Personality-based assessements have given us insights into the unique characteristics of ourselves and our coworkers. When applied, they can help shape organizational cultures that are effective and respectful. Yet, some conflicts seem to be inherent in human interaction.
The mimetic theory posits that much of human interaction is imitation. In other words, we mimic each other in our desires. Human beings have an innate desire to compete with each other and gain status.
If an entry-level employee imitates the perceived habits, words, and ideas of the company CEO, they won’t run the risk of becoming a mimetic rival because of the distance between the two.
In contrast, a person with a specialized skillset can welcome and enjoy a newly-hired assistant’s imitation of their unique tasks and knowledge, but if the assistant’s duplicate skills start to rival or surpass theirs, friction and toxic work environments can develop.
When we feel like someone is too close to replacing our unique contributions, we may try to prevent them from attaining that power. This often shows up in a lack of teamwork and backstabbing.
Accepting that we are not the equals of people that we see and admire, does not diminish our value.
It is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to be viewed as bad managers as they struggle with the transition from doer to leader.
There are two patterns entrepreneurs fall into during this transition. They either become micromanagers or absent managers. Using the analogy of a server at a restaurant, the micromanager is the server who continually appears in the middle of your dinner conversation, much to your annoyance. The absent manager is the server who leaves you alone for way too long, and you have to search for him/her. Two beliefs contribute to why this happens.
1. I can do it faster/better myself. Since many entrepreneurs have hands-on experience, they can get frustrated at how long it takes new employees to get the job done to their satisfaction. While this behavior may be viable in the short term, the belief that we always know best can lead to micromanaging.
2. Get out of the way and let people do their jobs. Employees left to make decisions without any guidance can get off track, get stuck with unexpected obstacles, and often get out of sync with the rest of the organization.
The key is to find a middle ground between these two extremes. Check-in with and hold direct reports accountable, while giving them enough room to grow and make decisions on their own.
Not every entrepreneur is an effective leader. In this case, it’s important to surround yourself with people who complement you, especially as the business grows.
Talent problems are not solved by swapping in “better” talent at higher salaries. Many top performers are often sitting on a stockpile of ideas, skills, and interests. Part of being a leader is to help people identify and tap into their purpose and value.
There are two extremes of leaders: Multipliers and Diminishers.
Multipliers believe that everyone is brilliant at something. When they step into a room, ideas flow and problems get solved. They also:
Create engaged workforces and unleash collective intelligence.
Pay little attention to org charts and see themselves as coaches and teachers.
Acknowledge people’s “native genius”.
Assume that people are smart and will figure it out, given resources and space.
Diminishers can be tyrants, know-it-alls, or micromanagers. They believe that high levels of brainpower cannot be found everywhere and in everyone. They often:
Create cultural and behavioral barriers.
Roll out initiatives revolving around what the leader knows rather than what the group might learn.
Make decisions alone or with input from a small group of advisers.
Need to be the smartest, most capable person in the room.
Adapted: Harvard Business Review | Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People
How can we stop wasting time on unimportant details? To answer this, we have to identify why we get bogged down in the trivial.
Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, states that the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely correlated to its actual importance in the scheme of things. Major issues get the least discussion while simpler ones get the most.
To illustrate this, imagine a financial committee meeting to discuss 3 proposals. 1. $10M nuclear power plant 2. $350K bike shed 3. $21K annual coffee budget
What happens? The committee runs through the power plant proposal in little time because it’s too advanced for anyone to dig into the details, and most of the members don’t know much about the topic.
Next, the bike shed. The committee members feel more comfortable voicing their opinions. Several members begin an animated debate over what might enable modest savings. They discuss this longer than the power plant.
Finally, the coffee budget. Here, everyone’s an expert. They discuss the coffee budget longer than the power plant and bike shed combined. The committee runs out of time and decides to meet again to complete their analysis. Everyone walks away feeling satisfied, having contributed to the conversation.
Avoid descending into unproductive triviality by having clear goals for your meeting and getting the best people to the table to have a productive, constructive discussion.
Source: FS Blog – The Bikeshed Effect|Photo: Arjun Rajagopalan – Publish
Coaching for reliable performance is not a “salt and pepper” practice. You cannot sprinkle on a little explaining here, and appreciation there, and expect reliability. You must perform these habits consistently.
1. Explain Expectations – Lack of clear expectations is the most common reason for performance problems. There are 4 fundamental questions employees have regarding expectations: Where are we going? What are we doing to get there? How can I contribute? What’s in it for me?
2. Ask Questions – Ask the right questions and be comfortable with silence. Silence creates accountability for a response. If you’re not comfortable with silence, you’ll fill it with another question that leaves your original question unanswered and stifles engagement.
3. Involve Team – Employees will exchange their involvement, for ownership in the outcomes.
4. Measure Results – Measure what matters most. If you rank your team by performance level, your lowest performer will be a public statement of the performance standard you are willing to tolerate.
5. Appreciate People – While we judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions. What is important is not how much you appreciate people, but rather how much you demonstrate that appreciation.
Studies show that for every 0.1% improvement in effective management, productivity goes up by 10%. So, how can new managers lead their teams effectively?
1. People Skills. Emotionally intelligent leaders practice self-awareness and excel at relationship management. This enables them to build a foundation of trust, respect, and positive attitudes among their team.
2. Listen First, Talk Later. On average, it takes new managers 4 to 6 weeks to get acclimated to their new role. Focus outward – paying attention to the team and process before coming up with ideas and changes you’d like implemented.
3. Communicate. Take the lead with introductions during the first few days, speaking to each team member individually and then everyone as a group. Find out what they do, what processes they say work well, and what they’d like to see improved.
4. Delegate. Solve the people, not the problem. Working together to come up with a way forward allows the team to become self-directed and much more engaged in their work.
5. What to Avoid. Being a manager isn’t a popularity contest. New managers tend to lower their standards to make friends with the staff. Manage results and relationships for both short-term and long-term success – keeping respect at the forefront.
No one wants to work in a toxic culture or with dysfunctional coworkers. But ask them why it happens, and very few can name the root cause. There are four overarching patterns of workplace culture.
1. Conflict-Avoidant Culture: Need approval. Underlying fear is rejection. Excessive need to be nice and to take care of everyone, even when they don’t perform. What’s missing is courage (integrity, confidence, and boldness).
2. Autocratic-Dominant Culture: Need power. Underlying fear is vulnerability. Excessive need to be forceful under the guise of protecting the vulnerable. What’s missing is humanity (trust, likability, and empathy).
3. Elite-Bureaucratic Culture: Need status above others. Underlying fear is inferiority. Excessive need for a hierarchy to overcome feelings of inadequacy. What’s missing is resilience (openness, creativity, and inspiration).
4. Chaotic-Narcissistic Culture: Need freedom and attention that arises from rebellion to authority figures. Underlying fear is being trapped in sadness/boredom that comes from previously feeling neglected. Excessive need for the freedom to pursue lofty ideas and delusions. What’s missing is wisdom (perspective, diligence, and focus).
Culture is made up of three layers, represented here by an iceberg:
Behaviors, systems, policies and processes surrounding the way things are done
Ideals, goals, values, and aspirations set by leadership
Underlying assumptions that guide behavior
A leader’s influence on an organization and its culture can be subdivided into three general #culture types:
1. Constructive – encourage the attainment of organizational goals through people development; promote teamwork and synergy; and enhance individual, group, and organizational adaptability and effectiveness.
2. Aggressive/Defensive – lead people to focus on their own needs at the expense of those of their group and organization and lead to stress, turnover, and inconsistent performance.
3. Passive/Defensive – lead people to subordinate themselves to the organization, stifle creativity and initiative, and allow the organization to stagnate.
You cannot run away from yourself, so blaming others is worthless. You are responsible for your thoughts and actions, as well as what unfolds before you. As long as you blame others, you will continue making the same mistakes.
It is not uncommon for us to shift the blame to someone else to avoid feelings of guilt. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the underlying issue. When you encounter trouble, take inventory of your attitude and behavior and see if that could be the source of the problem.
Human behavior falls into patterns. Still, no one particular person can produce enough knowledge or insight to explain the totality of the human experience. It’s easy to value material possessions over human life, but life is your greatest gift.
All human accomplishments will one day disappear, so it’s better to live your life wisely. Failing to do so can cause you to become too proud or self-sufficient as it relates to your successes and greatly disappointed with your perceived failure(s).