Tornado

I’m the HR director standing on stilts because I have to talk to the director, but I don’t really have any power. Labor Relations (L.R.) and Personnel (Pers) are about to make me fall down.” This was a state government organization. Notice that “Labor” is in a turret with a fence around it with a window but no door. The central turret is open at the top with a person clearly “available.” The stance of this person reminds me of the woman behind the desk when I needed to change a class in college. She was the one person who could make it happen, but she really was sick of students asking to change classes. “Administration” the place you go when you are a problem…have a problem…same difference. THEN..look at IT. Information Technology was considered invasive at this agency and they talked like “aliens” thus the UFO. Try to understand with lots of stupid questions and you get “You don’t need to know that. Just (insert jargon) and you will be fine.” This one picture created insight for the HR person about balance and boundaries. The HR guys who kept agreeing they had to stop using jargon, finally “got it” from seeing themselves portrayed here. Notice also they are portrayed as lazy. IT guys simply have a different definition of urgent than most employees. Fixing your laptop does not equal a system-wide failure.

“The progression of a career in leadership”

I keep threatening to write a book titled “Leadershit.” This drawing is a great representation of why!

image New hires are sucked into the vortex of organizational leadership theories about white water, chaos theory, flexibility, doing more with less, participative decision making, strategic thinking, reliability and clear focus without any regard to the massive internal conflicts these impossible-to-maintain and mutually exclusive values set up.

Eventually being flexible can be interpreted as unreliable and white water is going to mess with people’s expectations for clear direction and focus. Simply reading most organizations’ list of leadership competencies is enough to make the most competent person feel incompetent OR to feel compelled to lie to himself or others (or both) about who she/he really is.

Good intentions created these “reach for the stars” lists of leadership qualities, but they have encouraged systems designed without regard for the fallibility and flawed nature of human beings. This creates a situation where every honest human being (who says, “Oops, I screwed up” every now and then) can easily be rejected in favor of the more image conscious less-competent individual who blames someone else. I taught leadership for years, and yes, I know that we have a “new definition” of leadership.

But the problem remains – even the leading leaders model is unrealistically positive. Facing the shadow side of human nature is scary, but incredibly valuable. The place where our common humanity can be revealed is the birthplace of compassion and tolerance. True cooperation does not occur between people who feel they must hide their flaws from each other.

This hiding separates them so much that ideas don’t flow freely, information is bottlenecked, and hesitation chokes their voices. Creative collaboration require strong connections between people that can only be born from a “warts and all” authenticity.

“We give 100%” is less believable than, “We give 100%, except for when we don’t.” If a group wants to develop trust, a good place to start is for EVERYONE to be honest about who they are and who they aren’t. In the best intentions to pursue high standards we have created a culture that doesn’t tolerate human flaws very well.

No wonder people are burning out and leaving their jobs… and it is the most creative, authentic and courageous ones that we lose as a result. Let’s try to make our workplaces safe for human beings and maybe we’d have more around when we need them.

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4 thoughts on “Tornado”

  1. avatar of harry newman

    I am not familiar with all of the writing about this topic. However, a great book is by Will Schutz, developer of FIRO B. His book, “The Truth Option” makes the case for simply telling the truth, something that is obviously not very simple, or easy. I recall facilitating not long ago, when a participant innocently said, “As a leader I always try to tell the truth.” Naturally I asked what were the times when his trying failed. Suffice to say, there were, on reflection, many times when he was unsuccessful. When we are successful in telling the truth, I would suggest it is likely less instructive and developmental than when we don’t.

  2. avatar of harry newman

    I am not familiar with all of the writing about this topic. However, a great book is by Will Schutz, developer of FIRO B. His book, “The Truth Option” makes the case for simply telling the truth, something that is obviously not very simple, or easy. I recall facilitating not long ago, when a participant innocently said, “As a leader I always try to tell the truth.” Naturally I asked what were the times when his trying failed. Suffice to say, there were, on reflection, many times when he was unsuccessful. When we are successful in telling the truth, I would suggest it is likely less instructive and developmental than when we don’t.

  3. avatar of steven mays

    I love the comment about a book entitled “Leadershit.” I think you have something there. Go for it. So much learning about leadership comes from learning what NOT to do. I would dare to say that keeping it under 1000 pages would be the most difficult part of writing such a book. Failure is such a good teacher if one is willing to listen and learn.

    I believe the foundation of all leadership has three parts; honesty, courage, and talent. And talent is the least important.

    Honesty is seeing the world and your situation in the world AS IT IS. Not as you would like it to be, not as it should be, and not the way it could be if those a-holes in charge would just listen.

    Courage is taking ACTION to benefit OTHERS without regard to the CONSEQUENCES to yourself.

    Talent is the knowledge, skill, and perseverance to develop an ability to do things.

    The Tornado story is all about people who are not honestly seeing their situations or being courageous enough to do something about it.

    Most problems aren’t about Talent, they are more likely about checking the honesty of your TRUTH-O-METER and having the courage to act on that truth.

    1. avatar of annette simmons

      LOL I have forgotten about “Leadershit” – I completely agree about courage and self sacrifice. The trick is to have a really good truth-o-meter that will judge the pros can cons well enough that you don’t get “assassinated” along the way. I suppose the only talent that helps is the talent of self-regulation. Once you are angry telling the truth is ineffective.

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