The letter “C” for leaders – Constraint
This is the third installment in the Alphabet for Leaders. Today it’s the letter “C.”
You constrain your organization.
The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is the idea that any manageable system is limited in achieving more of its goal by a very small number of constraints, and that there is always at least one constraint (Wikipedia).
The painful truth is – leaders constrain the organizations they lead. Maxwell uses the expression, “The Law of the Lid, when He states, “Personal and organizational effectiveness is proportional to the strength of leadership.” Of all the things I’ve learned about leadership this one hurts the most. It indicates that leaders can’t make excuses and can’t blame others. The buck stops on the leader’s desk.
How are you constraining your organization?
Ask yourself, what’s frustrating about your organization? What are your complaints about the people you lead? Make a good long list because in so doing, you’ll describe and define qualities you must develop in yourself.
For example, a disorganized organization reflects a disorganized leader. Ouch! Furthermore, are your managers poor at delegation? Chances are you are a micro-manager yourself. You can’t let go. Or, you can’t trust. Ouch!
You can also apply this personally. Are the people around you too emotional? Chances are you are too emotional.
Begin by bringing the outside in. You can bring the outside in by doing a 360 degree evaluation, hiring a coach or consultant, or finding new blood.
Along with bringing the outside in, adopt a personal and professional development plan. Surprisingly, you will address organizational weaknesses by enhancing your own skill-set.
Lastly, if possible, hire to your weaknesses. Sadly, many leaders tend to hire themselves. What I mean is they hire people who share their strengths and have similar personality qualities. Try hiring someone who compliments your weaknesses.
Have I pushed the idea of constraints too far?
What word that begins with “C” can you offer leaders?
absolutely A+++ on this one. i read Goldratt’s book in the early 90’s but the extension terms of leaders being the constraint is so true. i consider it the honest consultants curse. To do the real job you just about always have to say – well the work starts here with you (the leader), if we can get “you” right there won’t be much need for consultants elsewhere!! I’m looking forward to the community feedback on this one. Warmest regards Richard
Oh other C words Conflict, Control, Consistency, Conversation, (dis-)Combobulation.
Many managers hire congenial candidates. Constrain arises from corporate culture and philosophy, and it permeates to all levels.The main root of constrain is self interest. Leaders or managers those who create constrains do not usually hold values and for them position is value.The reason for the constrain is to prevent, protect and promote. Prevent others to succeed you, Protect your position to promote yourself. But the fact is that, constrain creators create constrain for them self also, though it is not visible in short run, but it is sure to come in long run.
A leader should be full of candor and credence. This is the highly successful parameters for a leader. Leader should prefer opportunity to chance. One is long term and other is short term and often allows you to make compromise.
Dan, thanks for a great post. I couldn’t agree more, especially your comment, “Lastly, if possible, hire to your weaknesses. Sadly, many leaders tend to hire themselves.” That’s wicked great insight!
It’s a sad fact that many of us in leadership positions (especially when we’re first starting out) are feeling our way through blindly, and unless we make conscious decisions to address our shortcomings, will create a poorly-optimized organization.
Good leadership is about carving new paths and while there’s loads of people who will help us do that, they can’t help us with the vision that gets us to our destination. Those decisions (and consequences) are ours to bear.
I am torn between “Compassion” and being “Concise”. Compassion because a leader who cannot (or does not) connect emotionally with his/her subordinates is missing out on an opportunity to create a more rewarding environment for everyone involved (and a better long term product). “Concise” because so many of us spend so many words (email, verbal, many ways) when if we took the time to really think through how our message is crafted, it could be more effective and, again, lead to a better long term product). In different ways, both “compassion” and “concise” lead back to “connections” so perhaps that’s the “C” I am looking for: a willingness to CONNECT, and do it well.
A saying I’ve used in my organization (adapted from a quote by Dick Brown at EDS): “Culture is created by the behaviors that leaders exhibit and tolerate.”
I can’t say how many times I’ve spoken to formal and informal leaders who seem to have a “my hands are tied” mentality, without considering the influence that they could have if they really wanted to make a difference.
With this in mind, perhaps another C-word is “Confidence.” Good leaders posess a tempered confidence that allows them to understand where and how they can make a difference, even if they don’t have all the positional power.
Also really like Champion, Consistent, Contributor…
To expand slightly on Tim’s word “Culture,” in the safety arena, and frankly in all occupations, “Culture” is the way people behave when leadership is NOT looking.
The safety occupation has been debating this term for decades from my above statement to “Culture” is the way we do things around here.
Nice piece Dan, especially hiring to your weaknesses. Only problem, many leaders let their ego get in the way and actually believe they have no weaknesses.
I so agree with the points about constraints. Yes, one approach has been to “hire your weaknesses”. In other words, hire your “complement”. That’s a good start. To make it work — there has to be outstanding communication between leaders and their complements.
So I offer two “C” words: Complement and communication. (Notice the “e” in complement — definitely not compliment with an “i”.)
I absolutely abhor absolutes…oh, wait…
…and the ‘A’s were two days ago…
Absolutely, the only “C” the leader should be attuned to–>Customer.
That customer vantage point guides and Corrects the leader’s view, the culture, the commitment, the costs, the aCcountability, etc. A Competent leader would constrain an organization that is not meeting customer needs.
And who is the customer?
It is everyone else-the actual folks receiving services (and their family and friends), the vendors (and their network), the employees (past, present, and potential employees), the managers, the auditing/monitoring agencies, even the Competition (sometimes), etc.
(The leader can also be a customer too, however, the others should queue up first.)
Dan, you suggest bringing in a coach or consultant…what about a standing Cadre of Customers to Critique the leader and organization?
Contagious, Committed, Compassionate, Critical Competencies has a ring to it too! 😉
Courage, Creativity and Cohesiveness can make good teams which can deliver and is the prime need for any leader to succeed.
Theory of constraints will also bring solutions and sharpen the skills for a leader to move forward by leading from the front.
I must confess that you are forcing us to think deeply and bring newness to learning on alphabets with simplicity.
Building on what Jim & Tim are saying: CHAMPION CULTURE!
Whilst there are many different ‘C’ words, a leader that creates a CHAMPION CULTURE really shines. A CC is one where people are encouraged and strive for championship status. The culture must be right, and if this is the case then we can all become champions.
PS I’m lovin the ‘letter days’!
C is my favorite leadership letter, so I love this discussion! This Community rocks! Some of my favorite Cs: Connected, Credible, Consumer/Customer/Competitor/Category/Company (a complete ecosystem, no?) Choiceful, Coach, Controlled, Consistent, Clear, Culture, and maybe most important to living a fulfilled life, Curious!
Great post Dan. Well looks like most of the great C words have been mentioned. I can think of one which for most leaders may not readily come to mind. “Cheerleader” how many leaders are the main cheerleaders for their teams, organizations, committees, etc. In today’s world with some many Gen X’ers getting involved the hierarchy is truly no longer as vertical as in the past but rather there is a lot more horizontal zig-zagging going on and leaders can really propel their teams to be innovative and creative at all levels by “Cheering” them on. So Dan “cheers” to you and all of the folks on this post for some great insights. Like said above, I love the “hiring to your weaknesses” as well. AD