Successful Leadership Revisited

Let’s take a break from the usual format. The problem, alternative solutions and a well-researched and statistically derived solution are not systematically laid out herein. You may consider this document to be lean, but you can be sure I will not utilize LEAN or any other flavor of the month technique. Instead, let’s think of ourselves, our day to day work, and the company we work for or own, and the interaction of all of us in making our lives and organizations more successful, enjoyable and rewarding. There are many questions that all interrelate. No one question posed should be considered in a vacuum, rather let’s try to focus our perspective globally, comprehensively, on business organizations and our “work” as services, products, or extensions of ourselves, of who we are and what we do, and what we should accept.
As “managers”, we set specific priorities in an individualistic way. How much time do we spend discussing and sharing ideas with our coworkers, subordinates and bosses? Systematic responsibilities, time constraints, bureaucracy, job descriptions, policies and procedures, standards, quotas, data, and deadlines clog our thought process, so there is little time for filtering, processing, creating and passing on information. As managers, we devise the course and motivate the staff by discussing as much as we deem necessary to get their piece of the system working. But why? A better way is to go from your gut, without input, see how that works and then just try something else until you find the formula that works for the specific situation. That’s like being an infant all over again. Maybe, solve this problem and create a different one. Throw darts! Really, the best ideas come out of group discussion. Two or more heads are better than one, but what about 1,000? How do you get employees spread out in different functional parts of an organization on the same page? The degree of success of a “machine” depends upon the proper functioning of all of its parts. To reach our “common goal” we cannot just depend on the proper performance of defined tasks (i.e. – the seven steps of cleaning), we must have the collaborative contribution of group idea development and buy in. Performance will follow. This is not a new concept, just a poorly employed one. How many times have you heard your “boss’ say, “If you think your idea will make this a better organization, then just do it.” Why have we not been able to successfully utilize and include the ideas of our employees?
Do we need discussion, or will airtight systems suffice? If you have the right systems in place, all you need is the right quality and quantity of people to get the job done? Just plug the resources into the system. Quality is easy to define. Count the “passing” widgets. Pass, or fail! You find a person who is experienced or trainable to perform her specific task. Is that all it takes? Just do it. Availability of human resources is relative to the location of your business and the number of available people trainable or experienced in the tasks we need performed. If we open a plastic components manufacturing plant in Maine, we may have trouble finding some, or any, experienced plastic component machine operators. The hourly rate for this job may Lifestyle Tips Daily not be high enough to entice trainable people into the organization who will stay long enough to make the learning investment pay off. Maybe we can hire “experts” to recruit for us the right people at the right price — is that the link to the success of our systems? Do you match the components to the system or vice versa? Or, must there be one answer? Should our vacuum packed management team create fabulous layouts for doing specific jobs that are so trainable that we can almost consider having a “quiet”, robotic transient staff as a rule of thumb? I actually discussed this possibility with the President of a successful national company. He actually thought that a transient staff wasn’t a bad idea. “All we need are good training manuals”. Wow!
So, why do our organizational leaders not consistently succeed for us and our organizations? What defines and/or inhibits great leadership? How much does entropy and “muddling through” come into play in any given position or organization? What is our management style? Are you “out there” on the “floor” every day? Looking, listening, and learning? Are we “Theory this” or “Theory that”? When we go to work every day, week, month, or year do we have a specific outline of what to accomplish and do we accomplish these tasks in the “correct” time-frame and scheme? Should we act in this structured manner, or is flexibility to changes in circumstances, a better approach? We may have a list on our laptop of what to accomplish this week and all of a sudden our sales department gets a special request for 1,000 fasteners for Mr. Breslin, so we spend hours or days successfully getting the parts or securing the order. Does the Queen of England’s health care needs require you to reallocate extra dollars and days of expense and sweat versus your health care needs, or your mom’s? So, what does the short term change in plans mean and how is this managed? What are the messages sent? So many of us utilize business plans, planning committees and departments to gaze into the future. We have those previously mentioned lists of what to accomplish on our laptop or on our phone, then we hit the delete key when done with the task. How do you list “destined” events? Who will stand next to you when destiny prevails?
Many of us feel we are best when left alone with our procedures, tasks, ideas and policies. We work faster with fewer interruptions and feel more in tune with the tasks at hand. Management theories and techniques, along with decision making models, trees, white boards, magnets, and other such fodder are available for us to map out decisions and procedures with or without any outside help. Where does this strategy fit in? We need to figure out how to match our individual leadership style with the best coordinated team approach. It’s all about a continual evolution of a “living” organization.
Are we care takers or change agents? Creative or historical? Listeners or predetermined? Why do we do what we do every day? It has been done this way before and there is a never ending battle between change agents and traditionalists that water down specifications from an established base, depending upon who is winning more current battles. Battles are not a very communicative concept, but it is part of the political, or shall I say human side of us all and therefore part of organizational behavior that exists in every organized group of people.
Another contributor to managerial malaise is organizational politics. How can you be a health care leader and not mention the patient? How can you be more concerned about your political standing? It’s in every industry, every organization. Yes, it is! Organizational politics goes with the inherent human condition of battle, of territory, of standing. Let’s instead, stand on caring and success as an integrated model that can work. I love the “battle” of finding ways to enhance the careers or lives of those who may need my help. Let’s make our territory the area that focuses on doing the right things, for the right reasons. This struggle with our DNA is at the core of why customer service is such a challenge.
Somehow perceived competition brings out the killer instinct. I move forward if you move back. Really? Why do we accept this? One’s own talent is not usually enough, so the competitive tactics broaden to some ugly proportions. Why, because we allow nonsense in the guise of intellectual positioning. Isn’t this, on some level, all about our ego? I’m the boss! You’re the employee. Let’s do it my way for awhile and see how it goes. Communication barriers start to exist when hidden agendas are in play. Acting skills become an important skill set for success. Did you ever hear that someone “plays up” well? Are honest communications and/or humanity winning in these situations? Is that important to you? Should it be?
The “top-down syndrome” disables many organizations. The top executive or set of executives are so out of focus due to isolation from day to day realities, ill-conceived priorities, styles, bureaucracy, ego, resistance to change, politics, or emotional inhibition that the entire organization must react to these deficiencies in individual job and behavioral functionality. We manage, not only in conjunction with the strengths and weaknesses of our personalities, but also dependent upon the most important “influences”, such as external forces, board of trustees, and/or our families.
My manager is so forceful that to placate him I institute some of his suggestions, not being sure of what the long term effect may be, or even the why I am proceeding. Possessing a nice job title does not always make you a visionary. The possibilities of why organizations function the way they do are endless. The executive tells us what to say, as well as when and how to say it. Is that really the salient point of our business? If we run a restaurant, it’s about offering quality food, great service and reasonable prices. Anything else is superfluous. “Tell the chef to clean up the pot sink and do it now”. Yay for me! The chef now involves as much staff as necessary to clean up the pot sink immediately, because it was demanded. This is not a singular occurrence, but the way some organizations or parts thereof, do business. Staff is consistently shifted in varying directions due to an apparent whimsical tide of unrelated demands having an unclear path.
Do these managerial deficiencies force us, as professionals, to “check our emotions” at the door when we enter the workplace? How many professional sports teams do you know that win championships without emotion? Are the results of your household chores sparkling success stories, unless it is a project you want to tackle? In general, what is our opinion on robotics? We’re not headers and threaders that can be oiled, and maintained to perform at a designed level of efficiency. More than enough research has proven the value of intrinsic rewards, but do those who attain higher organizational status typically have the right personality traits, emotional intelligence, and people skills to understand or want to embrace these concepts? What jobs have been totally, effectively performed without any emotion? What impresses us during interviews with prospective employees?
Is our current existence focused to meet the goals of the individual, department, and business? Which of these goals is most important? Are they and must they be mutually exclusive? Is the mere development of a policy on ethics enough to stop unethical behavior? Are procedures to buy according to certain principles enough to ensure ethical transactions? Are the rules always the same so that policies and procedures are truly a map of how an organization is working toward its goal(s) in whole or in part?
What are the answers? I won’t draw a map of how we can maximize our ability to meet our goals. Can we come up with a specific set of rules? We can research a statistically significant sample based on standard deviation theory (normal distribution) and come up with a best case scenario for most of us to use. We can see why some of us take the time with theoretical models. If one set of people can come up with one or more well researched answers for many of use to use, then aren’t we finding the answers? For some, maybe. Do the principles of research, with specific protocols and control groups, deal with the “big picture” or with the “Importance of Employee Involvement in Organizational Success”? Again, the theory may be excellent, but the execution is poorly employed.
We all have different size shoes. Isn’t this at the core of so many issues? How comfortable would it be for me to walk in your shoes? Let’s use job rotation to give us all a better understanding of what we do as a unit. Do we rotate management and leadership personnel? Do I appreciate being the Buyer and then the Billing Coordinator? Can a Chemist be a Lawyer for a day? Are there inherent roles we can’t shift to? I had a boss and mentor who told me I would be a good anesthesiologist. You don’t notice an MD anywhere near my name, do you? Next, we can modify the job rotation plan to rotate amongst similar jobs, such as packer and shipper. We already are on a similar job level, but we are just doing a slightly different set of tasks. What does this say about the overall scheme of all of us in a work environment? We modify approaches and lose a trickle or more from our intentions and continue this process until we have a new scheme, a new approach, and a flavor of the month.
Why don’t we just hire the “best” person from a comparison of resumes? Is our approach really about wanting to see how they “present” themselves? Is a “happy” employee more effective and efficient? What role should we play in creating and maintaining satisfaction? Should this matter? If my questions are obvious, why do we have so many issues in American business? Everything our leaders do, we watch and listen to. Like with pets and children, it’s not so much about our words, but more about our visual signs that sends our messages. Of course, words can inflict wounds and can send messages as well, like the hospital administrator who never mentions the word, patient.
We have countless experts on productivity, systems, performance improvement, and employee engagement and satisfaction. Still, all organizations suffer from stifling potential gains from group involvement due to deficient management skills, poor planning, poor communications, and an overall dimming of our Biomedical Therapy Definition focus on our individual, departmental, and organizational goals. We have helped many people in organizational power understand the need for employee engagement; now why don’t we take it a step farther and see organizations that function in a more humane and focused manner, without systematic perfection.
Does being frenetically busy define the best financial model? Why are we so overwhelmed with meetings? Where is the balance between being on the floor and discussing “Lean”, or the strategic plan for 10 years down the road? I created No Meeting Fridays for myself. The organization didn’t cease to exist. Why not have more time to think things through? We need to reconsider how we operate and what we really want our leaders focusing on.
We have tried to standardize and systemize the solutions and then copy them. Reality TV! We develop employee relations manuals, union regulations, and other structure to deal with people interacting in organizations. We want a nice tidy package we can copy from department A to B and business A to B. We have focus groups, employee councils, and other related researched and copied answers. These strategies are a structured step, a flavor of the month, not a solution. Like everything else, it’s about us, and it’s about the culture we’re willing to accept. Why don’t we see constant activity, focus, and commitment to make what is important count the most? We are all employees, managers and top leadership in one setting or another. Whether it’s protecting our environment or enhancing our health and happiness, the answers lie in each person and their commitment to find the right answers, not just for them, but for every person we encounter. Does anyone hold the answers, or do we all?