“Power isn’t control at all — power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own.”
― Beth Revis
You may have heard about the recent event on United Airlines that resulted in having a passenger forcibly removed from a plane. It was an event that you’d think would never happen unless that passenger was threat to others or the plane. In this case it was just someone unfortunate enough to be “randomly” selected to give up their seat to an United employee.
The event is a great lesson in leadership or the lack of leadership. Years ago a great experiment was conducted, “The Stanford Prison Experiment” which demonstrated that just following the rules can lead to unwelcome outcomes. Something similar happened when the gate agents followed their rules and asked for some help from the security contingent. The security team decided to forcibly remove the passenger (just doing their job). In the process of removing the passenger, the passenger was injured. As it turns out people will conform to their roles and act accordingly.
When leadership doesn’t empower their employees to provide great customer service they rely on the rules, rules that don’t take into consideration the meaning and real value of the people who are to be served.
What would need to change for United to be a customer focused organization?
“I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.”
What does your organization chart look like? Is it the typical set of boxes showing the relationship in a hierarchical fashion? Most organizations are structured with a top down command and control organization. Even though some of those organizations would profess empowered leadership models there is still the idea that someone is subordinate to another. The subordinate relationship will reduce the ability for everyone to contribute their absolute best.
The new leadership model will be a set of interlinked circles much like that of a Venn diagram. This model doesn’t use subordinate relationship to accomplish work. It uses a model of collaboration to bring out the best of each person.
What happens when there is greater collaboration between all roles in the organization? Communication improves, it gets faster, it vibrates with ideas, and is more rich. Gone is the worry of saying something and not having it matter. Greater collaboration leads to greater wins for the organization and for everyone in the organization.
Moving away from the traditional structures will allow organizations to move more quickly, extract the best ideas, and increase total involvement. That is in essence the idea of enabling people to contribute. Empowerment with action is enablement and that is what it will take to for organizations and individuals to make a larger contribution.
The collaborative leadership model is based on relationships rather than authority (positional authority). The model will enhance organizational performance and contribute to faster implementation of change with in the structure. The challenge is breaking free from the ways of the past to embrace something new. The same change authors have to embrace this model and create an impetus for a new way of doing business. Those that do embrace a collaborative model will thrive and out perform those that don’t.
How do you create such a large change? Start with small groups, build the model, test it and watch it work. Think about ways you can create a more collaborative environment and then implement.
“All we achieve and all that we fail to achieve is the direct result of our own thoughts. We are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” James Allen
It wasn’t very long ago that I was talking to someone who was concerned about the wellbeing of their fellow employees. A manager was using a vocabulary more suited for the bilges of a Navy ship to motivate those working for him. Years ago the management model for encouraging people was the carrot and the stick. For this unenlightened manager the stick was the tool he pulled out of his toolbelt. The result, employees were “slowing” down being less attentive, and being less quality focused. Management expects employees to do their best and produce only high quality goods and they will when they are encouraged to participate in the process. When employees are ridiculed and disempowered they subtly disengage from the work process. Sure there is movement, there are products ready to be shipped but the craftsmanship may be missing. What is it like at your place of work? Empowering and engaging?
When a negative spiral starts it can spin out of control. Each demand met with less engagement. Employees may fear losing their job, manager’s fear losing the entire business. As the fear increases workplace productivity decreases, orders diminish and a cycle that is hard to stop spins a bit faster each day … unless a change is made.
Stopping the spin … takes an act of courage and humility.
Seeing the results spin out of control is not a fun thing to watch. For those running on a very tight budget every loss or poor quality product produced eats into the small margin of profit. To regain control it requires those who are feeling the greatest impact of poor quality to step back and ask the question,”What are we doing to decrease quality?”, not from the production worker perspective but from the management layer. What is happening that is causing people to disengage from work? What is being said? How is what is being said being interpreted? How much fear is there?
When an organization shifts into a “victim” level of thinking (everything is everyone else’s fault) there is bound to be problems. There must be fundamental shift in thinking from negative to positive. Anger has to shift to forgiveness. Victim level thinking needs to move to opportunity, creating win/win outcomes at all levels of the organization.
What kind of organization do you work for? What kind of messages are being sent to the employees? What are you empowered to do? What is your engagement level?
“The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the information about what’s going on so they can do a lot more than they’ve done in the past.” Bill Gates