Thursday, September 5, 2013

Conscious Leadership

Have you really thought through every decision you've made? I bet you haven't. Here's how I know:

Watch a crowd exiting a building. If there's one open door, everyone heads for it and piles up at the door. This is true even if there are multiple doors for the exit (like in a store), which are easily opening allowing more than one person to leave at a time. We're so ingrained to follow the crowd that we don't recognize that we're not making the decisions for ourselves. Or we're too lazy to make a slight effort (open another door, e.g.) and save ourselves a lot of time. We'll just do what everyone else is doing.

Watch backed-up traffic coming up on a merging point. Despite signs telling us to use both lanes (i.e. the entire lane up to the merge), most of us try to crowd into the main line as soon as we can, making the backed up line even longer...and slower. Instead of creating two lines and letting traffic flow more easily with a 'zipper' merge, we insist that everyone get into the one line right away, causing more hassle and problems for everyone. We might even despise those who are playing by the rules and trying to make everyone else successful. You might try to cut them off by halving both lanes so they can't pass you.

Think this doesn't happen in business? All the time.

We follow metrics (efficiency, e.g.) and exploit them to make ourselves look good even though with a little extra effort we can make the customers happy. We might even penalize or punish those who follow the rules 'the customer is always right' and 'do whatever it takes to ensure a great experience' because they do things differently from the rest of us. Don't think we punish them? Sure, we do. We let our trust levels go down. We are suspicious of them, thinking that other person is a maverick or selfish or not a team player. Their reviews aren't as glowing. We've halved their lane of travel to make it harder for them to do their work and make the organization successful. They're not allowed input on future decisions because they don't adhere to the informal policies.

Don't think you do this? Think about what you're doing and why. Are you just following the crowd? Operating from habit? Really being the most effective and productive you can be? What if you tried something different? What if you got everyone's input? What if you looked at the true effect of your and others' actions? What if you could really measure what's important? What is important: metrics, policy or success?

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