This is a pattern that I encounter with many of my clients. Top and less top leadership, of the progressive type, broadcasts what seems sincere views: you are empowered, be agile, make decisions, don’t escalate to us all the time, take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, take accountability, and act with ownership.
That is the audio. A good audio.
The video shows people who don’t feel empowered and see the company as an elephant; make decisions but expect that many won’t be implemented, escalate to the top (in part because the top likes to receive the escalation), doesn’t take many risks, see mistakes as … mistakes (see what happened to Mary), doesn’t learn from them, takes little accountability, and doesn’t ‘act with ownership’ because they never understood what that meant, not being owners of the company.
So, where is the problem in this lack of sync between the video and the audio?
- Top leadership is insincere and disingenuous. Not my experience. I have not found one of them that does not mean it.
- The troupes do not believe them because:
- Their overall credibility is low. Again, not my experience.
- What they see is leadership doing the contrary to what they say. Complex reporting systems are growing. Decision-making is welcome up the ladder through several new Review Bodies near the top or at the top. Mistakes have been semi-tolerated and in some cases, being fatal for the people involved. This is my experience. What leadership says is sincere but how it behaves does not match.
- Still sharing my very personal experience, I would add that in almost all cases that I know, leadership is completely oblivious to this video/audio mismatch. What is also infuriating is that they would defend their actions and still would blame people down the system as ‘not taking enough accountability or ownership’.
This pattern is very common and does not require special skills to be spotted. Yet, it is pervasive. It affects good companies, with good people and with successful achievements. But this video-audio synchronization problem is a frustrating part of their life. People spend days and days discussing complexity, ownership, accountability, risk, agility and decision-making, often without focusing on the obvious: ‘it’s behaviours, stupid’.
Most of the answers to the sync problem are behavioural. They do not necessarily require workshops on agility, training on accountability, a new risk management system, decision-making processes or a new Review Body. In fact, these would be expensive distractions. Behaviours are the only things that will restore the sync.