Six pages into a book, and I am already incredibly inspired. I love when books do this to me. Sometimes just the right words can stick in a person's mind and make a big impact or entirely change the way we look at something. For example, there is the ever so famous Nike " Just Do It" slogan, the catchy motto you see on t-shirts and bumper stickers everywhere, "Keep Calm and Chive On," and my most recent favorite by our friends at Hubspot "JFDI." If you don't know what that means, you can check it out in this awesome post about their awesome culture. It is on slide 85, but you would be wise to look through the entire thing to discover what a clearly defined culture looks like.
When I started writing this post, I began reading Joel Osteen's Become a Better You. His message is loud and clear and hit a chord with me. . . Never settle and stop growing. Then, I started reading Winning by Jack Welch. His message is crystal clear, but this quote sums it up well, "I think winning is great. Not good great. Because when companies win, people thrive and grow." I really got to thinking about how these two books have a connected message. Jack Welch tells business owners how to win, while Joel Osteen tells you how to win in life. Both of them believe that to be a better person, you have to constantly grow. However, this doesn't always happen when people reach the top because they get comfortable. And . . .
Comfort is the nemesis of great! - You should probably tweet this! quote by me.
Sometimes when you are in a really good place, you don't ever want to leave. Why would you? People fall into a rut, and I mean a "good rut" not the bad kind, and they can't get out because good is good enough. Unfortunately, Steve Jobs didn't create a legacy by staying comfortable. The automobile didn't go from 10 to 200 MPH because someone thought just having a car is great. You can't save thousands of people by stopping when you save 100. We would all be living in a cave if humans weren't programmed to want something more.
However, some humans lose the drive to do better when they reach a comfortable point. It is especially hard to not get comfortable when you are winning, when your company is winning. As the CEO of a company, you have to get comfortable with never being comfortable (That's another original quote that you should Tweet).
Sometimes moving past the "comfort zone" means you have to take risks. You have to do what someone else says couldn't, wouldn't, and shouldn't be done. You may already have a great product and service that is enabling you and your team to win, but you have to constantly innovate and strive to be better. Today's world is moving super fast- lightening fast - and if you do not keep up, you will lose to the competitor who isn't comfortable with comfort. Do not be afraid to make a change because you fear things might not be as good as they are now because this will stop you from being great.
In addition, you are a leader (Assuming you actually lead and do not boss), so you have a responsibility to not only build a better you but build a better team. You cannot let yourself or your team become satisfied with the status quo. If you shut down new ideas because you already think a process is really good, you will not only harm employee engagement but someday when the competitors come up with something better, your process will no longer be good. Actually, it will go from good to bad . . . really bad.
Now, get out of your comfortable office and win! You can start by calling the Rainmaker Group (Hint, Hint) for a consultation to identify how you can improve your team, company, and culture.
John Miller, Author of QBQ - The Question Behind the Question came up with one of my favorite themes - "Believe or leave." Employee team members either believe in the mission, vision, and values of the company or they do not. Those who do not believe need to go - either under their own initiative or ultimately yours.
Non-believers who do not perform are easy to identify. However, non-believers who do perform well are not so easily seen and a lot harder to get rid of.
Team members who do not believe in the company, their boss, the ownership, and/or the product are often difficult to identify yet your gut often knows.
Non-believers who do key elements of their job well are the most difficult to identify yet they can do the most damage. Here are the signs you have a team member who does not believe:
They obviously dislike you.
In small companies where the company mission, vision, and values are closely tied to the boss, an obvious dislike for the boss’ is a sign of non-belief. If an employee does not believe in you, they most likely do not believe in the company. However, do not jump to firing an employee who dislikes you because you may be the probably not them. If you remove a non-believer and fail to address what you are doing wrong - you will end up with additional non-believers in the future.
How do you know if you have a non-believer on the team or you are actually the problem? Use a personality assessment like TriMetrix® HD to identify any behavioral and value differences that may be causing interpersonal conflict between you and the team member. Your team members are entitled to their own values, however, if they conflict with the core company values, they are likely to cause problems in the future.
They are disengaged.
The most obvious sign a team member does not believe is disengagement. Employees who believe that what they do matters will be engaged. They believe their work serves an important purpose. When they do not believe, they do not see a purpose to what they do and, as a result, disengage.
They will challenge . . . Everything!
Wait . . . Do I not preach that candor is essential to creating a high value company? It is, so don't get your panties in a bunch before I explain.
We have a Client who hired a manager that would bash not just their boss but also the CEO, the company, and the product during meetings. It was pretty obvious in this case that the new manager did not believe.
Believers will challenge openly because they want to build not tear-down the company. However, the team member who challenges while tearing-down is a non-believer. Non-believers will also spend more time challenging than they do embracing the culture. They point out many of the faults, but are they applauding the good?
Ultimately, if you truly have a non believer on your team and you have done everything reasonably possible, you need to take action. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos says it best, "I fire those who don't fit our company culture."
Non-believers distract you and dilute your company culture from what it could and should be. Unfortunately most managers do nothing. They tolerate the mediocrity that comes from non-believers. Ultimately, if it is acceptable to tolerate the mediocrity non believers bring - it is your legacy that will suffer. It is up to you to protect your brand and your company culture. Those who do believe - they are counting on you. Remove true non believers from your "bus" as quickly as possible.
Perhaps you have worked for a boss who was difficult to approach – a person you actually came to avoid. I have. I had a boss who not only was difficult to share an idea with, he “loved the ladies” and from a personality perspective - we were "oil and water". Despite my best efforts to “win him over” with my hard work and ideas, I could not make him happy. He shot down practically every idea I had.
I soon gave up. I avoided him and started going to his boss.
Perhaps you are currently or have experienced the following:
- An inability to connect with an employee team member.
- A conflict that never quite goes away.
- The sense that the best ideas are not being shared.
- You sense that your team members are not sharing bad news with you.
There are four things that I worry about with a business. The talent, the systems used, the Culture, and what is not being said. A culture of avoidance reduces creativity, accountability, trust, and productivity.
Assuming you are in business to serve your Customer, create a meaningful work environment, and make a profit – you need great ideas – you need the creativity your employee team members have to compete effectively and take your business to the next level.
More importantly – you need your employee team members to feel safe – to trust you and one another enough to share what they are thinking. Anything that gets in the way of that safety and trust will hurt you, your team, your Customers, and your bottom line.
At The Rainmaker Group – I have been the single greatest destroyer of ideas. I have done so at times without realizing it by being the hard charger that I am. I have done so because, at times, I failed to honor the greatness in others.
Chances are, the single greatest destroyer of ideas in your company and team is you. The good news is you can do something about it.
Following are five things that you can do to reduce a culture of avoidance:
Begin With You
All problems start at the head and if you are the head - it is indeed your fault. Your culture is a direct reflection of you, what you allow, and what you do not allow to occur. It is up to you to shape it. Shape carefully.
Quickly Remove Low Performers
The greater the job mismatch, the more likely you need to “swoop in” to correct actions. When other employee team members see you addressing one of their colleagues on an issue, it creates stress and anxiety. The longer you retain a low performer – the more likely some or many of your team members see you as difficult to work with – the more they will avoid you.
Gain Behavioral and Value Awareness
The less your employee team members understand themselves and one another’s behaviors and values, the more likely there will be conflict and avoidance. Create that awareness to help each team member reshape their thinking about themselves and the intentions of others. Learn more about behavioral and value awareness here.
Create Conflict Norms
Every team has those who run towards conflict and those who run away. It is important to get everyone’s concerns and ideas on the table. To do so, you must have conflict norms that create dialogue purposefully.
Create a Strong Personal Vision to Overcome Your Vices
Perhaps like me, you are a hard-nosed human being. I run towards problems and conflict. I have an idea for everything. I squash great ideas that are born or about to be born by sharing my opinion more often than I should. There are two philosophies I have that help me “take the edge” off. One is “Honor the greatness in others.” The other is “There is truth in everything being said by others.” Both philosophies are part of my personal vision and enable me to be a better leader and team member.
Good employees make mistakes.
I know from experience and have made many. I remember vividly one particular situation where I thought I was going to be fired after making a big mistake and was not fired. In fact, the company president actually said, "If you quit now Chris, we will lose our investment in you."
That made a big impression on me.
This week, KFYR TV in Bismarck, ND fired first-time broadcaster, A.J. Clemente, after he said, "F--kin' s--t," when he thought he was off-air. The YouTube video has now gone viral, even being highlighted on the Today Show. At the moment, the Today Show poll on the issue stands behind A.J. with 83.8% of voters saying he should get a second chance.
This hits close to home for me for two reasons. One, I believe leaders need to be compassionate in how they lead. Secondly, the KFYR station is located literally one block from our office in downtown Bismarck.
Initially, I thought - this guy has to go. Willfully cursing on the first day of work in broadcasting? Then, I learned some of the facts. It was his first day on the job. Watch the video – clearly he was nervous. One important fact is that he was unaware that he was on camera with an open microphone. Most important though is that A.J. has owned up to his mistake, even on the Today Show.
Employees who take accountability for their mistakes should be valued, especially when the mistake is unintentional.
Let me be clear... There is a profound difference between the willful disregard of company policy and an honest mistake. When an employee makes an unintentional mistake regarding company policy, it is a “learning opportunity." When there is willful disregard for company policy, it is a "seek opportunity elsewhere" scenario.
A company is only as good as its leadership. When an employee is terminated for an honest mistake, it does only one thing – it creates a fear-based culture, and this type of culture does not work. Period.
A fear-based culture destroys creativity, morale, and ideas. The best ideas do not come out because of the emotional risk associated with sharing those ideas. A fear-based culture is so “old school” – it “worked” in the 60’s and 70’s and perhaps the 80’s but today – people have choices. Today, a fear-based culture pushes the best and brightest out to seek “greener pastures” elsewhere and leaves a workplace with those who have no other choices.
To be fair to KFYR TV, I do not know their leadership or their their culture. I pray that like A.J. Clemente, they have learned a lesson in all of this as well.
Mistakes happen and human beings are going to keep making them. Making mistakes is part of the learning process and it is important to accept that honest mistakes will happen. Companies that allow employees to make mistakes create an innovative, effective culture. The culture all great leaders aspire to have.
Hiring bias is far too common . . . So common it is scary! At the Rainmaker, we talk about the potential for hiring bias often. One type of bias we have not covered is the physical attractiveness bias. I doubt any executive would actually admit to hiring based on looks, but the reality is that they are probably doing so without even realizing it.
First of all, what makes a person attractive? In both sexes, it is symmetry. For women, luscious lips, good muscle tone, the hour glass figure, and clear skin. For men, defined cheekbones, longer face length, and masculine features are found to be more attractive.
Comila Shahani-Denning is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Hofstra University and a consultant who has worked with AT&T, Long Island Board of Realtors, Mineola Youth and Family Services, Pass & Seymour, and many others. In her research article, Physical Attractiveness Bias in Hiring: What Is Beautiful Is Good, she reviews the numerous studies on the impact this bias has on hiring. Please refer to her article for more information.
The physical attractiveness bias is commonly known as the "What Is Beautiful Is Good" stereotype. Humans have a tendency to look positively at those who are attractive. In the workplace, this can be extremely dangerous. However, despite the regulations on discrimination, discrimination based on looks has not been established.
This is scary considering that research has supported that the bias really does occur. Shahani-Denning discusses details of Cash, Gillens and Burns (1977):
"For neutral jobs, attractive applicants were preferred over unattractive applicants. Attractive applicants were also rated as more qualified than unattractive applicants when applying for sex-role-congruent employment (i.e., masculine jobs for males and feminine jobs for females)."
Beauty can also be beastly, according to Shahani-Denning. When it comes to traditional male jobs, being attractive is actually devalued for females. Thus, unattractive females are favored for the position. However, she states that there is little support for the "Beauty Is Beastly" bias, and the "What Is Beautiful Is Good" stereotype is far more common and supported by research.
Beauty is not only rewarded in hiring. As this inforgraphic reveals, attractive people earn 10-15% more than unattractive people. Further more, attractive people in real estate sell their properties for more than unattractive people. Since real estate is a type of sales position, this raises the question, "How much do looks matter in sales?" According to this article, door-to-door salespeople make more when they are found to be attractive by the prospect.
Are you thinking you should start hiring attractive salespeople to increase sales? I suggest you do not. As discussed in The Secret Behind Sales Performance, great salespeople are motivated by money and the desire to control their destiny. Thus, if an attractive person is not motivated by the latter, their beauty does not give them an advantage.
What about other positions? Should you hire attractive people because customers will associate them with "goodness." Please do not do that. A candidate should be hired for a job based on how well they are fit for the job, resume, and interview. Obviously, you want a candidate to be presentable but being biased based on looks is unacceptable in my eyes.
Being biased towards attractive and unattractive people is wrong. If you want to avoid being biased based on attractiveness and other factors, use a structured hiring process that involves the following:
- Analysis of the key accountabilities of the job.
- A hiring scorecard to evaluate the candidate based on job requirements.
- A personality assessment - the Rainmaker Group offers the TriMetrix® HD, which is a comprehensive assessment that measures behavioral style, motivators and competencies.
- A structured interview process that addresses any aspects of the assessment that draw concern or should be elaborated.
Look around your office . . . Are you sorrounded by attractive people? Take a conscious effort to ensure you are not hiring, rating, or discriminating based on attractiveness.
Sometimes our Clients listen. Sometimes they do not.
A few years ago a Client used the TriMetrix® HD to assess sales talent in a highly technical field. They were desperately seeking an outside salesperson. Unfortunately, there were so few sales candidates on the market that they decided to choose one of the half dozen local college graduates in the degree field.
We assessed several and no meaningful job fit existed with any of them. The Client chose the "best" of the group despite our risk warnings.
As predicted, it was a disaster. Six months later, our predictions rang true. This "dog" could not hunt. He literally sat in his car outside the prospect's offices and did not go in to sell. The sales manager ended up spending countless hours trying to help the low performer but they could not fix the real problem - low job fit.
This particular Client listens now. If the risk indicators are too high, they do not hire. Period. They have learned their lesson - it is better to be short-staffed than to have salespeople who cannot sell and need constant coaching.
Over the last decade we have assessed thousands of sales candidates and existing salespeople using the TriMetrix® HD in combination with our proprietary algorithm.
We have found that there are particular "personality combinations" and traits that are a statistically significant predictor of future sales success. Two can be measured objectively and one can be manipulated.
- The right motivation. In short, high-performing sales people value making money and taking control of their destinies. We call it "goal post Utilitarian / Individualistic".
- The right Behavior Style for the sales role. The DISC Behavioral Style is a high DI for outside sales or a high ID, DC, or IS for inside sales.
- The demonstration of some type of entrepreneurial inclination in prior positions or through their own small businesses. A prime example is being a paper carrier as a child and/or having a lawn mowing / painting service.
Top Sales Talent Behavior Style Notes:
The "DI" is preferred in most industries for outside sales. The "DI" is a "tell-oriented" aggressive problem-solver who can move between "people and task" at will. They are verbally expressive - sometimes charismatic. The higher the "D" in outside sales, the more likely the salesperson can handle the inevitable rejection that comes with cold calling. If the "I" is higher than the "D" - the salesperson is more likely to suffer from "cold call rejection".
Inside salespeople are often account managers or the sales opportunities come to them. For inside sales, the "ID" is preferred. The "I" is the "People-Tell" dimension. The "DC" is all "Task" and can move between "Ask and Tell". I find the "DC" to be often strategically brilliant for both outside and inside sales. Customers often love the "DC" for the insights they have that others do not.
The "IS" can also make a very good inside salesperson in situations where the relationship is key. The "IS" is what we call "People-People" and can move between "Ask and Tell". The higher the "S" - the better the listener.
Top Sales Talent Values Notes:
Top salespeople want to make money and they will take the necessary actions to achieve their goals.
The higher the Utilitarian / Individualistic combination, the stronger the motivation to sell and own the outcomes - both good and bad. The higher the Utilitarian in combination with a low Individualistic increases the potential that the salesperson seeks compensation but will avoid the effort to make the sale. We call this "entitlement thinking".
The higher the Individualistic - the higher the likelihood the salesperson will want to be sales manager one day. This is often a profound mistake as what makes a good salesperson is not what makes a good sales manager.
If the Social is too low - in some situations, the Customer may feel the salesperson only cares about getting the sale and not about them personally.
Top salespeople have a history of making it happen. Whether through their own entrepreneurial activities or demonstrated success in past employment situations. However, it is extremely important to keep in mind that there can be short-term motivations that can make anyone have the ability to do whatever it takes to sell. Many of the questions one would perhaps want to ask to identify such situations are inappropriate to ask.
Predicting the potential of a salesperson is remarkably easy using the TriMetrix® HD. The resume' is a great place to start. Do not stop there. Invest in the TriMetrix® HD sales assessment to identify the potential of your sales candidates separate the low performers from the high.
Unfortunately, many resume's are an oasis - fiction.
Your bottom line, your bonus, and your forehead will thank you for hiring the best salespeople every time.
I grew up on a North Dakota dairy farm, and my first boss was actually my Dad. He became my boss at an early age – probably when I was around ten-years-old. Getting up early to help feed the calves and scrape the crap out of the barn isn’t exactly fun or engaging, but my Dad somehow was able to make me enjoy doing these “dirty” tasks.
What is astonishing about my Dad is that he was able to make a “crappy” job engaging. My Dad, although I may be completely biased due to us sharing the same blood, was the best boss I have ever had.
If your employees were asked if you are the best boss they ever had, would you be? I asked colleagues to share their "best boss" stories and made this list based on their responses, as well as my own.
Autonomy with Trust
Much research has showed that autonomy- being able to work independently – is critical to getting employees engaged. When I asked colleagues to share their stories of their best boss, autonomy was common among them all.
For one colleague, his best boss was at a firework shop in high school where he was an assistant manager. My colleague said he loved this boss because the boss would ask something to get done at the beginning of the week and check in only at the end of the week to see if it was completed. The boss did not stop in mid-week to ask how the progress was coming, instead he would trust my colleague to get the work done on his own.
Autonomy is important but only when it is accompanied with trust. An executive may feel they are giving a team member autonomy while still checking in from time to time. It is not autonomy if you are checking in from time to time. You can still "trust but verify," but you have to wait to verify until the project is completed.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Another colleague shared that her favorite boss was someone that wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work. As an executive, you have the luxury of passing the unwanted tasks onto others. However, employees are not dumb (If you hire right!) and see this type of thing. Delegation is important and should be done, but you have to be willing to do the dirty work sometimes.
A boss is well respected when he or she is willing to roll up their sleeves when they are needed.
Encouragement is kind of a given, but it often gets put on the back burner. You cannot forget to encourage because a little bit goes a long way with encouragement. Here is a great example of encouragement from a colleague:
"He always believed I could do it. It sounds silly, but I was working towards a very difficult goal and fell just a little bit short. The next quarter I received a postcard in the mail from him saying he was proud of the progress I made towards my difficult goal and he was confident I would achieve it in the coming quarter. Sure enough, I surpassed it on my next attempt."
You Talk Their Talk
One thing that I have learned working at the Rainmaker Group is that not enough executives communicate with team members in a way they prefer. The first thing I was required to do before coming onboard was to take a TriMetrix® HD assessment. The assessment has helped Chris and I communicate with each other in ways that we would prefer. He is aware of my preferences and communicates accordingly.
A boss does not have to use an assessment to find out communication preferences, but this is the most effective way. He or she may simply ask a team member their communication preferences. However, often times it is difficult to come up with preferences until the communication occurs. The TriMetrix® HD allows a boss to do this before miscommunication occurs.
For every employee, the characteristics of "best boss" quality varies greatly. There are many more that did not make it into this post, but I believe this list speaks of characteristics that many can agree make a great boss. The important thing for leaders to do is understand what their employees value in a boss and nurture based on those qualities. If you are not willing to do some of the things that make a great boss, that is fine. Just make sure you do not hire people who value those qualities in a boss because you will get a disengaged team member.
I would love to hear your stories about your best boss. Please share them in the comments section.
Recently, I saw first hand another example of a low job fit employee team member in a role they were not "wired" to do nor enjoy. This team member is a ten year veteran. His job is to engage the company's most sensitive, complicated Customers. Many of these Customers are very demanding. His behavioral style is opposite of that of most of their demanding Customers. He is very passive, while most of his customers are direct. Unfortunately, he is not happy at work due to his behavioral misfit with customers, and it is impacting the rest of his life and customer satisfaction.
When this team member first started at the company, he fit his job well. However, promotions and raises came because, at one time, he did perform well, but he has now been promoted to a position he does not fit. Unfortunately, this is another classic example of "The Peter Principle" - where a person is hired or advanced to a position they are not fit for.
Changing jobs in the company is not an option. Unfortunately, he cannot take another position in the company because he is either unqualified and/or would experience a pay cut, and, like many of us, his current lifestyle is supported by his current income.
A new manager now supervises this team member, and he can sense frustration from the new manager. This situation puts the new manager in the classic "Catch 22" position - the job needs to be done well but at the same time cares about the welfare of this team member. Ultimately, the new manager must do his job. He must ensure the key accountabilities of the position are done and done well.
What steps can be taken to assure this type of thing never occurs?
- Take a "Talent Inventory" - Assess each team member using the TriMetrix® HD assessment to better understand their strengths and weaknesses.
- Benchmark the jobs - Identify the Key Accountabilities of each job within the company and the Behaviors, Values, and Attributes required to do the job well. Identify any job mismatch problems before they begin to erode the morale of the team member and destroy company value.
- Hire only high job fit employee team members - In other words - stop being benevolent. Why is it that hiring managers feel they are helping someone out by giving them a job even if they are not fit for it? When job fit is low, it is a sentence to hell on earth by putting someone in that position. I hear it all the time... "I want to give Fred a shot." However benevolent the person doing the promoting is, they may be sentencing Fred to a life of questioning, frustration, anxiety - a life less fulfilled.
- Always assess before you promote - Promoting is the easiest way for managers to fill a position; however, it can also be the most dangerous move a manager can make. Just because someone performs well in their current position does not mean he or she will be fit to perform well elsewhere in the company. Before promoting, compare the team member's TriMetrix® HD report to the job benchmark. Ask yourself, "Does this person have the behavioral style, skills, attributes and values to fit the position?"
How many people do you have in your company who are in a similar situation - in a job they hate and are not doing well?
I like to think most people are good at heart - but promoting a person into a role they are unsuited for due to job fit, experience, and/or education - it is cruel. To look into the eyes of low job fit talent is haunting.
If your culture were shared on the front page of your local newspaper or national news, would you be proud?
Unfortunately, the staff and faculty at Rutgers University are not too proud at the moment following the firing of men's basketball coach Mike Rice after video was exposed showing him shoving, kicking, and throwing basketballs at players.
This incident really got me thinking about how highly ineffective this type of aggressive leadership is. Considering his losing record at Rutgers, I would say this type of coaching is the worst possible approach.
Rice has not always used this type of leadership. When past players and colleagues were interviewed, some defended him by pointing out positive qualities. So what is it that compelled Rice to behave the way he did?
Rice was hired at Rutgers to revive the program and make a Division I presence for the team. In Division I basketball, a coach’s performance is measured by one thing - his wins. For Rice, a winning program is all that mattered, and he became so wrapped up in trying to win Division I basketball that he lost control of himself.
Unfortunately, this destructive behavior in an attempt to win happens within companies and in leadership often. Although Rice’s destructive behavior is extreme, leaders often do what it takes to win and destroy themselves, their culture, and team members along the way.
In my experience as a management consultant, I have observed some of the most self-obsessed human beings - those who live in a world of their own grandeur. They become so consumed by their own agenda that they forget that other human beings may be affected and do not see that they can or need to improve. Ultimately, they do not win, as can be seen by the sequence of events that have occurred with Rice.
Furthermore, those who allow this to happen, even subordinates, do not win. The team members that took "the beating" from Rice probably did so because they wanted to win, play the game, and, likely, did see Rice as a good person and coach. For the administration that allowed this to happen, they will or have lost their jobs. They are not winning, but they attempted to do so by keeping Rice onboard because, although he was out-of-line, they believed he would improve their program.
For Rice, the incident is a chance to grow, to learn from his mistake, and become a better person. For most who get wrapped up in winning, their careers will also have a catastrophic ending before they realize how self-destructive they are being. Take this opportunity to identify behaviors that you can or need to improve before it is too late.
You may also want to check out Worst Possible Approach to Coaching Employees
Are you TOO focused on winning? The Rainmaker Group can help you gain awareness of your strengths and weaknesses by taking a sample TriMetrix® HD assessment.
Years ago, in college, I was introduced to an organizational metaphor developed by Dr. Gareth Morgan suggesting that organizations can act as and become psychic prisons.
If you have not heard the term "psychic prison" before, your first reaction is probably a negative one that invokes images of worker drones toiling away mindlessly in a dimly lit factory for as far as the eye can see. I guess I cannot blame you as that was the first thing I thought of when I was exposed to the idea that an organization can be a psychic prison.
Rather than being fodder for a proletariat labor revolution, the purpose of the psychic prison metaphor is to illustrate how an organization can become trapped in a favored way of thinking to keep peace, which restricts creativity, prohibits change, and limits its ability to progress into the future.
Organizations which have become trapped in a psychic prison often share a common set of the following traits:
Group think is pervasive – Humans have a natural tendency to conform. When team members conform and do not deviate from what the rest of the group thinks, ideas or processes are never challenged. Group think occurs to keep the peace, but keeping the peace is not always productive, which leads to the next trait of a psychic prison.
Conflict is avoided - Conflict in the workplace has got a really bad rap in recent years, and the avoidance of workplace conflict has had some pretty negative consequences. The truth is that productive conflict in the workplace is critical to the success of any business and helps prevents bad ideas from being implemented without serious discussion and consideration.
"We've Never Done it like that Before" – If these seven deadly words frequently find their way into the corporate board room, there is a good chance your organization could be trapped in a psychic prison. If this is the case any attempts to create meaningful change are typically devoured with incredible voracity.
The "You're Gooder" Syndrome – This ties closely to group think and the first sign, but differs in an important way. Rather than consensus based on the avoidance of conflict, ideas are implemented as a result of a culture of brown nosers that lacks candor, honesty, and the courage to say what one really thinks. It sounds something like this:
"Your idea is good" "No, yours is good" "No, yours is gooder"
Bad grammar aside, I think you get my point. The truth is that both ideas were probably flawed, but nobody had the internal fortitude to say so.
An inbred culture – It's great to promote from within as a means to motivate and reward stellar performance. However, when promotions are given based on loyalty and years of service rather than a record of exceptional performance big problems arise. This results in a leadership team rank with incompetence that only serves to breed more incompetence. Click here for five signs that your culture could be inbred.
Arbitrary is the word of the day… everyday – Key directives and policies are determined by top management with unrelenting randomness and absence of reason. This is often a clear sign that the leadership of an organization has become disconnected and lost touch with what is really happening within the organization. For better or worse, the orders of top management are usually carried out. If an organization is trapped in a psychic prison, this is almost always to the detriment of the company. Like it or not, the culture of an organization is usually determined by those who lead it.
Have you ever worked for an organization trapped in a psychic prison? How did it manifest itself?