employee ownership

Physics, Psychology and Business

Physics  Psychology & Business 123rf.com_97637392_sNewton’s 3rd Law of Physics. You might not remember it is as that but you almost certainly know it or have heard of it:  “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Even if you are familiar with it, you are unlikely to think about it very much or very often. And certainly not in a business context.

This isn’t your fault. It is perhaps simply the inevitable consequence of our natural human need to label things. By categorising this as a “physical law” you inevitably compartmentalise it as “scientific” and so fail to consider its applicability to business. But perhaps you ought to.

After all science pertains to all life. It is only convention (that need to label things) that causes us to break science into different fields. We tend to treat these as discrete and distinct when in reality they are not. The boundaries – like any – are subjective and artificial. As a result we may be short-changing ourselves, as I suggest we are in this instance.

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Meeting The Need For Transforming Leadership

Transforming leadership 123rf.com_8192829_sIn his book, “Leadership” the Pulitzer Prize winning author, James MacGregor Burns defines leadership as, “The reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers.” When you distil this, you can identify two primary elements:

  • Two parties - leaders and followers;
  • Goals - each party wants to achieve a specific purpose.

You cannot have leadership without both these essential elements. Burns, however, expands on this and avers that there are basically two types of leadership: transactional leadership and transforming leadership.

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How Silo-thinking Spreads, Smothers Synergy and Suffocates Strategy

Silo-thinking: even if unfamiliar with the term, you are likely familiar with its effects. That’s because the root of silo-thinking is differentiation and distinction. And this has consequences – conscious and unconscious.

You define any activity, role or responsibility according to predefined criteria, which may be shaped by the person, their applied skills and training or the way in which they create, use or adapt a system to carry out their assigned tasks. This is all well and good; only all too often we tend to identify ourselves by our roles and what we do. Even Aristotle (384-322 BCE) recognised this, as he is reputed to have said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” As result we, personally or collectively, tend to become:

  • Protective and – clinging to the adage that “knowledge is power” – erect barriers to ensure that we maximise the perceived value of what we offer, and thereby our status; and/or
  • Self-absorbed or unduly focused and single-minded, and thus uncooperative.  

Silo 65112347_s Copyright_a href_https_www_123rf_com_profile_eugenesergeevCollectively this may be at the individual business unit, functional or even divisional business unit rather than at the enterprise level. But when it occurs at the collective level – and is recognised – it is identified it as ‘silo-thinking.’ That’s when you start to take steps to remedy it.  Unfortunately, even when you do, you may not realise how pervasive and pernicious it is.

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Organizational Synergy through Empowerment and Teamwork

Synergy 2 70506596_s Copyright_123rf.com_profile_mike107'Synergy. That is a word that may not seem to be as popular or prolific as it once was. Yet that doesn’t make it any less relevant. Like any leader, you are likely facing the imperative to improve productivity and performance and do more with less. (It may be a new year but that does not mean your challenges are all new!) And, what is performance improvement but a quest for greater synergy?

Empowerment is another widely used term. One that hasn’t lost its popularity to the same extent, perhaps because of its promise. The difference is that synergy is an outcome – something you have to work hard to achieve – while empowerment is held up to be the magic formula for creating synergy. So, how successful have your empowerment initiatives been?

If they have not delivered, or even come close to delivering, the results you were expecting or had hoped for, let me share a few ideas that might resurrect your hopes, re-inspire your efforts and reinvigorate your results.

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From Change Management to Change Mastery

Mastery 1 123rf.com_50144423_sChange is a fact of life. It is also a major factor in it. Increasingly so. Both the amount of change and the faster pace of change are widely acknowledged. No doubt you feel it yourself. Just imagine what somebody who died only 40-50 years ago would think if they were to come back today (as I sometimes do with my father.) And, in his book “Leading Change”, John Kotter claims that this is not going to slow down soon, but rather speed up! This makes the future daunting. 

Change is supposed to make life easier. Unfortunately that isn’t always the case, especially initially. It takes time to familiarise yourself with, and adapt to, the new; let alone master it.  So when change comes fast and furious, proficiency becomes elusive and mastery next to impossible.  This is discouraging, demotivating and stressful. It is no wonder so many change initiatives are unsuccessful.

More frightening, however, is that the sheer volume of change makes it seem highly unlikely the proportion of successful change will improve. (The fact that this sad statistic hasn’t changed in decades, despite greater focus on change management, seems to support this prognosis.) Yet there is a way you can beat the odds. The answer is actually implied in “Leading Change,” but – ironically – has not been fully understood or applied.

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Why leadership is imperative, and how you can unleash it in your organisation.

Leadership not Management 123rf_25893740_s“Management is not leadership.”  Those bald words are from John Kotter’s 2012 updated preface to his 1996 book “Leading Change.” He makes the statement to highlight the theme of the second chapter. Yet the whole sentence reads, “The simple insight that management is not leadership is better understood today, but not nearly as well as needed.” This begs the question, “Why not?”

That question may be easier to ask than answer. After all, “Leading Change” is a worldwide best seller. A book that, in 2011, Time Magazine described as one of the top 25 most influential business management books of all time. Yet, despite its seminal significance and this ostensible influence, it seems that its lessons have not been learned.

But Kotter himself says, “That does not mean executives have learned nothing in the past few decades. They have. But the challenges have been growing as fast, or faster, than their skills.” I wonder.

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Slip the Surly Bonds of Misguided Management Theory

You cannot help wondering what management lessons need to be learned from the Grenfell Tower Fire disaster. Undoubtedly the Inquiry will highlight many. Yet it appears that there also plenty to be learned from the post-fire management.

Uncuffed 123rf_16888401_sIt seems that every day a fresh incident raises somebody’s ire, and outrage and fury abound as those dealing with the consequences are portrayed as callous, unfeeling or bungling incompetents. In all likelihood some of the criticism is justified, but there seems to no allowance for the unprecedented nature of the catastrophe. For example, is it really realistic to expect all victims to be in permanent new homes just three weeks after the fire?

Goodness knows, identifying and acquiring a new home is difficult for most of us at the best of times. It certainly isn’t something that we normally do in a matter of days. So, why would we expect these poor people to be any different, especially given the difficulty of finding homes in London? So, would you or I do better if we were responsible for dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy?

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Who Didn’t Voice Their Concerns?

Grenfell Fire - Daily Telegraph 4If you think about it, no organisational failure of any magnitude can come as a surprise. Someone, somewhere, was aware that things were not right. Yet those people either did not say anything or their concerns were ignored.   

For instance, remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster? There concerns about the equipment had been raised, but simply ignored by management. Now we have another example.

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A Key to Optimising Your Human Capital

The perpetual balancing act between selfishness and selflessness, or self-interest and group-interest, is evolutionarily fundamental. So much so that it has been described as “The Paradox of Being Human.” Thus, while I have written about it before, I have not stopped thinking about it and it remains integral to everything I do. Recently, I have been seeking a way to portray it more effectively, and, in the spirit of “a picture being worth a thousand words”, more graphically.

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Strategy and Your People: How to Sustain Success

Striding towards success 14815469_sRecently I came across an article in the July-August 2015 Harvard Business Review entitled, “People before Strategy.” (I am not sure the link will work, but you can try clicking here to read it for yourself.) I was particularly struck by the sub-title, “A New Role for the CHRO”, for my immediate response was “How many organisations have a CHRO?”

I guess to some extent that is the intended response. Certainly the useful summary table provided in the article infers this.

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