No Progress To Be Found

In their article on labor relations Ellen Dannin and Ann C Hodges remind us that when companies compete on price the most prevalent approach is to cut wages and benefits—globalizing labor is the latest means to this end. Labor (aka employees, people) is viewed as a cost against the business of business that is profit. Correlatively to ensure that employees remain powerless individuals and not become a powerful collective voice they inhibit (and even obstruct) the formation of unions. Why? Continue reading

Leadership or Dictatorship

Today, America’s captains of business and industry command increasingly vast sums as compensation for their services. Accordingly, there is an enormous disparity—on the order of 325-to-1—between what the average paid-worker in an organization gets and what the CEO gets. We refer to these captains of industry as business leaders: But are they really?  Continue reading

Analytics on management

There appears to be an enormous amount of interest in using data (a.k.a. analytics) as a management tool for gaining some degree of certainty of performance through better control of the tasks and the task doers of an enterprise. In fact analytics seems to be the beginning and end all of management these days.  After all, as Lord Kelvin asserted ‘to measure is to know” and “when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.”  This is all well and good if we are dealing with pure mechanical systems, systems with no inherent will or self-initiation and that function according to laws of physical science.  Continue reading

Toward Higher-Level Performance

Just imagine if those you managed were more self-acting and self-directed, had greater levels of creativity and had (really) good interpersonal skills.  Wouldn’t this make for a higher performing team enhancing organizational performance, not to mention having a positive influence on your effectiveness?  Obviously, for many, the next questions are do such people exist and how do I get them to be my team? Continue reading

Effectiveness Is Not Enough

Stephen Covey’s The 7-habits of highly effective people presented a discussion on Habit #1 about the relationship between one’s circle of concern and one’s circle of influence as a way of explaining the difference between being proactive versus reactive—the subtext being that effective people (such as leaders) are proactive.  In the presentation, which is based on the premise that “we each have a wide range of concerns—our health, our children, problems at work, national debt and nuclear war”, the circle of influence portrayed is within and smaller than the circle of concern.

 

Because the circle of concern was larger than the circle of influence it seems Covey, in referring to the circle of concern, was actually offering a way of discerning what is in one’s control.  However, if one’s circle of concern is larger than one’s circle of influence then there is an increased likelihood of experiencing a sense of helplessness and angst.  Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” offers great guidance in this situation.

 

Effective Relative to What

The implication for those aspiring to be a leader is to become proactive by expanding your circle of influence in order to ensure you are working on things you control and can do something about, thus improving your effectiveness.

 

But effectiveness is not an absolute term: Its’ meaning is always connected to the desired end of one’s efforts—often reflected in what one uses to measure effectiveness.  The measures most often used guide us to place focused attention on one thing rendering us blind to the unintended consequences of our actions.  Thus depending upon what one is seeking to do being effective can be either constructive or destructive.

 

Al (Chainsaw) Dunlop was effective in realizing the single-minded end he desired—maximizing shareholder value thus reaping gains for himself and major shareholders—but in his wake he left considerable destruction.  Though he severely diminished the viability of companies such as Scott Paper and Sunbeam, destroying the livelihood of many people, he made for himself a fortune and was proud of it!

 

If we look through the lens of systems thinking we see because of inherent interdependencies we influence far more than we realize.  Thinking systemically reveals to us that everything is connected to everything else; that we can’t do just one thing.  In other words our actions reverberate throughout the system.

 

The implication here is, if ones’ circle of concern is less than one’s circle of influence then there is a increased probability that acting solely in consideration of one’s concern will lead to the degradation of one’s environments—which includes social, industrial, economic and natural.  In light of the many social and environmental problems created through past decisions and policies set by those in authority, the circle of concern has been considerably less than the circle of influence for far too many in these positions.

 

Broad Concern

In regards to corporate executives primarily concerned, if not solely, with increasing shareholder value—coupled to the fact that they have a considerable influence upon the lives of others—pose a considerable threat to the wellbeing of people and society as a whole.  It appears most of these executives believe the corporation stands a part from and independent of everything else and its survival alone is paramount.  What seems to be not understood is the unit of survival cannot be the legally defined corporate entity but rather it must be the corporation plus its environments.  Polluting the environmental systems—nature, humankind, society—as a way of satisfying self-interest and getting what you want will not make for a livable world. The concern must be more than shareholder value if there is to be a viable future.

 

Therefore, those aspiring to be a good leader mustn’t limit their concerns to that which is in his/her (direct) control.  They need to expand their circle of care thus bringing the wellbeing of those they effect into their circle of concern.  Leadership requires increasing one’s circle of care, especially as one’s circle of influence expands with the attainment of higher positions of legitimate authority.  To do otherwise would no doubt increase the likelihood of harm and destruction.

 

Congruence Counts

When people are given the legitimate authority associated with a position in an organization or society’s government, he/she is necessarily required to demonstrate care and concern for those over whom he/she has been given formal authority.  Sadly far too many become intoxicated with their newfound circle of control—and correspondingly the prospect of getting it all for themselves—that they ignore their responsibility for the care and concern of those whose lives they touch. Upholding this latter responsibility—bringing into congruence the circle of influence and the circle of care—is in large measure what separates the heroic leaders from the toxic leaders.

 

Toxic leaders are effective in turning organizations and societies over which they exercise control into black holes wherein potential is trapped and people are unable to develop and flourish.  Until a sense of caring grows beyond concern for what’s in it for me those to whom we give positional authority will effectively do what’s good for them alone.  Such effectiveness can’t help but to be detrimental to all concerned.

 

What we need is an increasing number of people striving to expand their circle of care and to bring it into congruence with their circle of influence.  When people do this invariably they come to acknowledge their I-We nature.  With this acknowledgement comes a deep and wide sense of caring and so those upon whom we bestow legitimate authority within our organizations and government will most likely exhibit the leadership we so desperately we need.

 

Until more begin to care about more of us our best efforts will continue to fall horribly short.  To paraphrase Deming, best efforts absent of knowing what to do—without the guidance of principles—will result in a lot of damage. As Deming said, “think of the chaos that would come if everyone did his best, not knowing what to do.”  Well look around, chaos is quite evident, is it not!  We should remember that a narrow focus of attention is nothing if not a limited sense of caring.  Need we continue holding onto our self-interest maximizing ways?

 

 

Black Holes

Let me begin with a statement from a previous posting:

 

“When people are given the legitimate authority associated with a position in an organization’s (management) hierarchy, they are also necessarily entrusted with the development of those over whom they have been given formal authority.  Sadly some become intoxicated with exercising power over others that they deny and ignore the responsibility for the care and concern of others.  Upholding this latter responsibility is in large measure what separates the good leaders from the bad.” Continue reading

What We Know That Ain’t So

The paradigm that emerged in the 17th century set humankind as the conqueror and manipulator of all things for tangible ends. Moreover knowing something meant that it is expressible and explainable in the language of mathematics (i.e. numbers, measurements), as everything that was anything must be quantifiable and quantified if it is to be understood.  Accordingly everything in the universe became an object to be measured and modeled into exact laws of cause-and-effect.  Continue reading

A Reframing

When I say the word leader, quite understandably most associate it with the ‘one-in-charge’, the top person. Furthermore, since leader is synonymous with the one-in-charge, then leadership must be the actions of the one-in-change. That is when the term leadership is the focus—be it in academic journals or the popular press—its use is most often referring to people in positions of authority such as top executives or c-level managers in organizations or officials of rank in government.  We could just as well talk about top management since the terms connote the same thing.  Even so, everyone would prefer to be a leader than a manager—it just sounds better. Continue reading

Enact Trust, Our Development Depends On It

Trust connotes many things.  In one sense it speaks to the history we’ve had with other people when we say things like my experience shows he/she can be trusted.  In another it reflects aspirations about one’s self in statements like I trust that I’d do the right thing if faced with that situation.  An in yet another we often hear people say I trust things will workout for the better.

 

Though trust is related to notions of reliability, confidence, belief, faith and hope or expectation underlying these is the role trust plays in human development.  It speaks to our need to counter balance an ever-present characteristic of our world, uncertainty. Consequently trust is the means of bringing a sense of order to an uncertain environment.  Accordingly, when we are in an environment absent of trust, one wherein mistrust abounds, increasingly dis-ease overcomes us.   Why is this so?  Continue reading

The Stewardship Imperative

“Thinking systemically also requires several shifts in perception, which lead in turn to different ways to teach and different ways to organize society” –Russell Ackoff

As living beings we each present with a physical body comprised of cells, tissue, organs and organ-systems structurally and functionally organized to support (our) life.  The natural order of things is a hierarchy of constituent entities that are themselves living systems.  So the issue is not whether everything is reducible to individual entities—the atomistic view—or everything is a whole—the holistic view—but rather that neither view is the absolute view.  As Arthur Koestler (The Ghost in The Machine) noted “parts and wholes in a absolute sense do not exist in the domain of life.”  What we have are semi-autonomous systems that are each a part of larger higher order systems.  Koestler called these ‘whole-parts’ holons—wholes that are parts of other wholes—and the hierarchy they constitute a holarchyContinue reading