Posts Tagged ‘control’

Brand Repair

November 26, 2014

redbrand

Some organizations have reputation troubles. It’s likely they earned them.

A tarnished brand is something we’ve all seen and don’t want. An advising peer recently shares this case: “We are hand-cuffed in a very important assignment. The client organization is full of ego, fear, dysfunction and paralysis. Regrettably, standard, constructive practices that could inform our tasks were suspended – all because of reputation worries. The senior management knows their brand is in a tattered state.”

A tragic management response is in play: close ranks, worry, more clauses in the standard contract, gag orders, commands, declarations, defense, denial and other control tactics. These choices build fear, disables staff and sends distress signals. It jacks up anxiety. Moreover, these actions can become a negative loop that cause more injuries (inside and out).

A viable alternative ? Carefully identify the wrong values, attitudes and behavior that created the reputation challenges because they inform what must be different going forward. Then, step away from the “war” and demonstrate some vulnerability. Act swiftly and consistently to promote great experiences.

Try this brand ambassador recipe:

(1) Listen. Calmly and patiently hear what the aggrieved party says and what it means.

(2) Apologize. Indicate authentic concern for a failure or inadequate experience.

(3)  Fix it. Take action to remedy the mis-step. While this isn’t always possible, if it is, do it, promptly.

Make these actions automatic for everyone in your organization. From top to bottom, staff should know these three steps. Soon, the volume of good and great recent experiences will replace the stain of history. Concurrently, take big inside actions to attend culture, and make plans along with specific communications that support internal process and structural improvements.

Learning how your organization is understood by others requires gathering both random and routine feedback. This knowledge can serve organization effectiveness. Reputation is earned from the experiences people have inside and outside your building by phone, email, in meetings and other routine interactions. Part of building great brand as well as organization performance is this paradox: take off the armor to build strength.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Growing Leaders

November 24, 2013

plant

We live in a world where leadership is essential but in short supply. And, says Gary Hamel, once named the “world’s most influential business thinker” and a professor at the London Business School,  hierarchies get in the way.Regrettably, organizations and communities are not well served by pyramids. It’s because there is a lot of energy and competition spent managing up rather than collaborating.

Stalls & Lags Are Costly

In our complex world, change is constant and competition is ferocious. But, Hamel says, progress is often belated, infrequent, stalled or convulsive. Structures and cultures that rely on just a few individuals in a hierarchy take a long time to recognize both problems and opportunities. The scale of those problems and opportunities has to become huge before they secure any attention. Unfortunately, too late is often the same as failing. Concentrating lots of authority in a top few is problematic.

Structural Constipation

What minimizes the structural constipation? Build a culture that that supports those who add value, not competition for a “top spot.” In other words, create and incent a culture that rewards merit, competence, and accountability. These are fundamental features of a performance system in contrast to a political system. A performance system seeks progress; a political system seeks control.   Intentionally pushing authority and responsibility down can distribute it more broadly.

Hamel counsels:

  • Give people leadership skills that let them get things done – even when they don’t have formal, positional authority.
  • Train people to make the right kind of choices and hold them accountable for their choices.
  • Shorten the feedback cycle between decisions and rewards.
  • Seek peer-based feedback on what people really know and do.

These actions can grow our leadership capital. As challenges grow and persist, our organizations and communities desperately need more, better leaders – fast.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Let Thoroughbreds Run

October 16, 2011

 

People capable of “doing their own thinking” are critical to high-performing organizations. Inviting, understanding and encouraging them is a vital function in leading change. The staff  you select and the conditions they work in are factors you can influence.

The Capecchi Story

As a toddler, Mario Capecchi recalls his mother taken from their home in the Italian Alps and sent to a concentration camp. He was nearly four years old. His mother, a poet and antifascist who would not marry Mario’s abusive father, had expected troubles. She had made advance plans with a family nearby who took in Mario. However, before age five, Mario was on his own. For years he survived as a street urchin. Most of one year he was hospitalized – likely with typhoid. At nine, miraculously, his mother found him. One might guess this would shape a resilient character.

Determined to study molecular biology, Capecchi went to Harvard to learn from James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA. After some time, however, he decided that Harvard was not hospitable. The work environment limited him. Eventually, he landed at the University of Utah where a new department was being created.

In 1980, he was a grantee applicant with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – a government entity that provides resources for science research. Capecchi identified three projects. Two were likely prospects, the third was a huge leap. He wanted to show it was possible to alter a specific gene in a mouse’s DNA. The difficulty of this work was of enormous – like finding and changing a single sentence in eighty large encyclopedias. It was a daunting and improbable search and replace task.

The NIH responded to Capecchi’s third plan as far fetched; but offered resources for the solid, incremental proposals. Ignoring their guidance, Capecchi took the money and put it in his risky gene-targeting research. He gambled his staff, lab, reputation and career. In 2007, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on mouse genes.  When the NIH renewed his grants the expert panel indicated: “We are glad you didn’t follow our advice.”

Control Can Oppress

Experienced and secure leaders build great teams comprised of individuals that feel capable about the expectation and authority to carry substantial responsibilities. Skilled staff appreciate the chance to test themselves and others in delivering results. However, common complaints by talented people often include a supervisor, colleague or boss with a focus on control. The selfish need for control creates problems in trust, feedback, collaboration and other vital features of healthy culture and savvy processes.

What lessons does Capecchi’s story offer?

Sometimes, managing and leading simply translates to enabling bright people with audacious ideas. Expecting both brilliant and stubborn in talent is too high a bar. Don’t block. Encourage and inspire new thinking. Let your thoroughbreds run.

 –Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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