Why Leaders Must Dare to Disagree

“You cannot fix a problem that you refuse to acknowledge.” Margaret Heffernan

 

Conflict is Essential

What if avoiding conflict hurt your business? What if the key to your success was encouraging disagreement?

Margaret Heffernan, the former CEO of five businesses, and the author of Willful Blindnessexplains why conflict is essential to success.

 

Survey: 85% of executives acknowledged issues or concerns that they were afraid to raise.

 

Do you avoid conflict?

Why It Is a Big Thing To Take Action On Small Things

Action on Small Things
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

 

Take Action On The Small Things

Culture is established by both communication and action. People will listen to what you say, but they will closely watch and emulate what you do. Action on large, highly visible initiatives will certainly make priorities and culture clear in a big way. However, it takes time to formulate and communicate large initiatives, plus it often takes time for the results to be achieved and visible. Action on small initiatives while larger actions are in progress can be very effective.

 

“Culture is established by communication and action.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Good leaders interact with the organization at all levels and with cross-functional teams. Many times during these interactions, opportunities to take action on smaller issues will present themselves. These small opportunities are issues, changes, or decisions that can be addressed by a few of those directly involved without much involvement from the leader. They can solve small customer irritations, eliminate frustrations and inefficiencies in a process or a department, drive a decision or make a localized change. I am a big proponent of taking proper action on selected small opportunities. One of my favorite sayings is, “Never underestimate the effect of taking action on small things.”

Here is why:

 

“Never underestimate the effect of taking action on small things.”

 

10 Major Benefits of Taking Action On Small Things

  • Accelerates Empowerment and Learning: Action on small issues will build organizational confidence, get quick results and allow people to learn from mistakes that have smaller consequences and reduced visibility. It helps people cultivate their leadership.
  • Teaches Delegation: When done correctly, implementing action on small changes teaches others how to delegate, how to decide who needs to be involved in developing action and approval, how to form a collaborative team and how to involve and grow others.
  • Improves Accountability and Decisiveness: When a small team is empowered to take action on smaller decisions, they become more comfortable with accountability and find it easier to make decisions. Using smaller initiatives also provides decision-making experience for more people at many levels in the organization.
  • Boosts Career Satisfaction: Since many small actions are localized to specific processes or departments, they can help remove daily irritations that hinder department or operational processes. At the same time, people learn that they can assume more responsibility and make a difference for the organization.
  • Enhances Collaboration and Team Building: With more small actions, a larger number of people are able to participate in collaborative problem solving and work together with a variety of defined roles to implement change. The benefit is that more people in the organization can gain experience, grow and achieve results.

 

“Taking action on small things rapidly creates an empowered workplace.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

  • Improves Communication: When a leader is able to initiate many small actions at different levels of the organization, or with various teams, it helps to “flatten” the organization, cut through bureaucracy and allow a larger population to see the leader in action. People become more comfortable communicating with the leader and each other. Additionally, small initiatives to implement change can get more people communicating who normally would not do so.

Detect and Root Out Behavior That Undermines Your Workplace

Simple Sabotage

Simple Sabotage

The year was 1944. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the organization preceding the CIA, published a classified document, The Simple Sabotage Field Manual. The manual was designed to destroy the Axis powers from within. It contained numerous small acts that would wear down the enemy, but it also contained a list of techniques to sabotage organizations. Ironically, these very same techniques often still sabotage modern organizations. People are not intentionally sabotaging their organizations, but they may not even realize that they are engaged in these behaviors.

Authors Bob Frisch, Cary Greene, and Robert M. Galford review the declassified manual. In Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors That Undermine Your Workplace, they show how the same insidious behaviors are damaging organizations today. How to recognize these damaging behaviors and what to do about them is the subject of this fascinating book.

Bob Frisch sheds light on these everyday behaviors that undermine today’s workplace.

 

“Successful organizations make and execute decisions faster than their competitors.”

 

How Good Behaviors Can Become Dangerous

It seems all of us may fall into one of these acts of sabotage at some point or another. How do you recognize these early enough to make a difference?

Good point. And remember, we’re not suggesting you have enemies lurking in your midst doggedly working to bring the organization down. Most of the time, individuals unwittingly employ these tactics – things like ‘doing everything through channels’ or ‘advocating caution.’ These are good behaviors taken to an extreme.

You might think, “This is easy. I’ll just point these things our to my colleagues and the behaviors will stop.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, since these corrosive behaviors often become part of the working culture – and spotting them isn’t easy.

The four steps we talk about in the book to both expose and inoculate any group against sabotage are:

  1. Identify.

Spot sabotage as it occurs. Help others see when a positive behavior crosses the line and becomes counterproductive or destructive.

  1. Calibrate

Put into place the right expectation for tolerance – the range of acceptable behaviors – so that productive behavior is encouraged, but sabotage is prevented.

  1. Remediate.

Give everyone in the organization the permission, language and techniques to call out damaging behaviors in constructive ways.

  1. Inoculate.

Introduce tools, metrics and process changes to prevent sabotage from recurring and to help develop a low-sabotage culture.

Sometimes these are sequential, but more often they have to happen at the same time – it depends on the type of sabotage, who spots it and the group you’re dealing with.

 

“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.” –John Kenneth Galbraith

 

Sabotage by Committee

Which one is the most prevalent?

Simple Sabotage_Cover-minIn my experience, the most prevalent form of sabotage is sabotage by committee. Too often leaders avoid making difficult decisions by referring them to committees, which creates a delay in the decision making process. As employees wait for decisions, they may get discouraged and dispirited. Some decisions require the use of a committee, particularly when multiple perspectives and areas of expertise are required. However, referring important decisions to committees creates the significant risk of halting momentum and can give the illusion of kicking the can down the road.

Is frequency or the most prevalent type different by kind of organization? For instance, do you see one more often in a for-profit corporation versus an academic institution or government?

Let me put it this way. When it comes to the prevalence of these sabotage tactics, organizations of various shapes, sizes and types are generally created equal. Over the years we’ve shared the list of OSS tactics with hundreds of friends, colleagues and clients – almost every time, they’ve chuckled and said, “That describes my [department, company, group, board, school or church committee].” We’ve heard them all. And that’s why we wrote the book. In our decades of working with individuals and groups in organizations large, small, public, private and non-profit, we’ve seen these corrosive tactics at work and witnessed the damage they can do in these settings.

 

“Committees can be deadly when they have the appearance that work is taking place when in fact very little is happening.”

 

Sabotage by Obedience