7 Ways to Stop Vultures and Protect Vitality
Bad leaders only feel good when they’re talking about bad.
Problem-centric leaders circle death and neglect vitality.
Organizations stink when vulture-leaders take over. The problem in shipping makes you forget that production is up five percent and complaints are down ten.
The more you focus on problems, the more problems you see.
Ignore problems? Of course not. But…
There’s more to leadership than circling problems.
At yesterday’s leadership meeting, I asked, “What’s working?”
- Where are we winning?
- Who is rising up?
- Where’s the energy?
4 reasons to talk about what’s working:
- Positive environments energize teams.
- Strengths and passions become visible. “Did you see how Marjorie poured herself into last weeks project?”
- New leaders appear. Discussions about problems identify weak players, not strong.
- The number one reason you care about what’s working is so you can do more of it.
When I asked, “What’s working,” we remembered the people who are taking initiative. They’re pulling us forward. Leaders aren’t pushing.
How can we become an organization of initiative-takers?
7 ways to protect vitality:
- Give permission. Initiative is taking action without asking permission. Don’t wait for people to ask. Go give it.
- Create safe environments by establishing multiple communication opportunities.
- Anticipate problems associated with people taking initiative. In our case, how do we prevent collisions of sincerity between people who are taking initiative.
- Discuss resources openly.
- Minimize policies and procedures. Maximize freedom with accountability.
- Focus on purpose and values. People who take initiative need to align with, not fight organizational mission.
- Honor those who take initiative. Talk about them publicly.
Bonus: Talk about what’s working.
Rise above vulture-leadership. Pour energy into what’s working.
How can leaders maximize what’s working?
I agree with you, there are lot of leaders who focus more on problems. And while doing this, they ignore more important issues. They feel that by focusing on the problems they can solve the issues, but it may not be completely true. It is very important to find out root of problems to find better solutions. Problems are surface level issues, but drivers are deeper level issues. We should focus on drivers of issues.
I appreciate your concept of maximizing freedom with accountability. People need higher responsibility. They want to put all possible effort when they are recognized. Freedom is one way to recognize their potential. Weak leaders do not allow freedom to other people. They hold power with them but fix accountability with someone. By doing this, they feel safe, but they put organisation in peril.
Leaders should think big and put organisation’s interest first. When we talk about organisation’s interest, it includes putting self interest at the last.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. “Freedom is one way to recognize their potential.” –> Golden.
Wonderful concept, Dr. Gupta…paying attention to the “drivers of issues” this is a substantial point. Prophylactic crisis management 🙂
And I agree with you that people need more responsibility. Recognizing that one is an essential part of a team is as important as being recognized as an essential part of a team.
The responsibility taken must include some self awareness of one’s own work style and that idiosyncratic preferences may not always be met; but that cannot be used as an excuse to drop out of teamwork, effective problem solving and recognition of solutions. Adapt and overcome.
A thought-provoking write-up! Liked the idea of checking on “What’s working?”. I feel a strong MIS can help to learn what is working at the organization level and in what degree at certain intervals. Besides, a good feedback mechanism can also be of help. One advice to the decision-makers or top management staff is not to blindly follow what they see & read. They need to verify the facts with interactive talks and always be open for suggestions for improvement and look for solutions within.
Thanks Dr. Asher. The addition of a useful feedback mechanism that includes both problems and successes goes a long way to eliminating vultures. Thanks for adding your insights.
Excellent feedback today as always! I would add being able to rationalize and prioritize with individuals helps the formula for success with the leader and the workers. Sometimes we get off the beaten path just spinning our wheels! Happy Friday Cheers!
5.Minimize policies and procedures… We work to reduce costs, reduce lead time, reduce headcount… and all the while we let the volume of policy and procedure grow without bound and without constraint. These very policies and procedure make us so slow and unresponsive that the customer service we want to achieve is almost impossible. I believe there needs to be as much pressure and accountability around reducing policy and procedure as there is around any other business metric we strive for.
Enjoyed reading this article before our Canadian Thanksgiving; what can we give thanks for in our organizations; where can we encourage people to use their passion and skills to move us forward; and how can we build that safety so there is a joyous out pouring of “Let’s try this and see what we can learn!”
Thanks Dan, love your posts!!
Always challenging, finding problems v becoming negative, especially in groups like Product Engineering, Service Engineers or Customer Service — essentially their job is the discovery and resolution of problems. Enjoying shared victories (your “what’s working?”) helps.. I also like a culture in which uncovering and resolving is a core corporate value. This can be tough, problems are often costly (money, satisfaction and image) so there has to be a transition of mindset away from the short term costs –this Quarters numbers– and toward long term integrity/quality. That cultural change only comes when leadership sets a consistent course in that direction.
Happy Thanksgiving, Canadian colleagues. I am guilty sometimes of focusing on problems instead of successes. Both need to be viewed in context. This is a thought-provoking post.
I really like the term “Vulture Leadership” Dan – very evocative.
Leaders may want to review their agenda for upcoming meetings. If there are a lot of problems slated for discussion, perhaps the underlying problem is not performance, but is instead attitude.