Early in my career, I had a boss who was a micro-manager. Really, it might be better to call him a “nano-manager,” with the way he did things. I mean, this guy somehow kept up with every single little detail of everything that was going on in his operation, and no triviality was too small for him to intervene over and put everyone in their place. This was just a couple years after Bill Gates predicted that there would be “a computer on every desk and in every home,” but we weren’t there yet; I can only imagine the level of megalomania this boss would have felt with the internet at his fingertips.
Have you been feeling the pressure of trying to do more with less? I know I have, many times in my career and I have witnessed many organizations struggle with the same challenge as they felt they didn’t have enough skilled or talented people to accomplish the work that had been deployed to them. While we continue to develop more sophisticated ways to hire and train people and provide them with better systems and work processes to reduce waste and increase productivity, statistics consistently show that only 30% of people are actually engaged in the work. In most workplaces, of the small group of people who are engaged, only a handful are entrusted with the truly important tasks. there are a few “go to” people who are extremely busy, even to the point of being overworked, and then there are the rest who, despite—or because of—the lack of responsibility entrusted to them, often report being dissatisfied at work. As long as this is the case, we will continue to get, at best, 30 cents on every dollar we spend on hiring more people and installing systems whereas cracking the code on employee engagement would yield an infinitely more attractive return. The good news is that there is something each of us can do immediately to make an immediate and meaningful impact on engaging the other 70%.
Over the course of my continued leadership development and culture transformation work, I have had ample opportunity to have fun with the participants of my workshops/speeches as we learn from each other. One of my favorite exercises has to do with McGregor’s Theory, which distinguishes two sets of assumptions that leaders can subscribe to: Theory X assumes people are inherently lazy, avoid responsibility, and have to be told what to do, and Theory Y is essentially the opposite and states that people are good and they want to achieve, are dependable, and can self-direct. With a list of the various characteristics under each theory projected on the screen, I ask the audience how many of them know people who fit into the Theory X category, and just about every hand goes up. Then I ask them to raise their hand if they are one of those people, and, of course, hardly any hands ever go up. This happens literally every single time, which means those “bad" people who could really use some teaching and coaching always escape my session and I end up preaching to the choir... or so it seems!
Leadership is my passion. I love to study it, I try to practice it to the best of my ability, I create models to express its concepts in practical and actionable ways, and I find great joy in seeing sparks fly when someone gets inspired to take their leadership effectiveness to the next level.
What fascinates me about being a student and a coach in the area of leadership effectiveness is that it is always personal. It is not a one size fits all thing. There is not a single formula you can apply that is guaranteed to give you the same results. It requires a thorough understanding of the situation and people involved, and masterful navigation and course corrections to create the desired culture and results.
In the course of our personal lives and professional pursuits, we have all had those moments when we didn’t get what we wanted, and most, if not all, of us have come to realize that such is life and everything is not going to go our way. It is indeed a good thing to be able to cope with the feeling of rejection and an occasional failure, or find ourselves challenged to still deliver a certain outcome in the face of scarce resources that we feel we need or want. One of the Japanese Senseis I’ve had the pleasure of working with often reminded me that wisdom is never developed when you have an abundance of resources.