Hidden Leadership Lesson #31

Those in authority can provide leadership experience to people in their organization by striving to provide them the opportunity to realize joy in work.  Accordingly, in a New York Times interview, Ori Hadomi (CEO of Mazor Robitics) asserts, “It’s important that people are happy in what they do. I believe my role is not to make people work but to give them the right working conditions so that they will enjoy what they do.”  Although few would argue against a people-centered management approach yet far too many don’t put it into practice. 

 

Realizing joy in work comes largely from having the freedom to exercise one’s capabilities, which is an antecedent to learning. Why is this important?  The organization, especially in the post-industrial knowledge-based economy the capability of the organization rests no so much on capital and machine but on people (formerly known as labor).  If people aren’t the focus of development then eventually the business enterprise will run out of capability.

 

Moreover, we as human beings have an inherent desire and need to learn; it is what helps make our work interesting and joyful. In an organization the very process of work presents opportunities for learning, but many times management practice impinges upon learning.  As Ori claims “I believe that it is much more dangerous not to report mistakes than it is to make mistakes in the first place. It’s natural that we make mistakes.”  Unfortunately in many organizations people are punished for making mistakes, which tends to keep mistakes hidden.  The annual performance review—where accountability for results is formally exacted—is the usual mechanism for doling out punishment-rewards.  The opportunity to learn is denied.

 

Mistakes are not the only cause for learning; the work itself presents this opportunity.  This is not on-the-job training but rather through-the-work learning.  This learning is a result of the P-D-S-A cycle of continuous improvement.  Though mistakes present opportunities to learn, they are not the only impetus for learning.  This cycle, when made integral to the very process of work, makes reflective and critical thinking necessary skills for everyone.

 

Why is this important?  The organization, especially in the post-industrial knowledge-based economy the capability of the organization rests no so much on capital and machine but on people (formerly known as labor).  If people aren’t the focus of development then eventually the business enterprise will run out of capability.  For the traditional business minded investing in things one owns (e.g. equipment and facility) is not a problem, but investing is something not owned or that doesn’t return a profit in the next quarter such as the development of peoples’ potential is a real problem.

 

Ori believes “that you really need to ask yourself what you can get and what you can’t get from your employees, and then focus on what you can get from them. If you focus on what you can get, you can maximize their contribution. You can also encourage them to improve, but you need to know the limits and abilities of every one.”  There is a difference between challenging and supporting people to realize their potential and expecting people to do things they may not be capable of doing.  The former is inspiring and the latter de-spiriting.

 

The organization’s capability to do something emerges from the interplay of peoples’ abilities and the space/resources/support provided by the organization (a.k.a. the organization’s system). The space/resources/support include the organizing design, management practices and the supporting structures, which includes culture.  It is management’s responsibility to ensure the productive interplay of people and the system. But it is not simply a matter of those in management providing these they too must continually work toward improving the quality of the experience they themselves provide.

 

Those in authority must provide the system wherein people can exercise and synergize their capabilities in a meaningful way.  To this end, those in authority actively listening to what it means to others and their work is critical to developing an appreciation for the interdependent nature of everyone’s work.  It provides first hand knowledge of the organization as a system.  After all managing the system, ensuring the continual development of capability, is a defining measure of the quality of management (a.k.a. leadership)!

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