Imaginary Leadership (Part 2 of 2)

Ending the Persecution of People, Productivity and Profit

Empty Suit

Many leaders may be imaginary, but the pain, problems and privation they cause to people, productivity and profit are all too real!

In part one of the two-part series, I compared the profile of Imaginary Leaders to that of Real Leaders—a distinction with a profound difference—and introduced what I consider to be the top three practices of Imaginary Leaders:

  • The persecution of people by proxy
  • The persecution of productivity by process
  • The persecution of profit by policy

Now I want to spend some time breaking these down a bit, so they’ll be easier to spot for Real Leaders and those who endeavor to make the transformation to Real Leadership.

Persecution of People by Proxy

A “proxy” has the authority or power to act as a substitute and, in this case, it is the Imaginary Leader playing the part. It could also be the Manager who confuses his roles and supplants Real Leadership with Managership. In either case, the persecution of people occurs when their:

Personal strategies related to aspirations and conduct

Interpersonal strategies related to one-on-one interactions with others

And organizational strategies related to using systems, structures and resources to influence the thinking, behavior and performance of others actually promote a defensive/unadaptive operating culture.

Punishing Pratices

I’ve written elsewhere about these types of unhealthy cultures and the damaging effects they have, so I won’t go into detail here other than to reinforce the idea that they devastate people through the Leadership-Culture-Performance Connection.

Below are a few of the more popular punishing practices that emerge in a cause-effect layout, along some ideas on alternatives for your consideration:

Personal

  • Withholding information from someone who could learn, change and grow from it or could actually fix/ improve the system as a result of having it.
    • Effect: “An individual without information can’t take responsibility. An individual with information can’t help but take responsibility.” – Jan Carlzon
    • Alternative: Follow Meg Wheatley’s advice in Leadership and the New Science: “…create much freer access to it….everybody needs information to do their work….it is no wonder that employees site poor communication as one of their greatest problems. People know it is critical to their ability to do good work. They know when they are starving.”

Interpersonal

  • Using fear to manipulate performance (e.g., annual performance/ merit review, management by numbers/ objectives, as well as outright threats, intimidation, bullying, etc.) or allowing fear to be propagated by others.
    • Effect: Personally, fear is an extremely limiting emotion. According to Dwoskin in The Sedona Method (Chapter 3), it is just above Apathy and Grief in the hierarchy of suppressed emotions, limiting our energy to the point it is mostly painful. Organizationally, it creates loss from “…an inability to serve the best interests of the company through necessity to satisfy specified rules, or…a quota” and “…where there is fear, there will be wrong figures.” – Deming, Out of the Crisis (Chapter 8).
    • Alternative: Deming suggests driving out fear (Point # 8 of 14, Chapter 2) through embracing new knowledge—to discover by calculation whether performance deviations are out of control with respect to other conditions—for improving the system and also eliminating annual performance appraisals/ merit reviews (Deadly Disease #3, Chapter 3).

Organizational

  • Applying extrinsic motivators, otherwise known as reward and reprimand or “carrots and sticks.”
    • Effect: Destroys intrinsic motivation and any value in the work itself, as well as pride and joy in workmanship.
    • Alternative: Commit to removing the demotivators (e.g., micro-managing the down-line, telling them that their “job is to make you look good” and holding them accountable for things they can’t control) and barriers to successful work that exist. Use the Deming/ Scholtes-style of MBWA—not just walking around, but knowing what questions to ask and stopping long enough to talk to the right people and get the right answers (e.g., Genchi Genbutsu or Gemba)—as a strategy for finding out what those demotivators are. This “go and see at the real place” approach will provide feedback from the voice of the customer (i.e., the employees) and the voice of the system (i.e., the process) that will invariably require something the leader must work on improving, whether related to him/her self or the system.

Stop and ask yourself this:

To what extent am I relying on these strategies as part of my personal leadership platform?”

Then yield to an awareness that produces learning, acceptance that produces change, action that produces growth and achievement that produces new levels of Real Leadership.

Persecution of Productivity by Process

The persecution of productivity (and I include quality and competitive position in my use of the term) occurs when Imaginary Leadership doesn’t understand the work that they or their down-line are responsible for and, as a result, can’t do much of anything to measure or improve performance.

Deming once quipped:

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”

He also said in The New Economics:

We should work on our process, not the outcome of our processes.”

The Heart of Quality

As Scholtes taught in principle number two of his six Principles at the Heart of Quality:

Leaders must understand their systems, processes and methods in terms of capability and variation. Data gathered on the variation of systems and processes over time will help leaders understand the characteristics of work performance in their organization.

When managers don’t understand the variation inherent in their systems and processes, they make themselves vulnerable to some serious problems:

  • They miss trends where there are trends.
  • They see trends where there are none.
  • They attribute to employees–individually or collectively–problems that are inherent in the system and that will continue regardless of which employees are doing the work.
  • They won’t understand past performance or be able to predict future performance.”

Understanding Process

But how many leaders today still don’t understand processes—not to mention the system; what Deming defined as “a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system—or, if they do, still focus more on process outcomes (results) than on the process (effort) itself?

This isn’t a hard question to answer. Just check to see how many of your current metrics are defined around outputs vs process or inputs. Better yet, just think about where you spend most of your time.

Is it truly on understanding characteristics of work performance like variation around materials, methods, equipment/ machinery built into the end-to-end process or on trying to improve certain outcomes of a sub-process (usually by focusing on the attentiveness, carefulness and speed of individual workers) that you know “the boss” is going to ask about?

Deming would again suggest that this invariably leads to optimizing the sub-system at the expense of the total overall system.

Persecution of Profit by Policy

This may seem harsh, but research and reality suggest that, as mission and operating philosophy (e.g., goals, strategies and policies) emerge as part of any organizations maturation and development process, ways of people relating to each other and their work are collated into a comprehensive framework of “the way to do things,” and much of that operating philosophy is not conducive to improving financial performance.

The persecution of profit occurs when Imaginary Leadership continues to deploy policies that constrain organizational value-creation for customers, whether related to innovation, quality/ service, speed or cost.

These include policies that are intended to govern/ control who, what, where, when, why, how and how much a company purchases in products/ services, attracts/ trains/ retains talent, measures/ improves performance, et al., and the outcomes typically effected include things like teamwork, turnover, earnings/ sales volatility and net profit after taxes (NPAT).

For what to do instead, I’ll simply refer the reader to an article on The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog by John Hunter: Nobody Gives a Hoot about Profit, which includes an incredible video with Dr. Russell Ackoff about Values, Leadership and Implementing the Deming Philosophy.

Ending the Practices of Persecution

It is not going to be easy, but it is worthwhile. It starts with changing your point of view and I’d refer the reader back to Continual Improvement (CI) in part one of the two-part series. This commitment to transformation must come from you, personally…there is nothing anyone else can do.

Personal transformation can’t occur without your permission. It is a choice, and herein lies a danger that both Deming and Drucker pointed out. It is not mandatory. No one has to change. Survival is, and always will be, optional.

Choose wisely!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Richard Dillard

Richard S. Dillard is Founder/ Managing Partner at Dillard Partners, LLC
Pursuing Success at the Speed of Leadership!
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Imaginary Leadership (Part 1 of 2)

Ending the Persecution of People, Productivity and Profit

Imaginary Leader

Have you ever met an Imaginary Leader or experienced the displeasure of working for one?

Unfortunately, it is altogether likely that you have, and it is a foregone conclusion that you didn’t like it.”

It also follows naturally that the group/ company suffered as a result. The reality is, there are a lot of Imaginary Leaders (defined below)…many occupying positions of authority, but all wreaking havoc on people, productivity, and profits.

Punishing Practices

Perhaps you can relate to one of the following based on your experience with leaders in your professional walk:

  • The persecution of people by proxy
  • The persecution of productivity by process
  • The persecution of profit by policy

There may be others, but these are the top 3 punishing practices of Imaginary Leaders that I’ve identified over the past 31 years. In contrast, these are practices that Real Leaders avoid. Not only that, they make a habit of identifying where and when they occur and go out of their way to stop them, every chance they get.

Imitating the Imaginary or Getting Real

Today, Imaginary Leaders not only abound, they continue to grow; mostly because future leaders tend to lead how they were led and since many have served, and been promoted, under Imaginary Leaders…well, you get the point. I should clarify, however, that while their leadership is imaginary the problems (e.g., negative impact/ results) are very real and should be stopped.

But before we can identify and bring an end to these punishing practices, we need to understand a little more about who we’re talking about and the proximate causes that create the persecuting effects.

Two Leadership Profiles

Following is a basic profile of both Imaginary and Real Leaders.

Imaginary leaders are Leaders-in-Position—entitled by promotion to a position (granted by someone higher in the organizational structure).

The Leaders-in-Position is characterized by one or more of the following:

  • Exert mostly positional power (i.e., legitimate, coercive, reward) and often abuse it
  • Have “direct” reports, but only imagine they are being followed
  • Followership is “voluntold” (not voluntary) and motivated by fear, desperation
  • Use authority as the principal source of social, political and professional influence
  • Employ more restrictive than prescriptive leadership strategies
  • Fix the blame when things go wrong
  • Place a primary, if not exclusive, focus on short-term results (and behaviors/ attitudes)

Real Leaders, however, are Leaders-in-Person—earned by appointment to a provisional role (regardless of position, ‘Leader’ becomes a title given by those who choose to follow, regardless of where they are in the organizational hierarchy).

The Leaders-in-Person is associated with the following characteristics:

  • Rely mostly on personal power (i.e., expert, referent, informational) and use positional power judiciously
  • May or may not have direct reports, but actually garner a large following
  • Followership is voluntary; motivated by respect, inspiration
  • Use authenticity as the principal source of social, political and professional influence
  • Employ more prescriptive than restrictive leadership strategies
  • Fix the system when things go wrong
  • Place a primary, but not exclusive, focus on long term results (and effort/ thinking):

Let me add that every leader has a choice to make here; whether our leadership will imitate the imaginary or get real. So before moving on, I want to challenge you to stop for a few minutes and perform a quick self-evaluation against these two distinct leadership profiles.

How have you been led? Where do you fall?”

What “Lies” Behind the Cause

Hidden safely behind the proximate cause(s) are a host of assumptions and theories that undergird and support this contrast. But for the sake of time and space—running the risk of oversimplifying—it can be reduced to basic differences in the following equations when it comes to the performance of people, productivity, and profit:

Command & Control Model

McGregor’s Theory X + Skinnerian Behaviorism + Taylor’s Scientific Management = Command & Control [CC]

Continual Improvement Model

McGregor’s Theory Y + Kohn’s Model for Motivation + Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK)/ 14 Points = Continual Improvement [CI]

While generalizations are not always accurate, the following may help add some much-needed color inside the lines for better contrast:

I’ve embedded some links for further study, but what’s important to understand here is that these combined theories-in-use (i.e., CC and CI) are incompatible and irreconcilable.

A Situational Leadership Dilemma

It may be fanciful to suggest that situational leadership dictates which approach gets applied, but the reality is that this never happens.

Here are a couple of illustrations to support this point.

  • If you hold a CI frame of reference, you won’t ever need to adopt a CC approach to resolve performance problems related to people, process or profit, and the reasons are simple: (a) SoPK has already revealed to the Real Leader that 94% of the performance problems they will encounter are built into the system as a common cause of variation and they’ll seek to reduce variability around these causes in order to improve, and (b) the other 6% of the time that performance problems can be attributable to special causes, they’ll be able to constructively resolve without abandoning CI as there is simply nothing about the CC approach that is more helpful in these situations.
  • If you hold a CC frame of reference, you won’t ever choose to adopt a CI approach to resolve performance problems with people, process or profit. I’ve never seen this occur. In a crisis or performance problem situation, I’ve never seen an Imaginary Leader fix the system after already fixing the blame…NEVER! The reasons are equally simple: (a) they lack Profound Knowledge, so how could systems thinking, a knowledge of variation, the theory of knowledge, and psychology ever inform their actions, and (b) their theories-in-use have convinced them that the performance problem is effectively resolved once “accountability’ firmly fixed the blame, so there is nothing else to do.

The Practices of Persecution

Every leader will engage in certain practices when approaching others and their daily work as a natural consequence of the assumptions they make and the theories they adopt.

It is unavoidable in the thinking-knowing-doing-performing cycle.”

The problem is that, while all theories, by definition, are valid, some are simply more useful to leadership when it comes to improving individual, group and organizational performance.

Even though mounting evidence continues to suggest that the CI approach is based on more useful theories, CC is still extremely prevalent. Compounding the problem is the simple fact that an Imaginary Leader using CC can still get promoted, make more money, and experience all the trappings of success—at least in the short-term.

We see it all the time. Tragically, the longer a CC theoretical framework remains entrenched—both in Academia and in Business—the more likely it is that misattribution of success  (borrowed from Human Synergistics® International’s original defensive misattribution† description) will occur/ recur and the harder it becomes to abandon.

Misattribution of Success occurs when an Imaginary Leader actually begins to mistakenly attribute their success—at least from a short-term perspective and based on certain financial and business-process measures of merit—to CC (and the assumptions/ theories that support it) rather than to other internal factors like a defensive organizational culture (where CC flourishes) or substantial resources with minimal demands (where the group/ organization can succeed in spite of CC).

† Cooke, R.A. and Szumal, J.L., Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate, pp. 152-159, Copyright © 2000 by Sage Publications.

This is why we find ourselves where we are today with Imaginary Leaders and the corresponding practices of persecution mentioned above, which you can read in greater detail here: Imaginary Leader (Part 2 of 2).

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts!

**********
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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Richard Dillard

Richard S. Dillard is Founder/ Managing Partner at Dillard Partners, LLC
Pursuing Success at the Speed of Leadership!
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How to Ensure Motivation Trickles From the Top Down

Water Trickle

Motivation is considered to be one of the most important contributing factors to high levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.

However, as illustrated below, motivation must start from the top in order to be most effective.

Executive Engagement

Research shows that the modern work environment has drastically changed. To illustrate, workplaces are more complex, markets are more volatile and younger generations are more demanding. Therefore, executives must carefully manage their company culture.

Industry icons, such as Apple’s Steve Jobs, were famous for their charismatic ability to inspire employees and customers alike to seek excellence and pursue their dreams. Consequently, executives must play a regular, proactive role in communicating with employees.

Visionary executives who non-invasive methods to appeal to their employee’s emotions will enjoy higher levels of teamwork, production and employee satisfaction. Thus, executives must make constructive motivation a top priority for management.

Motivation from Management

Research from Gallup clearly shows that managers influence almost 70 percent of critical business variables such as productivity, performance and profitability. Even more disheartening, approximately 70 percent of employees are not engaged at work.

This means that the majority of employers are disengaged and indifferent to their work.

Managers play a key role in determining employee engagement and satisfaction levels. Gallup’s research shows that accurate and meaningful communication is extremely important to employees. A healthy business relationship will include daily face-to-face communication, not randomly vague emails.

Clearly, executives must set the expectation that management will invest time and energy into daily interaction with their subordinates. This will identify and resolve many problems before they become serious issues.

Proper Performance Management

Members of upper management rarely receive formal performance reviews like regular employees. Therefore, they often fail to understand how annual performance reviews can affect an employee’s motivation and job satisfaction. Annual performance reviews can create intense emotional pressure and apprehension.

Managers tend to view performance reviews as just another task to complete.

However, performance reviews are an important opportunity to review progress, set goals and get excited about work. Executives should model engaging and productive performance reviews through formally meeting with management and helping them to set their own goals.

Nevertheless, performance reviews are of little worth without quarterly follow-ups with employees. Regularly meeting with employees will reinforce their commitment to growth and the company.

Data Analytics

Executives need factual data in order to better understand their employees. Fortunately, there are excellent ways to glean insightful data about employees. For example, HR software programs can create customized reports that detail important employee metrics.

First, there are financial reports such as:

  • Cost per hire
  • Turnover cost
  • Training investment
  • Recruiting cost ratios

Turnover costs equal the total amount accrued through separation, vacancy, replacement and training. High turnover and hiring costs can financially weaken a company because every hire may cost between five to 10 thousand dollars.

There are other important metrics, such as turnover, absence and vacancy rates. Turnover rates exemplify the state of employee engagement and satisfaction. Executives should consider also performing quarterly employee satisfaction surveys.

Public Perks

Executives should consider unique employee appreciation ideas. While they do not have to be expensive, perks are an excellent way for upper management to demonstrate their commitment to employees.

For instance, flexibility is an abstract concept that matters a lot to employees, who may be single-parents or returning to school. Management should embrace flexible scheduling as a way to motivate employees to increase efficiency and production.

Once employees understand that they are empowered to manage their workload, they will be more responsible and willing to go the extra mile.

Motivation is a deciding factor between high employee engagement and high turnover rates. In order to properly increase motivation, executives should use customized reports created through HR software.

So, how are you as a leader allowing your strengths in motivating your followers work to influence them to motivate others? What are some of the steps you can take today or tomorrow to step back from your daily routine and think about how you can better increase you motivation for others to follow? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

———————
Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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