As I pointed out last Monday, more and more organizations are struggling with developing an adaptive strategy. From my vantage point, they seem to be struggling from two main problems. One is an SDD, a strategic deficit disorder, and the other is OADHD, an operational attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The combination is quite difficult to overcome.
Right now OADHD seems to be the bigger problem in some organizations. Individual ADHD symptoms are typically described as inattentiveness, i.e. they fail to give close attention to detail, do not seem to listen well, have difficulty organizing, and is easily distracted. These same individuals can also show over-activity, i.e. always on the go, acts as if driven by a motor and talks excessively, plus impulsivity, i.e. interrupts or intrudes on others. These behaviors can describe the actions of many senior leaders right now and many companies’ aggregate operational behaviors.
When reflecting on the above, I remembered something that I learned a long time ago. First, the sum of organizational change reflects the sum of individual change. Second, the sum of individual change is the result of individual clarity. In short, ideas and thinking do impact behavior
So the big question this week is how do I create organizational clarity once I know I need to create it?
Initially, understand why you want to create it in the first place. When people in leadership positions realize that they need to create clarity and focus in their organization, more likely it is because they feel they have lost control of the focus or lost control of the message. They often realize that day to day operations are trumping strategic level work. Some days they start the change journey from the place of freaking out over something that is “big,” e.g. a drop in performance metrics, loss of a major customer account, an organizational near death experience, etc. However few leaders realize that when they freak out, the organization goes nuclear with anxiety, fear and trepidation, resulting in a downward spiral that picks up steam at an unbelievable rate.
Still, there is a way to break out of this race to the bottom. First, face your fears and name them. Marcus Buckingham in his excellent book, The One Thing You Need to Know ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, Free Press, 2005, says there are five fears:
- the fear of death (our own and our family’s) which results in the need for security.
- the fear of the outsider which results in the need for community.
- the fear of the future which causes the need for clarity.
- the fear of chaos which results in the need for authority.
- the fear of insignificance which causes the need for respect.
Upon more reflection and after reading a good article called “Reclaim Your Creative Confidence” by Tom Kelley and David Kelley in the December 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review, I believe the more realistic leadership fears are the fear of the messy unknown, the fear of judgement, the fear of the first step, and the fear of losing control.
Therefore, our choice as leaders is to acknowledge that fear happens and that we can at times feel like we are loosing control, clarity and focus. If this happens on your watch, you first need to understand which fear is taking place and whether or not you can do anything about it. As Stephen Covey years ago asked, it is within your circle of influence to change it?
Next, you may have to deal with your own fears outside of your relationship with the company. This is the time and place to utilize an experienced executive coach or personal counselor.
In short, change happens. Fear is normal. How you deal with it is your choice. Now is the time to choose wisely.