INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
Research reported in the Harvard Business Review reveals just how damaging corporate bureaucracy and hierarchy can be. It causes productivity drain; on average an astonishing one day a week is lost “feeding the machine.” Bureaucracy kills speed and fosters internal navel gazing versus external focus. As the research indicated, “Survey respondents spend 42 percent of their time on internal issues–resolving disputes, wrangling resources, sorting out personnel issues, negotiating targets, and other tedious tasks.” Bureaucracy stifles innovation and the inherent hierarchy kills collaboration. Malcolm Gladwell agrees in particular with this last point. At a recent workhuman* conference, Gladwell talked about how the number of airplane crashes has gone down over the past 20 years. The biggest clue as to why lies within airplane “black boxes.” A study of the notorious recording devices shows that 20 years ago, captains were much more driven by hierarchy and less likely to listen to their first mates. As times have changed and recordings far more frequently show a co-collaboration between pilot and co-pilot, the number of crashes has gone down. While the consequences of bureaucracy elsewhere aren’t quite as dire, they’re still substantive. To counteract, it requires granting autonomy. Construct an “Agreement for Autonomy” if it helps, whereby you outline the scope and objectives for the specific work that will be delegated as well as the goals, expectations, and success measures. Bottom line, don’t fall into the many traps of bureaucracy.
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake often made)
Be stronger than your excuses. Easier said than done, I know, as there’s an almost gravitational pull towards excuse-making. You make them because inertia is easier, because you doubt yourself, you’re afraid, you think you’re not ready, or because you’re not motivated. When you make excuses, you’re not addressing reality. You’re being dishonest or playing the victim. And here’s the harshest truth: the opposite of progress is excuses. So, don’t make the mistake of giving into the siren call of the excuse. Be stronger.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
Continuing with the vibe from the IMPERFECTIONS section, to hold yourself (or others) accountable, use The Accountability Asks. When facing a problem or something gone wrong, ask the following–“Am I”, or “Are You”:
Owning or avoiding? Considering the problem at hand, if you’re owning, you’re taking responsibility, stepping up to address the issue. If you’re avoiding, you’re dodging responsibility, looking the other way, not stepping up, doing nothing. There’s no in-between.
Apologizing or antagonizing? If you’re apologizing you’re atoning for your mistakes and the impact they had. If you’re antagonizing you’re making the problem worse by seeming callous or indifferent.
Being brave or blaming? If you’re being brave you’re openly acknowledging your errors, admitting how you’re contributing to the problem, and accepting the consequences. If you’re blaming you’re pointing fingers, acting cowardly, lashing out.
Making progress or excuses? (see IMPERFECTIONS section above)