“It is possible to build a culture around
innovation, leadership, and optimism…”
“Rather than nurture the people on their bus,
weak leaders throw them under the bus.”
Video recommendation for the week:
In a 2008 talk to the Economist Club of Washington, Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke about the benefits of establishing a “culture of yes.” Such a culture fosters innovation at all levels by encouraging and listening to divergent thinking. (I have included the video of his talk here. Fast forward to the 26:00 mark in the video to hear his remarks about fostering a real “culture of yes.”)
Mike Myatt in an article for Forbes.com says, “The word no ends discussions, stifles creativity, kills innovation, impedes learning, and gates initiative. Put simply, the word no advances nothing, grows nothing, builds nothing and incentivizes nothing.”
Makes sense. A leader who has created a “culture of yes” wants “people on the bus” who challenge assumptions–even disagree with the boss. Such a leader creates a culture based on trust and mutual respect.
One of the best leaders I have ever had the opportunity to work with was Veronica Valentine. (Please notice that I said “work with” not “work under” or “work for.”) She was one of my principals during my life as a high school teacher at Stanton College Preparatory School. She had a simple rule: “It’s ok to disagree. Just have an alternative, a solution, or something other than just a complaint.” Dr. Valentine taught me to think through my thoughts and move in a positive direction. She set a high bar that very few of my future supervisors have ever come close to. She, in short, had created a “culture of yes.” She encouraged and earnestly listened to counter points. And we did OK in that culture. Stanton was a national model school.
Unfortunately, what I have come to witness time and again over my more than four decades in the workplace are so-called leaders who have such weak skill sets that they can only rule by fiat and threats. Rather than nurture the people on their bus, they “throw them under the bus.” They have bastardized the culture of yes to one that is a “culture of yes people.” They want no argument or disagreement. In fact, to ever say anything counter to these so-called leaders is tantamount to job suicide. As everyone around the leadership table meekly nods their collective heads yes, the boss has implemented a “culture of no.” No innovation. No individuality. No disagreement. No lasting advancement. No soul. A “culture of no” takes a stranglehold.
A short drive down the road from the “culture of no” you will find the “mantra of can’t.” When people are fearful of incurring the ire of the so-called leader, they will default to “can’t” when a new idea is floated. Oh sure, there will be plenty of “reasons”–but the biggest reason is that people have come to fear for their jobs. Or they become so focused on upward mobility they forget about what is really important. I have witnessed far too often that when the day comes that the so-called leader casts them aside, they wake up one morning with no job–and a damaged soul.
In their book Guts! Companies that Blow the Doors off Business-as-Usual, Kevin and Jackie Freiberg emphasize the point that “gutsy leaders have dismantled fear-based management and replaced it with heart, soul, discipline, loyalty, humor–and long-term record profits.” One of the strategies they suggest is to start a meeting with the question, “What are the 25 dumbest things we do around here.”
Those that create a “culture of no,” however, don’t want to hear about the dumb things they have created with their hubris. Anyone who dares to point out that the emperor has no clothes is made an example of. That sound you hear? Why it’s the bus rolling over another poor soul who dared disagree or offer another perspective. Eventually, the “safe” mode for more and more direct reports is to quietly nod acquiescence. And the organization slowly slithers into a soul sucking purgatory.
So-called leaders who nurture blind adherence either don’t have a clear vision or lack leadership talent or both. Eventually they will only be able to attract and hire people who will be shaped and controlled.
The Freibergs remind us that “great people hire great people. Idiots hire idiots.”
Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B.as needed!
REGISTER NOW for my October 12, 2012 P.D.Q. Webinar “Social Media with Purpose: Tips from a Non-Techie!” Click here or paste this link into your web browser:https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2376790441069310976
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© 2012. Steve Piscitelli.