Organizations, like organisms, have embedded mechanisms of survival, of growth and also of self-sabotage
These are 3 self-sabotage systems to be aware of:
- Inner civil wars
Internal infighting is a potential feature of any complex organization, business or not. We see the caricature of this, and its high cost, in political parties or social movements. Usually we see the features of the inner civil war in the papers headlines or television screens. Often it triggers in you a feeling of ‘how stupid can these people be? they are killing it’. And sometimes they do. In business organizations the mechanics of inner civil war are the same. The ones that worry me most are those that do not have 100% visibility: the hidden turf wars, the passive-aggressive reactions between corporate functions, the by design unhelpful collaboration, the cynical comments expressed in the corridor, men’s room and ladies room, by perhaps senior people, against senior people.
- Employee disengagement
The industry of Employee Engagement ( and there is one) tries to measure a mixture of satisfaction, happiness and willingness to run the extra mile. Year after year the rankings, for whatever they are worth, are terrible. We know more about the diagnosis than the treatment. I have written about the difference between being engaged with the company or within the company. The within (doing lots of stuff to make people ‘happy’) is a distraction. However, you define engagement, running the system with high degrees of a ‘lack of it’, is pure self-sabotage.
Leaders need to spend time on this, but it’s not about ‘improving a ranking’ but about gaining a deep understating of the motivation and ‘the chattering in the corridor’. It’s seeing, feeling and smelling. Some leaders can, others meet budgets.
- Dysfunctional leadership
For any functional or aligned, serious Leadership Team I meet in my consulting work, there will be four or five dysfunctional ones. Most of them look like juxtapositions of people reporting to somebody, but not a single entity ‘collective leadership’ type. It’s a journey, though. You don’t achieve high levels of sophisticated leadership in a week. But you have to work on it. I don’t have a big problem encountering dysfunctional leadership teams but I do worry when six months later they have not moved a bit. Or it seems they have via multiple changes and ‘musical chairs’.
These 3 areas, the inner wars, the hidden or not-that-hidden disengagement, and dysfunctional top leadership, are particularly toxic. The sad part is that they tend to come together like brothers and sisters in a dysfunctional family.
If any of these sound familiar, any stop and think will be a great investment.
PS. Don’t try to correlate success. Some successful organizations are dysfunctional. Some functional ones are not successful. The issue for the perhaps successful ones working with high self-sabotage levels is how more successful they could be.
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