Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weak Link Thinking

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, gave an impassioned speech at a recent leadership conference. She said the 'strong should not exploit the weak' and gave many examples. I thought about the weakest link analogy often used. In our organizations, we are only as strong as the weakest link.

If the strong in our organizations exploit the weak, then the weakest link becomes even weaker. Our organization becomes weak and susceptible to failure and ruin.

So the strong should not be exploiting the weak. What does this look like in our organizations? You might have your own examples.

'Might makes right' is a common ethic. Might comes from position of power in companies. If you as the boss insist that your decisions, your thinking is always right, then you are denying that others have insight, others have been gifted with talent, skill and beneficial experiences and knowledge. You are hindering them and only using the portion of that person that you want. They are weakened because they don't bring their strengths to bear for the improvement of the company. Their link is only as big and strong as you let them be.

When you consider that all of their energy and abilities should only be used for you and you leave them physically, emotionally and intellectually drained each day, each week. You have mined their ore to depletion and exploited them. There's nothing left for their family, friends, neighbors and community. They dread going to work and become a weak link.

When you pay them as little as you can and still keep them, you're exploiting their lack of mobility. You might even be leaving them worried and anxious and therefore less productive. They certainly become a weak link then.

When you allow dis-ease to rein in your organizations, politics, confusion, low morale, turnover and ineffectiveness occur creating a multitude of weak links and a very weakened organization. Patrick Lencioni talks about this in his latest book, The Advantage. I have blogged about gaining a clear advantage through your culture. Lencioni calls it organizational health. A lack is disease or dis-ease. Can you imagine how a weak link becomes weaker if he/she has to fight through politics, confusion, morale issues, constant training and re-training and reworking/repairing others mistakes and failures?

The strong--the leadership--should be building up the other links so that the whole organization is stronger. The strong should be caring for, encouraging, developing the weaker links. The team does not win when there's only one superstar. The team wins when the whole team is better than the other team. If not, you're relying on luck. If you're relying on luck, you're not strong and you've not earned any bonuses.

Weak link thinking--pushing down others in your organization--so that you get ahead, you get what you want and no one can challenge your position will lead to failure and ruin. Not today maybe, not this week or year, but soon.

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