Why Fitting In Doesn’t Work
Leaders choose to emphasize people or organization. The former celebrate individuality, the later accentuate fitting in. One fits the people to the program; the other fits the program to the people.
Both are necessary. But, balance between the two isn’t possible. One always wins. It’s stylish to say, “People first.” But for the most part, that’s window dressing. However…
People first produces best results.
The celebration of conformity is the path to obscurity.
After alignment with organizational mission, the question isn’t where do you need to go today. The question is where your current people take you. How can you best utilize their unique talents, strengths, and passions?
Stop making them fit in.
Create environments where they stand out.
People as priority:
- People before plans.
- People before processes.
- People produce results.
Leader as follower:
People frustrate when they don’t, won’t, or can’t submit. But, leadership isn’t getting them to do what we want; it’s freeing them to do what they want, within organizational mission, of course.
The question isn’t conformity it’s alignment.
Align with mission, then release for results.
Uncover their talent, passion, and alignment. After that, they’ll tell you the next step. In this sense, leadership is following.
Won’t this be a free-for-all? No! Not as long as shared values set the boundaries of appropriate behavior.
Alignment informs potential. Conformity restricts it. Conformity drains passion; freedom fuels it.
The more conformity you demand,
the more passion you drain.
Mission, vision, and values guide the celebration of individuality and explain healthy conformity. First find alignment, then release.
“How” not “what” provides freedom in an organizational context. Leaders determine what’s important. Teams or individuals determine how.
Recently, a team leader with my organization accepted a short-term assignment. I went to the young team he led, had a discussion about leading meetings, and asked how they would like to proceed. They decided. It’s their team not mine.
How can leaders free people without creating pandemonium?
Well a paradigm of no balance is still yet a paradigm!
Great thing it ain’t so!!!!!!
Checked Truly Human Leadership email from yesterday just as your email came in. What u think it said? Oh yeah right after prayer and quiet time for Higher Power to let me know what to be up to today!!!!
Bob Chapman talking about Simon Sinek. Just what I been chirping about, right there again.
So if any of you are capable is seeing past your paradigm of profits before people go watch Bobs defining moments and Simons Understanding People and Business. Y’all like tedtalks? Simons is the second most watched. Doesn’t that create any curiosity in your grey matter? If not for goodness sakes what does get u curious?
If 11.5 million people have WHAT in the name of Pete are you waiting for? So you are not an early adopter, cool that time is passing so it is now ok for you to look. You can’t be in the first group anymore but if you look today you can still stay out of the last group!!! Don’t ya wanna stay out of the last group? Don’t ya?
If you are able to think outside your box, your leadership paradigm, check out Truly Human Leeadership. Right there undeniable track able living proof People Centric Leadership gives better results working with people in business.
Only reason you don’t 100% agree is cause you don’t know nothing about it.
You can change that and only u!!!!
Choose to today, what you got to lose? I challenge every one reading this blog today to check it out. Google barry wehmiller.com. You can tell just from their website there is something different going on there. Go look and see if you disagree? Just don’t do nothing. Seek and ye shall find, NOT regurgitate the same lame stuff and expect it to work better. Man how much plainer can it be?
You want to get around today on a donkey or ride cool in a Mercedes?
Leaders can show others by example the benefits of having an open mind. Do you or you got contempt prior to investigation? Easy way to answer. After you end with Dans blog today you googling barrywehmiller.com. Startwithwhy.com. Trulyhumanleadership.com. Youtube. Bob chapman defining moments. Simon Sinek understanding people and business. Or not?
The openness of your mind is ur choice.
SP back to the present!!!!
I just came back from my leadership summit… 3 days with my 120 leaders on my team, all in the same room. Thinking, strategizing, playing, caring about one another. YES! They’re all on planes back to their centers and I KNOW they are ready to build amazing results for the second half of the year.
Our key message… be REAL…. lead from who you are.
My point, giving dedicated time (and spending the money as needed) to invest deeply in people… do help them become the creative non-comformists they must be to allow space for breakthrough thinking is vital.
Yo Karin, I am as real as I can be. passionate in my beliefs and willing to lay it all on the line and to be wrong. Non conformist to the MAX!
What I get is thumbs down with no explanation.
It isn’t the thumbs down that irks me, it is the no explanation.
If I am off in my thinking which us entirely possible if I get no feedback how am I to discover that?
Love to hear your take on anonymous opinions with no accountability.
Scott, hmmm… have you asked for an explanation in a positive way? Who (what kind of folks, not names) is giving you this “feedback?” It’s a tricky balancing act to lead from heart, but also lead in context. To be effective it’s important to work within the system, while staying true to the most important parts of your core values.
This may help. http://letsgrowleaders.com/2013/04/04/managing-up/
Now see!!! How GREAT was THAT???
THANK YOU Karin!!!!!!!
Now I COULD like some here give u a thumbs down with no explanation and no one holding me accountable? Since the thumbs down is anonymous you would not even know it was me!!!!
Can’t stand anonymous except in 12 Step Fellowships!!!
Isn’t transperancy a Leadership goal and characteristic? Yeah like if you are transparent you got yoself some character!!!
How would that benefit either of us? It would not. Can’t.
What I am gonna do is sidestep my contempt prior to investigation and read what you shared with your link.
Also will try your suggestion, whoever gave me a thumbs down…I am asking nicely for you to share what it is exactly that you disagreed with that caused the thumbs down?
As far as working in the system? What if the system is really flawed? Still work in it it work to trash it and get something better in its place?
With me that answer is still a work in progess and in ANY case….THANKz. If I investigate what you shared I just know I will be better off because of it and THANK YOU for taking part of your valuable time to share what you feel in your heart will benefit me.
SP back to the present!!!!
I indicated that giving ranking stars or thumbs up or thumbs down was simply a way for people to express an opinion. I find it valuable.
If you persist in taking up space in the comment section with this topic, I’m going to block you.
People are entitled to their opinion and that’s all it is.
You have my best,
Love this one. My guess is you’ve touched on a topic that is at the very edge of the comfort zone for many. 🙂
I believe conformity takes the place of emotional intelligence. It’s the easy out.
The latter is far more artful and challenging, and can smooth the way for individuality to mesh within a team—especially when all team members have it, and use it.
The former is what is the default for those who are somewhat lacking in self-awareness and empathy; self-regulation and social skills; and the self-motivation required to move with focus towards appropriate action, regardless of the approval of others.
So, how can leaders free people without creating pandemonium?
By deftly, artfully, carefully, lovingly, doing what many don’t think they have the time for (and you’ve written this above in so many words): coaching and leading people as if they are, well, people.
This means, among other things, respecting the emotional nature of both themselves and the people they lead.
These means taking their best shot at allowing just the right amount of freedom and constraint and support to help a team develop and thrive.
This means encouraging appreciation for the diversity and contrast that causes each person— and the team—to ask for more, then nurturing diverse thought and being within the team towards bringing home solutions.
This means encouraging cooperation from a place of self-reliance and independence: autonomous individuals, self-motivated to team and collaborate.
This means (sometimes) making the tough decisions that are emotionally uncomfortable in the short-term, but “feel right” over time, and successfully articulating both the logical and value-based reasons for the choices—and sometimes having the courage to say, “I believe this is the right course” in the face of opposition and criticism.
This means leading by example, in every meeting, every interaction, every communication.
Things aren’t always so clear, but we need to dig in. Few organizations can afford to see things as “cut and dry” anymore. Most organizations are calling (even if they don’t know they are) for leaders who are multi-dimensional, and can wade into the thick of things and bob and weave, and are game to figure it out (with their teams) as they go, and dance the dance and lead people as people.
What I didn’t write, is that non-comformity without Ei can prove career-limiting at the very least. Several of my clients have discovered this, and I found this out first hand in my younger years.
Props Mark. YOu said so much useful stuff! I’m eating it up.
“Conformity takes the place of emotional intelligence.” KaPow!
Thanks, Dan. Always fun to come here! One reason is that you ask great questions that usually trigger thoughts and things I want to say. 🙂
You know, all the testing on Ei and the emphasis on Ei has a dangerous side: too easy to forget that the map of the moon is not the moon. Everyone has some strengths in how they manage emotion and self, and everyone has some blindsides—and it can vary by situation! It is not like Ei is a discreet plug-in that a person has or doesn’t have (though it may seem so at times).
We need to see the various aspects of emotional intelligence as developing and maintained as a result of new awarenesses, perspectives relationships and incentives (yes incentives).
Well, enough for now… thanks for the space to connect here…
So how do you lead a team of Lone Rangers? Each trying to do what is right in their own eyes, but creating internal chaos with the organization’s mission and external chaos with customers?
Before it got to that point, there was a leadership attitude, there was hiring, there was process, there was an example, right?
Always, it is much more difficult to fix, than to invest up front.
Always it’s harder to change the course of a ship with momentum, than one just starting out.
That said, there are no easy answers here, at least from me. Your situation sounds rich with both complexity and possibility (including possibility for greater success). To respond with a simple answer wouldn’t do you justice.
The most important thing right now is that you asked the question, and that you are willing to listen. My guess is that you have some tough choices and some required changes in store, and those choices and changes must start (you guessed it) at the top.
There is a lot of help out there for those who are listening and seeking.
I wish you the best.
Get your own house in order
If you can’t fire and replace the worst one in the group then could you start working with the one who is most teachable?
Firing one lets everyone know you’re serious and motivates those who are left to give serious thought to changing.
The basic idea is forget about what you can’t do and find something you can…it may feel small but do it anyway.
If you were to make changes, what would you change? What behaviors and character qualities are essential to move your group in the right direction? I find it easy to describe what I don’t like. But leaders describe in clear actionable language what they want. Often, my work with leaders includes moving from what they don’t like to what they actually like.
Just some thoughts…but I realize that your life is way more complex than a few sentences. My only hope is that perhaps something might encourage or click with you.
You ask a great question. I think the answer (at least from my experience) is to make sure you have the right people first, then be there to support (but make sure not to coddle or dominate). It is always better to give people the latitude they need to do the right thing. You say it well when you say to check for alignment and then let them go. You have to believe in your people…really believe and not just give it lip service. Great topic today. Thanks for the thoughts.
Thanks Anthony. Love your tension between coddle and dominate. Extremes are easy when it comes to these two behaviors. Thanks for jumping in.
A very interesting post. I’d note two things. First, there is a difference between “balance” amd “harmony.” The objectives of people, and of organization, might not ever be in true balance. That means equal weight, equal force, and moat important, no tension between the two. It is DIFFERENCE – NOT being in balance – that creates dynamic tension. That tension is what drives creativity, innovation, and adaptive capacity. Sometimes the “tones” of the people and the org are in harsh dissonance. Usually reflecting too much difference between the two. But, sometimes, even as there is difference between the tones of the people and the org, they produce a sweet harmony of productivity AND satisfaction.
Second, is that this is not some “Impossible Dream.” Rare, yes, but, possible. How many organizations have achieved this harmony of people and organization? One, for sure. Maybe two or three. The one for sure, is Brazil’s Semco. If you have never read Ricardo Semler’s now 20-year-old book “Maverick,” get it right now. Read it today. He did it. Other close examples include W. L. Gore, and Patagonia (see Chouinard’s book “Let My People Go Surfing”).
The challenge is to set core values and operating principles that maintain alignment to mission, while sustaining that “just enough, but not too much” level of difference and positive tension between your people and your org.
Nobody ever said it was gonna be easy 😉
Man that was great!!!
Hey BW think you would add Barry Wehmiller to your list of getting it right companies.
Would love to hear your opinion of that company.
In any case great stuff, going to check out the companies you mentioned so I might learn stuff I did not know, how else could I? Checking out is a verb!
I point out to clients that trying to maintain perfect balance takes too much (wasted) energy. Learning to find your way back to balance, so that you can use imbalance towards forward motion—without fear—is far more important. Even walking depends on momentary imbalance, and is nothing but a controlled fall. 🙂
Powerful ideas Bruce. I appreciate your discussion re: balance and harmony. I know balance is important but I often find the term unsatisfying.
Thanks for adding so much value.
Thank you, Dan. My point is that it is DIFFERENCE, not balance, that drives creativity, innovation, and adaptive capacity. But there is a zone in which the degree of difference between the org’s requirements, and the people’s interests, work best in dynamic tension. Too little, and you get dogma and stasis. Too much, and you get chaos or anarchy.
If you have not read it, get past the title and read the excellent book, Complexity and the Nexus of Leadership, by Jeff Goldstein et al.
Bruce, for my part, I am glad you clarified. Differences create “interference patterns.” How we deal with those patterns can determine success or failure; breakthroughs (in solutions) or brick walls. So, imbalance or difference, I’m on board with both. 🙂
I like this post… I think conformity is the opposite of change and innovation, and without those two things your organization may be heading in the wrong direction.
Thanks for the contrast between conformity and change. I always enjoy clarification and simplicity.
This post shows a different flavor of an article by Linda Sasser I read a few weeks back about Boundaries vs. confinement.
I like for someone to tell me “what” needs done but to allow me to decide how it gets done. If I own it, it means more to me, I give it full effort.
I’ve increased my believe and investment on the idea of using values alignment as the way to avoid chaos. I think if I can get the team to buy-in into a set of values that will make our vision possible, then everything else will fall in place.
I’m with you Crazy. Values are powerful guides of behavior. They show us where and how we are bound together and how we will treat each other as we fulfill our mission.
Leaders can free people by believing in them and giving them the tools and capabilities to succeed. Many times we free people but when they begin to ask for training, tools and devices to help them they encounter major roadblocks. Leaders need to talk and communicate with their people and ensure they understand the goals, objectives and vision. Once this is aligned leaders should let them “go forth and conquer” while consistently checking for alignment and the right glide plane. Its amazing what can happen if leaders truely adopt this.
WOW this really caused some incitement LOL.
Here is my thought: I have worked for a control freak,micro manager and I have worked with a boss that you describe above,
He found the strengths and gifts of the people placed them where they were most effective. Second example brought about team work and productivity and a great place to work. First one competition, negative attitudes and no work….
So I say that that speaks for itself.
This article is a clear line drawn between employers / leaders that will stay relevant and those who will become extinct. I just hired a young person fresh out of college for a new position. In every interview I just conducted over the last two weeks, when I asked about times they were managed well or managed badly, without skipping a beat, they all replied the same. They needed the room to be themselves. This isn’t the wild west of work, but certainly giving the “autonomy” as one applicant said, to bring their own creative energy to tackle projects was absolutely necessary. I agree. Nobody wants to be micromanaged. Like a coloring book for children… the lines are there to give distinction. Let the ‘kids’ choose the colors and fill in the rest. If you hired the right person (which is on you, as a manager to know better), you should be pleasantly surprised at the final picture you see.
to avoid conformity, one has to share credit upward.
Thank you for this important post. Conformity robs organizations of creativity and innovation. Leaders need to begin by understanding potential, aspirations of their people and find ways for them to achieve the same all while working towards the firm’s objectives. Secondly they must educate their teams that freedom comes at a price. IMHO greater the responsibility demonstrated by the individual/team, higher will be the degree of freedom enjoyed.
As always, a most thought provoking discussion. I am continually amazed at how your posts apply to life in general, Dan. There is much wisdom to be mined for parenting, and in this post, education.
“Alignment informs potential. Conformity restricts it. Conformity drains passion; freedom fuels it.”
Unfortunately, our education system (which trains our workforce) along with the culture among the kids in schools does NOT encourage freedom, rather targets those who dare to be different (read: be themselves) for mockery and exclusion. A painful lesson brought into the workplace for many.
It takes a lot of courage to show up as oneself, and even more courage to lead a team of said individuals! If learned early on, we might all be more willing to collaborate with a common goal for the common good, even in a business setting.
Thanks for the inspiration!
Love this post….spent many years with crushed passion and forced conformity…. longing to be free!!!