woensdag 13 februari 2013

Is There Value in Ballyhoo and Hysteria?

Anyone in the HR business can relate to this, having been assigned to a project that, as it turns out, everyone has an opinion about, from the janitor to the board rooms. In one of my previous posts (When Good Turns Bad) I have discussed handling good intended but bad advice based on uninformed reasoning. But what if others start voicing their opinions, in full disregard of a careful alignment process, in a manner that can only be described as ballyhoo and hysteria?

Big HR projects have that tendency of evoking very heated, emotional discussions. They often touch the core identity of an organisation, reaffirming or challenging existing principles and values which are deeply rooted in the organisational culture. Some principles may have been forgotten, but once contested they can arise as a phoenix to inspire and guide as before.

These kind of projects prove a challenge for leaders to channel opinions towards a meaningful result. No doubt, every single comment has value. Question is, how much value should you give it? Or isn't that the key question?

I have learnt that opinions come in different shapes and depths. It is quite tempting to judge them on their value and dismiss them if they do not seem to bring you any. More than once have I been frustrated by people who have shared their opinion not hindered by any lack of knowledge, and wrapped with a fair share of value judgments. My default reaction has been until recently to educate the uninformed, militantly separating fact from fiction. Little did I understand that I was missing the point entirely.

Very few people are truly evil but many people partake in mindless behaviour. Uninformed or unsubstantiated opinions are easily read as inconsiderate, impolite or even narcissistic. As true as this often may be, it stands to reason that the underlying motives are those of disengagement. People feel they lose control. And when things change in an organisation, everyone has their own pace of understanding and acceptance. Such a development comes with emotions, silent or expressed. Those leading the change need to recognize and embrace it.

I have just read an article (The Missing Link of Change: Suspension) by a contemporary thought-leader, Lolly Daskal, discussing the stages of grief as a model for understanding emotional responses to organisational change. What I seem to have been missing all these years is to actually comprehend how people process change, to understand the process of emotional development. Addressing that process with tongue instead of ears, trying to knock out the critics with arguments instead of truly listening will strangle any re-engagement at birth. So the key question is: How to create space for people to re-engage?

How do you deal with ballyhoo and hysteria?

vrijdag 1 februari 2013

May The Leadership Be With You!

If you think the title of this post sounds familiar, you're right. It makes reference to one of the most famous quotes from the sci-fi motion picture Star Wars. "But what does that have to do with leadership?” you might wonder. You will find out in a minute.

It is not uncommon in larger organisations to have leadership turnover, leaders come and go. Some have had more impact during their term than others. And while some have pushed the organisation to a new level, others have been an obstacle for growth. Quite more interesting though is that during all these leadership - and perhaps course - changes, you will find that employees, followers, often remain a constant factor, true to the cause. Hard working, dedicated people who were at some point led by one and the next day by another leader, yet continuing to deliver what is needed, despite of. In my previous post (The Key Component in Leadership Communication) I have already raised the question whether people commit to the visionary or the vision. That post has got me thinking that one might find true leadership in more places within an organisation. Places where one would least expect it.

Don't get me wrong, I will not start to down talk the importance of a traditional leadership position nor the value people bring to it. Assuming a leadership role says a lot about a person. It is about taking responsibility to make things better. However, as important as it is to have true leaders in positions that can empower others to succeed in their tasks, it is equally important to have people who can allow those leadership positions to succeed their vision. This suggests an omnipresent leadership, which actually reminds me of The Force in Star Wars. The Force was thought to be present in most living beings, surrounding and penetrating them, thus making all living things connected by it. I would like to believe that leadership works in a similar way. Sure, not everyone can be a Jedi. But The Force can only grow stronger in them when being more attuned with other living beings around them.

Leadership is everywhere around us. I have seen leadership in many different types of position throughout the organisation I work for, from front-office to back-office jobs. People who may not have answered any leadership calling, but show such a passion and drive in what they do that they unintentionally and sometimes even without knowing, positively affect others around them. People who may have deliberately chosen to stay 'hands-on' and not sign up for a leadership position, but nevertheless are followed by others in how they master their job. These people are the organisation's beacons by which it sails its course, regardless of who is captain on the ship. I once read an article with interviews of Assistants to CEO's in major companies. The fact that they often are the gate to the CEO's office makes them almost more leader than the CEO. They influence what the CEO needs to know and decide on.

Smart leaders already know that they should surround themselves with people who are smarter. The best ones have come to understand that leadership is in fact universal and all around them. It is only a matter of creating sensitivity to it in order to use its strength. Just like with The Force. May it be with you!