Print This Post Print This Post

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:
1. 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 newspaper headlines or on our television screens. Often it triggers in us 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, restrooms, by perhaps senior people, against  senior people.
2. 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 corridors’. It’s seeing, feeling and smelling. Some leaders can, others meet budgets.

For more on Employee Engagement see August’s Issues of BackInAWeekorso.
3. 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, to stop and think would 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-sabotaging levels is how more successful could they be.



Organizational Design
Your house is more than the sum of the number of bricks. Your organizational life is more than the sum of management activities and solutions.
Contact my team at The Chalfont Project about creating smart organizational design and strategy or to find out more visit: Smart Organizational Design.



Leadership Accelerators
We prefer the term ‘practising leadership’ to ‘developing’ to emphasise the real-life essence of leadership. Busy-ness has taken over and leadership is now a series of ‘how to’. Yet, there is hardly anything more precious in business than individual and collective leadership capabilities.
Find out more about our leadership interventions and workshops 



Previous Issues of BackInAWeekorso:

The best organizational model is to have more than one under the same roof

Unprecedented Times? Sure, let’s move on please
Empowerment, Engagement and Ownership Culture must meet at same point. Obvious, simple and incredibly forgotten

Employee Engagement Frameworks and the Productivity Magnet
Is Employee Engagement whatever is Measured by Employee Surveys?

Keep up with the Daily Thoughts

Twitter Email

Would you like to comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To search my website, please use the form below.

  Daily Thoughts

September 27th, 2023

Redefining Talent Wealth

The war on talent McKinsey consultants started it with a book of the same title. By focusing on what it […]

September 8th, 2023

What I Learnt From The Monks: A Little Anthropology Of Leadership And Space On One Page

My friends, monks of a Benedictine monastery in the Highlands, Scotland, spend most of the time in silence. I mean, […]

August 23rd, 2023

Can We Rescue DEI From Its Trap (The Label)?

Most of the problems and challenges in organizations, together with most of the solutions, are behavioural in nature. It’s about […]

August 10th, 2023

Restructuring to force collaboration, is likely to create more anxiety than collaboration. Structural solutions for behavioural problems hardly work.

Sometimes restructuring is done with the intention of solving a collaboration problem. ´A people´ don’t talk to ´B people´; if […]

July 18th, 2023

The ‘Impossible To Disagree With’ School Of Management

‘Good leaders have empathy, respect employees and set the example. If you want to change things, you need to have […]

June 29th, 2023

Large scale change is not small scale change repeated many times. Small wins repeated are lots of small wins.

Large scale change, as a series of cascading small scale interventions (often under the philosophy of ‘small wins’) has dominated […]

June 6th, 2023

Culture change is not long and difficult. But we make it so…

I suppose the question is how long is long and how difficult is difficult? In general, business and organizational consulting have […]

May 19th, 2023

Value is an overused term in business and, as such, it’s becoming meaningless

Value, as usually used, means transactional monetary value. Usually it doesn’t mean intrinsic value, or value per se. For example, […]

May 4th, 2023

The importance of ‘critical thinking.’ Your own critical thinking is more effective at making your workplace better than any generic employee survey.

Build your own Employee Engagement argument for free. You can’t go wrong. Here are three baskets full of concepts: Basket […]

April 21st, 2023

´Busy-Ness’ Is A Trap

I went to a big conference where I was introduced by the chairman like this: “Welcome everybody. Lovely to have […]

April 14th, 2023

Training and culture change. The love affair that ends in tears.

It seems to be very hard for people to get away from the idea that if we just put individuals […]

April 11th, 2023

Teamocracies and Networkracies have different citizens: in-Habitants in team-work, riders in net-work

The old view of the organization is something close to the old concept of a medieval city, where citizenship was […]

April 5th, 2023

3 Ways To Get Approval From Your CEO Or Your Leadership Team

Way number 1: My team has developed these three options, A, B and C. Which one do you want us […]

March 29th, 2023

A Cheat Sheet To Create A Social Movement Tip = to shape organizational culture since both are the same.

Mobilizing people. This is another of the Holy Grails (how many have I said we have?) in management. Whether you […]

March 16th, 2023

Critical Thinking Self-Test: A 10 Point Health Check For Your Organization And Yourself. If any of these are a good picture of your organization, you need to put ‘critical thinking’ in the water supply.

Test yourself, and your organization. Do any of these apply? Doing lots, too fast without thinking. High adrenaline, not sure […]

March 9th, 2023

A culture of safety or a culture of training in safety?

Cultures are created by behaviours becoming the norm. Safety is at the core of many industries. Significant budgets are allocated […]

March 2nd, 2023

Empowerment is an output. If you can visualize it, you can craft it.

The real question is, what do you want to see happening so that you can say ‘people are empowered’? Employee […]

February 24th, 2023

A simple question will jumpstart your organization into change. It will also save you from months of pain spent reorganizing your people and teams.

The following line will short-cut months of (building) ‘alignment’, integration, reorganization, team building, coalition building, and any situation in which Peter, […]

February 20th, 2023

Lead Via Peer-To-Peer Networks – If you don’t lead via peer-to-peer networks, you’re only driving your car in first gear.

Peer-to-peer work, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is the […]

February 7th, 2023

Write a script, not a strategic plan

If you care about the journey and the place, you need a story. If you have a good, compelling one, […]

January 26th, 2023

3 self-sabotaging mechanisms in organizations

Organizations, like organisms, have embedded mechanisms of survival, of growth and also of self-sabotage. These are 3 self-sabotage systems to […]

January 10th, 2023

Who should be involved in culture change? All inclusive versus going where the energy is.

Many times, in my consulting work, I find myself facing a dilemma: Do I involve many people on the client’s […]

December 23rd, 2022

Tell what won’t change – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

In any change programme that any organization wants to start, they will start by thinking of the things that they […]

December 16th, 2022

Scale It – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

When creating effective change in any organization, there are 40 rules that, in my experience, are the key between success […]

December 5th, 2022

Assets & Strengths Base – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

For more than 30 years I have been involved in ‘change’ in organizations. Again and again, some fundamental principles, and often […]

November 25th, 2022

Campaign It… is 1 of my 40 rules of change

When you filter out the noise, when you try to extract the core, the fundamentals, those ‘universal rules’ of change […]

October 31st, 2022

Hybrid or not hybrid? That’s not the question…

Culture is the new workplace If you want to have a conversation about the future of work, the nature of […]

October 24th, 2022

‘Powered by Viral Change™’: A Social Transformation Platform for the organization of the 21st Century

When we started to work on Viral Change™, as a way to create large scale behavioural and cultural change, and […]

October 14th, 2022

Corporate tribes, intellectual ghettos and open window policies

We talk a lot about silos in organizations usually in the context of Business Units or divisions. But these are not […]

October 7th, 2022

Peer Networks are the strongest force of action inside the organization

Peer-to-peer works, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is […]