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.
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.
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.
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Previous Issues of BackInAWeekorso:
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?