- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Sweating, pain, temperature. Organizations can show symptoms.

Some organizations are breathless. Frantic. It could be good or bad, usually not too good.  Other organizations are like funerary places on a bad day. Some of these things are chronic, some acute illnesses.

Calibrating the energy of the organization is one of  the leadership roles. Sensing the temperature, being mindful of dynamics, knowing how much to push, or let it go, or observe, all these are leadership skills.

Each culture has its own pace, determined by lots of factors, from the model of personal relationship (Fluid? Structured? Artificial?)  to the physical environment (Open plan? Doors closed? ). Incidentally in some places open plan is a blessing, and in others a nightmare. Open plan is not intrinsically and unconditionally good. Mixed floor plans with different spaces are more effective. Another conversation.

There is a collective organizational health that sometimes shows up in the form of vulnerability, even with visible indicators, like sweating and a fever in your body. People systematically irritated for small things, more passive aggressive behaviours (the dictionary says: ‘denoting a type of behaviour or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation’), more ‘individual retreats’ from people usually social, small absences, all are symptoms of fatigue, maybe exhaustion, maybe disillusion.

These symptoms are precisely that, symptoms. In themselves they mean little but need to be interpreted.

A good leader’s question is ‘what is the temperature telling us?’, ‘what is the chattering about?, ‘what’s the collective mood?’ My rule of thumb is that reaction to all symptoms, all the time, is not in itself healthy. However, paying attention and recalibrating at the right time is important. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes, perhaps recognising a true  restless time in the organization, perhaps uncertainty, all these matter a lot. The worse is always the unsaid. The healthier, a conversation in the open. The right dose (I must confess very difficult to achieve) the one where we talk about, pause, reflect, suspend judgement and finally make sense. Then move on, not endless self-absorbing, navel gazing. The company is not Big Group Psychotherapy.

As in our bodies, after a little or not little infection, antibodies do a good job and not only fight that but perhaps more defences are built. In the organization, you want to come up of a bad cold with renewed energy, not more exhausted. It is doable.

In Medicine (sorry to go back to my roots) we know that you should not treat pain of unknown cause indiscriminately, with strong painkillers. It may simple mask a real problem.

We use too many painkillers in the organization, not always understanding the pain. Just a thought.