
  • Finding unique ways to reward leaders and all other members for accomplishments large and small.

Being Reluctant to Give Power Away to Strengthen Others

Upper management must embrace the idea that the only potential market power and strength they have is maintained by the mutual efforts of their subordinate leaders and employees. It is dependent upon a positive interconnection and interaction among all three parties. Organizations must recognize the necessity of giving power away to others. Upper management must actively practice four principles that strategically strengthen the organization and the members within it. They include:

  • Giving leaders the power to use their own personal judgment in the delegation of critical assignments and decision making. This includes them then empowering their employees to modify methods and processes to increase quality, productivity and innovation.
  • Allowing leaders and other members greater discretion and autonomy over resources, projects, direction and outcomes.
  • Developing an atmosphere that builds relationships, connecting leaders and employees with other powerful people within the organization that can mentor, sponsor and coach them.
  • Promoting visibility and strengthening people within the organization by sharing information and increasing flexibility in work-related activities. Top management must be able to actively enable others to act with the organization’s best interests at heart, with realistic levels of accountability and without the risk of potential negative consequences.

Excerpt: Empowerment: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

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Effective teams worry about obtaining positive results. This is why they typically succeed in the projects they are assigned, and in implementing the positive solutions they generate.

Teams are unlike work groups. They are an assembly of people who are committed to balanced participation, equal contribution and regular deliberation. The ideas and abilities of individual team members need to be used for the overall good of the project or its purpose. Such a collaborative dynamic does not occur automatically. It takes a great deal of energy and purposeful activity and is easily destroyed by the lack of focus, agendas and motivation of participating team members.

Successful teams consciously focus on how to generate better results. To get them, a team needs to be able to organize its talent, assigned roles, tasks and processes so members remain interested and absorbed in what the team is charted to do and accomplish.

When a team does not worry about generating positive results, it will never function as effectively as it can. One reason is because members will resort to performing roles and taking stances that tend to suit and advance their own purposes and desires, but act against the best interests of the team.

These actions are quite destructive. They can easily undermine team success in terms of efficiently and effectively addressing and accomplishing the task it was assigned. These destructive forces must be guarded against if a team is to be a highly productive and functional decision making entity.

When a team fails to be results oriented, it tends to allow five major destructive forces to take root. This is the result of looking the other way and allowing members who have a tendency for continually “turning off,” “labeling,” “playing devil’s advocate,” “controlling” and “yes-butting” to take over team processes and group dynamic standards and structure.

To obtain better team results and sustain a high focus on generating them, with the least amount of disruptive interference, the team alone must become responsible for:

  • Minimizing actions that result in negative attitudes toward addressing and advancing the team project
  • Maximizing actions that make team participants enjoy the process of collaborative problem solving and experimentation
  • Modeling and reinforcing effective performance techniques that have a problem-centered focus
  • Getting team members excited about the project’s associated opportunities and challenges
  • Making the team as a whole eager to function effectively and cooperatively while moving it continually forward
  • Reducing frustrations to prevent members from becoming unmotivated and giving up
  • Overcoming and preventing these major destructive forces is absolutely necessary.

Turning off Others and Project Excitement

There are seven specific actions that work to turn others off as well as decrease levels of personal and team enthusiasm toward an assigned project:

  • Personal interruptions when someone is trying to explain something
  • Taking discussions off track
  • Ignoring what a speaker is saying
  • Ignoring and/or downplaying others and their responses
  • Using nonverbal negative communication tactics
  • Being singularly focused and totally closed-minded
  • Using derisive humor

Any of these actions indicate that a team member simply doesn’t want to take responsibility to help the team perform and function well, or take an active interest in what it is trying to accomplish and tend to generate a lot of conflict within a team.

This is because individuals who attempt to shut down the sharing of explanations, insights and opinions will impede team progress and problem solving efforts, which makes it difficult and frustrating for others who want to move forward.

It is easy to predict that the majority of team members will likely tend to isolate offending individuals rather than openly and conscientiously deal with their inappropriate actions in an attempt to alter or change their behavior. As a result the team loses a valuable member simply because it failed to adhere to and reinforce the standards of communication it had set for itself.

Labeling

When a team fails to maintain a results-oriented focus, it often allows labeling to go unchecked. When someone inside a team places a label on another member’s behavior or attempts to describe another’s attitudes or motives, this individual becomes a detrimental force to reckon with.

Major breakdowns in team process and progress are often due to intentional or unintentional labeling practices. Labeling occurs when team members: talk forcibly to someone, intentionally confront another person in an intimidating manner, suggest that another person has a particular attitude or unworthy motive, or react sharply by challenging what another person is saying or implying.

Whatever tactic is used, predictably speaking, a team can be certain that the person being attacked will immediately resort to a defensive position, and conflict and resentment will follow. This tends to disrupt and halt any discussion or conversation. In teams this is extremely detrimental and unproductive.

Not only do labels affect the whole team in a social way, but also seriously affect the individuals being labeled from a psychological standpoint. Members who are labeled negatively by their team counterparts or peers tend to: be more depressed, have a lower self-esteem, portray defensive characteristics, and dominate others as a personal protective measure.

Self-concept may play a large role in the everyday happenings of labeling behaviors. When a team member assigns a label to another team member, it may actually reflect how this particular person perceives and views him or herself.

Research further suggests that a person’s flexible self-concept influences the process by which people form impressions of others. In other words, self-concept impacts the labels one tends to apply to others.

No matter what, labeling practices are fairly predictable. Silence and non-participation will become more apparent within the team, and resentment toward others will cloud and hinder open communication.

Playing Devil’s Advocate

Playing the role of devil’s advocate is typically exhibited through the use of the word “no,” which oftentimes is referred to as “nay-saying.” Predictably, this type of occurrence generates not only conflict and chaos, but also frustration and stress within the team setting.

A devil’s advocate makes certain that whatever is ineffective or bad in regard to another’s idea, opinion or suggestion is openly and emphatically expressed. They emphasize so powerfully what is wrong with something, that what is right tends to get buried or ignored before it is even explored.

It is important to counter this type of team-subverting behavior, which can be done individually by interjecting something like:

  • “I heard what you had to say but I would also like to hear another’s point of view on this.”
  • “I am really not interested so much in why (name) takes this position as I am in (name’s) reasoning behind it, and this is what I wish to know more about.”
  • “I totally agree that there may be reasons why this won’t work, but I am intrigued by the possibility that it may work. Let’s address why and how it could possibly work
  • effectively.”

Controlling

Without maintaining a focus on how to get the best results possible, it becomes easy to predict that a team will allow one or more of its members to control its: progress, issues, structure, methods of problem solving, and overall situations. This becomes a major reason why a team ends up functioning far less effectively and obtaining lower-level results.

It is important to understand what control looks like so the team can proactively watch for and effectively handle these types of situations. Individuals who always attempt to take control tend to have personalities that are fear or pride driven, even though they may have no idea that these two factors continually influence them.

The team needs to take a step back and ask, “Why does this person feel the need to dictate or to control this issue or situation?” Most controlling individuals tend to fear that if they do not control the situation, they will lose control of their surroundings and influence.

Often control is related to one’s feelings of self-importance or pride as an individual feels the need to be in control to feel special or be the center of attention. Unfortunately, “pride” in a team setting often manifests itself as an unwillingness to back down or to surrender power or authority. Ultimately it is to accept that someone else might be right and that the other might be wrong.

The team and its members must realize that control is the opposite of trust. If a member feels the need to constantly be in control of what the team focuses on, how something is done or what it does, this individual is demonstrating that he or she does not trust the team to make appropriate or effective decisions on its own.

Predictably, this lack of trust is detrimental, especially within a team setting, since trust is a vital part of the team relationship process, which enables each person within it to feel important and trustworthy.

Many controlling personalities don’t ever think about what they are doing. Most don’t realize that they are controlling individuals until they are told. Control can be broken. It is not a permanent condition that cannot be changed. Most people who are controlling in their actions and behaviors want to change, they just don’t know how.

Several action steps members can take to help overcome control issues within the team environment include:

  • The first step requires the team to acknowledge that an individual is projecting a dominating or controlling personality.
  • The second step requires openly addressing it. For those with pride-based control, this is a difficult exercise, but a very important one that is crucial to change.
  • The third step requires the offending individual to accept needed, constructive criticism, which can be part of the set standards for the team.
  • This step will demonstrate a true desire on the person’s part to be a better team player. It also will begin to reestablish elements of personal as well as team trust.
  • The fourth step requires changing the team’s reaction to control-based situations. These circumstances will occasionally happen, but as a team it is important how its members react, address and respond to them.
  • The fifth step requires creating a more solid, positive team atmosphere, which includes keeping positive words flowing, never talking in a derogatory way about others, either in front of or away from them.

“Yes-Buts”

One of the most common occurrences within a team discussion is demonstrating the “yes-but” syndrome. This is typically done in response to someone’s ideas, suggestions or way to approach something.

Predicting the effects created by this is fairly reliable: unclear, ambiguous messages are sent and interpreted. Responses appear to say one thing but actually convey another leading to team communication breakdowns and miscommunication.

This is one of the hardest practices to detect within a team setting because it is often used so subtly and skillfully. Yes-buts:

  • Imply, “I heard what you said but you are wrong.”
  • Tend to be a personal discounting of what another person says or believes.
  • Tell the speaker, “As a listener I think you may have a good or useful idea or suggestion, but it isn’t worth much in this situation.”

The “yes-but” technique is often used to soften the blow of disagreement. This approach tends to occur most when members on the team attempt to personally sell an idea to others or want to take control of a situation.

Either way, “yes-butting” should be put to rest quickly. Allowing team members to apply this technique will predictably hinder progress while forcing likely effective solutions out of the problem solving picture.

Related:

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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