Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sand Trap

Recently I was intrigued by comments made by T.J. Addington, so I bought a copy of Leading from the Sandbox. The sandbox is a place of creativity, imagination and fun. It stops being fun when too many rules and regulations are put in place that hinder the group's interactions. Addington says this is what happens in our organizations. We put too many strictures in place and the creativity dies. The leader dictates what can or cannot happen and new divergent plot lines cannot be explored. Our success (or lack thereof) is immediately defined.

From these early experiences, we can see easily that our current organizations suffer from the same maladies. We have the dysfunction of control. The leader will tell you what to do or sell you on his/her conclusions. There is little consultation and certainly no consensus. Why bother joining the discussion if it's not going to change the direction of our corporate story?

Another dysfunction is bureaucracy. Can't get anything done for a customer or an employee without sixteen levels of approval? Okay, maybe not that many, but you definitely have to prove the case before you can take any action that moves us in the right direction. I remember too many instances where trusted (supposedly) people had to have two approvals before they could buy a $50 tool. It probably cost more to get the approvals than the tool was worth.

Ambiguity is a killer. Of course, I knew too many leaders who had the 'white knight' syndrome. They let the project teams flounder, repeatedly coming back for more direction or finding out they'd hit a brick wall trying to take a certain action. When the project deadline loomed, the white knight would charge onto the battlefield at the 11th hour and rescue the project enjoying the 'huzzah's!!" from the top guys. A whole team can flounder if they're not sure what the goals are and how you want to get there.

Addington talks about the dysfunction of professional ministry. In business, we would call this an over-reliance on the educational preparation of our management team. We have all heard the horror stories of the freshly graduated MBA who didn't know a thing about customer or supplier relations, or informal networks within the organization and how anything worked outside of a textbook description...and the company was ground down into oblivion. Street smarts is often unappreciated.

Lastly, there's mistrust. And it's a biggie for alienating your exemplary followers and creating passivity. If all you want are a bunch of sycophants, then be unreliable and intolerant and have a lack of integrity.

Remember the book from many decades ago--Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? We may have snickered then, but there was some truth about sharing and common courtesy. Now we have a chance to re-learn those lessons from the sandbox and teams.

Stay tuned. Addington also talks about fallacies regarding high impact teams...kind of interesting.

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