Getting Out of Your Own Way

Monday, May 21, 2012
After eleven years on active duty in the United States Navy, six years in the Reserves and fifteen years in corporate America, I have reached a conclusion. The majority of problems experienced by groups, companies and other large organizations are caused by a supreme inability for people to get out of their own way.

Think about it - whenever a decision needs to be made, large groups of people tend to fall into the following traps:
  • No one wants to make a decision, either because they lack conviction or they're afraid of the consequences.
  • No one can make a decision, either because they're incapable or they don't have the authority to do so.
  • A committee is supposed to make a decision, and we all know how that ends up working out.
  • The decision is made not based on what is best for the organization, but what is best for an individual, and so execution is near impossible.
  • A decision is made, but it gores someone's ox, and so execution is hampered by obstructionism.
  • A decision is made, then it's unmade, then it's made again, and unmade again, until the principles choose to self-mutilate in an effort to go out on disability rather than manage one more change.
What I wouldn't give to work on a project (or in an organization, or for a community group, or with a customer) where decisions are made logically, and are defensible, and the responsible party has sufficient skills to get everyone on board.

I think there's a word for that sort of thing....let me think...it's a memory buried deep in my subconscious...

Oh, yeah. Leadership. 

11 comments:

Shawn Powers said...

I've been in several leadership groups as well, both in jobs and church. Good leadership truly is rare. I don't think it's the fault of those in supporting roles, but just a lack of skillset in the appointed, elected, or hired leaders.

Take me for instance, I play a leadership role in at least 3 substantial organizations. I'm not, however, a CEO type leader. I'm not a visionary. I don't make decisions well because my skillset is that of an analyst. How could I POSSIBLY make a decision when all the data hasn't been gathered?!?!?! (It will never all be gathered, thus the problem)

I have worked with a few truly great leaders, but I've worked with a larger number of crappy ones.

I could talk for hours about leadership, it's one of my favorite topics. Sorry to yammer on so...

Megan Broutian said...

El Oh El. That sums it right up.

Don't forget the passive aggressive people who sabotage the project because they were not consulted or if they were, their ideas were dismissed (as often rightfully ridiculous). Sometimes what may seem like incompetence may actually be just plain old spite.

beatrice in Paris said...

It's even worse on this side of the Atlantic, at least according to some Americans in French companies whom I know. It's culturally inacceptable to not know the answer, so questions aren't asked....

Janiece said...

Like Shawn, I've been exposed to some really stellar leaders, and also to people who make me want to take out my own eye with a spork.

The thing that kills me about the civilian workforce is that people are hired into leadership positions with no training whatsoever. Nothing. Nada. Just into the deep end, consequences be damned.

At least the military makes an effort to give people the skills they need in order to lead people effectively.

Anne C. said...

I was just talking about this with a co-worker, since there is a change in the leadership here. Besides the decision-making abilities, there is the issue of inspiring ownership/investment in the outcome and motivating others, not through bribes or punishment, but through inspiration and character.

Truly rare.

cindy said...
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cindy said...
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Janiece said...

*TONG*

Stacey said...

I had the privilege of seeing Mark Kelly - aka Gabby Giffords husbands - and he told us that the phrase they had on the board at NASA was "None of us is a dumb as all of us" to remind them to lead with purpose.

We are also having leadership issues at the company I work with and it's frustrating to see all the possibilities and have all these stops, starts, and no gos.

Where have all the leaders gone?

Janiece said...

Stacey, I can only say that in my own case, corporate America beat it out of me. When responsibility and authority do not match, you're not going to get a good outcome.

teeshirtonline2012 said...
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