Visit Our Store April 4, 2011
The Biggest Blind Spot in Almost Every Organization
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The EDSI Team
Are successful leaders going to excel, regardless of the times in which they lead? Some may say yes. After all, Jack Welch lead General Electric through both solid and turbulent times, right? But hold on a moment.
Many executives have been stumped stumped (and many of them have later failed) when trying to maneuver through the current ever-changing business environment. At the same time, some companies have taken the recent rough waters and, even given a shrinking industry or seemingly impossible sales slump, have turned their companies around.Let’s look at some of the characteristics that are embraced by leaders (and their organizations) in changing times.
Using Organizational Memory
In less turbulent times, lessons learned in the past could be called on as wisdom for decisions made in the present. These days the past should not be counted on for the wisdom it once offered. The playing field has changed, and you will not be able to count on those lessons to lead you through. Of course, they still have value. They just can’t lead the way anymore. Psychologist Jerome Bruner has a pithy way to describe what happens when the best of the old informs the search for the new. The essence of creativity, he argues, is “figuring out how to use what you already know in order to go beyond what you already think.” Innovative leaders do still use the past to inform decisions, but they don’t count on those old lessons to show them the way.
Remaining Committed to Change
Being committed to change could mean that you are continuously changing. Consider those organizations that are always bouncing from one production methodology to another, continually trying out new supply chain management systems or can’t seem to get enough of the latest management fads. No, remaining committed to change means making a change and committing to it. The new direction may not be the panacea that you are looking for, but you won’t know until you have given the new plan time to take hold.
Learning at the Speed of Light
The world is changing at a faster pace than ever before. Imagine the significant changes we’ve seen in how we use technology in our daily business, even in the last eight to 10 years! Ask yourself what you need to learn, and how you can push yourself into new knowledge areas. This will keep you growing and evolving. Most of all, it will mean that you will be more prepared for making the next set of decisions that come your way.
Tapping the Group Genius–or the Hidden Genius in the Group!
Change is not best made alone. Let’s face it; you may be the leader in your department or organization, but you need the troops to get involved. These days, the most powerful contributions often come from the most unexpected places. You may find a hidden genius in your group or a collective genius, aka: your customer! Your change leadership mindset gives you the tools to consider ideas from every corner, in order to address the current climate with a large dose of courage, informed risk-taking and ambition.
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“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
There are many methods and models for fostering a cohesive, effective team.
Any of them could work well in your organization. Perhaps you have tried a few theories and have come up with some of your own “teamwork best practices” that are particularly helpful for you and your team members.
Regardless of the steps you use to facilitate a successful team, one trait that crosses all teamwork methods is employee involvement. If you can effectively include the team at each step of the way, you will retain employees and foster an environment that motivates participants to contribute and invest in the cause.
The how of involving team members is often the most challenging part of the process; once you get them involved, you will be on your way. Successful employee involvement comes from following a continuum that leads to decreased influence by you, the leader, and increased influence and decision- making power by the team members.
First, communicate and sell your idea. The supervisor makes the decision and announces it to staff, providing complete direction. Gain commitment from team members by “selling” the positive aspects of the plan.
Now, confer, invite others to join and delegate. Even though the leader retains authority to make the final decision, she still invites input. Let employees know that their input is needed but final authority still rests with the manager. Follow this up by inviting team members to make the decision with the supervisor. At this stage, the supervisor considers his voice equal in the decision process.
At this point, the supervisor turns the decision over to the team. Successful delegation has a built in feedback loop and concrete timeline. Voila! Now watch your team take off.
Our interview this time is with Dr. Ollie Malone, author of 101 Leadership Actions for Creating and Maintaining Virtual Teams, 101 Leadership Ideas for Effective Presentations, and 101 Leadership Actions for Performance Management (HRD Press).
Dr. Malone has spent over 30 years working in major corporations as an executive, developer of executives, consultant, author and speaker. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication, a master’s degree in hearing and speech, a master of business administration degree, a Ph.D. in adult learning and development, and a D.Min. in transformational leadership.
How has the recent economic situation affected the way people structure their personal and professional lives?
Many leaders are looking for ways to improve the overall quality of life for employees in their organizations—especially when they are less able to do so through financial means.
One approach that many of these companies are using is one that allows employees to work from home one day a week, multiple days a week, or allows them to work from home 100% of the time. But, in most cases, these companies don’t know how to manage employees they cannot see.
The historical assumption was that if employees are in their cubicles or offices, they were working. Somehow, we didn’t consider that they could be playing solitaire, managing a sideline real estate business, or lining up interviews for their next opportunity. What the current increase in employees working in a non-residential capacity is pointing out is the fact that we didn’t know how to manage their work EVER, and the current situation only brings that reality into sharper focus.
How do you think people have changed the way they approach organizational development?
Since OD (organization development) tends to be the first cousin of training and development, it has often suffered the same fate as T&D: when times get hard, programs, services, and staff gets cut. This penny-wise-and-pound-foolish approach has been institutionalized in most organizations without giving a moment’s consideration to whether this approach makes sense and brings benefit to the long-term strategy of the organization.
Moving forward, what do you think is the biggest challenge that organizations will face?
Communicating the value of organizational development in the midst of all of the organizational issues that are demanding attention and resolution is one of the most formidable challenges. If the issue is organizational survival, does it really matter if you have an engaging succession plan? At some point the organization is going to have to at least ask the question. For too many, issues of longer-term interest are being sacrificed at the feet of “immediate results.”
Thank you for your time, Dr. Malone. When he is not working on the next book or running his firm, Olive Tree Associates, Dr. Malone enjoys spending time with his wife of 34 years.