Of Clouds AND Clocks…

 

In April 1965, Karl Popper delivered his Arthur Holly Compton lecture of the same name at the Washington University in St Louis and it serves as a metaphor for modern Leadership styles and traditional behaviours of too many organisations.

To understand Leadership, we first need to look at how it has evolved and been taught to many of the Managers, Directors and CEO’s. Contemporary thinking has been crafted around the work of Taylor in the late 19th Century, Henry Ford in the early 20th and compounded by Edwards Deming and Bill Smith – the Six Sigma guy – in the latter part.Our whole education system evolved from the Industrial Age and the need to prepare people for the 2,000 hour a year employment contract and the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday shift pattern. Whilst Management knew about Theory X and Y – even though the heart said “Y” the head, or rather the accountants clearly said “X” and recruitment, selection and reward systems became structured and systemised around the Slave and Master, Achieve and Reward mechanism so prevalent today. You will hear Managers say that they don’t care how many hours a person works, providing they get the job done they can leave the office and start the weekend; but in reality, too many

 

organisations value attendance over attainment and quantity over quality. Try leaving the office at 13.00 on a Friday or rolling in at 10.30 on a Tuesday without a great excuse and you’ll see how far Theory Y has come.

And what has the effect been…?

Low engagement – around 70% of employees are disengaged with their work, high staff turnover, poor attendance, high stress and resulting sickness and poor productivity, efficiency and customer care. We have even labelled these people – they are the Snowflake, Millennial and Generation Z’s being led and managed by increasingly grey-haired predominantly male Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers more interested in command and control than spirit and culture. But secretly of course – we are just jealous… We have developed Managers and Leaders that know exactly how to measure people but are woeful at understanding them.

 

Treat people as Clouds and it all starts to make sense…

People are unpredictable, unique, changing and emotional – the complex contributors to performance, mood, state of mind and motivation is so complex that rational management doesn’t work; it never did, but people didn’t know any better. Compounding this state, there has been a seismic shift in society – and it’s called the internet. While we all secretly thought working flexibly, travelling, and having the freedom to live our lives on our terms was just a crazy pipe dream; through social media, connectivity and gadgetry linked to Apps, however, it has become reality. The difference is, the Boomers and Gen X’s have a lifestyle based around stable career progression based on longevity, loyalty and debt – the Gen Z’s and Millennials value independence, freedom and choice. The differences between the expectations of the new entrants to the workforce and the leadership structures they are expected to get excited about have never been more pronounced.Once we expect people to behave illogically, think creatively and work instinctively – guess what they do; exactly that.

 

So, what can be done about it...?

 

Simple – change the Leadership and Management Culture – well at least the phrase is simple… A UK client wanted to adapt their processes to be more attractive to its people, raise productivity and profitability whilst reducing staff turnover and absenteeism.

Step 1 – Learning… We researched contemporary ideas, read about the new concepts and looked at case studies for evidence and guidance.

Step 2 – Communication… Bizarrely and unique in business, they actually sat down and talked to their team, asked them what they wanted, listened to their feedback and sold the vision.

Step 3 – Design. The team – not the “managers” presented their ideas to each other and the whole company and the ideas included;

  • Unlimited holidays 

  • Pay and Benefits determined by the employees 

  • Flexible working and home working 

  • Company Car scheme for everyone

  •  Bring pets to work.

Step 4 – Get it Done. And they did, Sales up, Service up – counter intuitive leadership wins the day. That wont work in my business – my business is special… Then you are right, but as you sit in your German made Silver or Grey saloon car dismissing the inevitable, as you commute to your Monday to Friday 9 to 5, desk bound hamster wheel  – the world of Leadership is moving on without you, and so is all your finest talent.