Many times in my consulting work, I find myself facing this dilemma. Do I involve many people on the client’s side, engage them, teach them about ‘behavioural change principles’ or ‘behavioural DNA’, for example, and create a journey of many travellers to reach some conclusions or destinations? Or, do I go semi-solo, reaching the same shores, with the same happy CEO, and the same professional fees?
Journey 1 is perhaps painful. Often feels like ‘herding cats’. The organizational and behavioural side of consulting has this peculiar problem: ‘everybody thinks they know’. People with little or no psychological background, suddenly become behavioural experts overnight. Managers who have never managed to seriously create any traction in the organization, suddenly say that ‘they have been doing this – whatever ‘this’ means- ‘for many years’.
I’ve never seen non-financial managers claiming huge accounting expertise, or non-engineers claiming manufacturing, mechanical systems proficiency, but I have encountered numerous people in the organization claiming complete understanding of human behaviour, individual and social. Everybody seems to have some sort of unofficial PhD in Organizational Behaviour.
Journey 2 – full provision of hands-on expertise, advice, active involvement, with no pretension of democratic participation or over-inclusiveness – is far easier and less stressful.
I shared this dilemma some time ago with a good friend and client, excellent CEO, and he said: ‘Do what I do, go where the energy is and forget the rest’.
There are choices. Bringing people along on a journey can hardly be dismissed as trivial. But one has to accept that it’s not always possible to have everybody ‘aligned’, to use a bit of managerial jargon. Inclusiveness is a noble aim which can turn into a pathology – over-inclusiveness – very easily.
Some people have an extra need to embrace everybody, or as many as possible, all the time. They are not content with the few, or even with a pure ‘rational understanding’ of the issues. They need full emotional, all on board, and, if possible, happy, personally engaged people. And they don’t get tired in the process. Bill Clinton was this kind of man when president. For all his shortcomings, this was his fantastic strength. He did not want you just to ‘agree’ on X but to emotionally love X.
I have to say, I have not seen many Clintonian leaders in organizations.
Inclusiveness should not be an automatic goal, especially at the expense of bold progress. It deserves good critical thinking of what is possible and realistic. In the meantime, I recommend going where the energy is.