Drawing on your courage
Make no mistake, if you wish to win the knowledge game you and your business will need plenty of courage. ˜Why? , you might say. Well, often it requires you to change or address taboos and ingrained injustice, unfairness and poor performance.
Specifically, there needs to be a strong stand to stomp out those behaviours that kill off initiative, innovation and free expression of ideas. This typically requires us to identify and correct behaviours such as the hoarding of knowledge, back-stabbing and
, backing it up with comprehensive self-improvement plans. Unfortunately, this is a tough task when many businesses have turned such unsavoury behaviours into an art form. For example, a 2001 study by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, found that 70 per cent of managers and supervisors had bullied their workers and in only 18 per cent of cases was anything done about it. A similar study by Manchester University in the UK found that over 90 per cent of respondents thought that bullies got away with their behaviour.
It was not long ago that I presented the idea of courage at a management conference. After ending my presentation, one of the
said to me: ˜Alastair, I was really interested in what you had to say about courage. The fact is in my organization, people get beaten up for showing courage. I responded by saying: ˜Yes you are right, but the
need to say we are not prepared to allow this any more. If no change occurs the
Over the past twenty
I have seen the lack of courage and business leadership raising its ugly head time and time again. Businesses and their managers often struggle to progress because their people feel alienated, undervalued and bullied. Needless to say, they are losing the knowledge game as well as business and their reputation at the same time.
To redress bad behaviours there needs to be a commitment at several levels. It must start with clear evidence that the old way of managing is not only not required but is counterproductive. My experience is that, if people are given the support, permission and training to act differently, they can make the necessary changes. In some of the more difficult cases, people will need a detailed performance improvement plan before real change can be
. Even then, their ego may stop them from progressing. However, in most situations, if the process of improvement is approached in a positive way, success will result.
Most of all, waiting for things to
down rarely works. Managers need to support those people who have felt alienated or hurt by past decisions or inaction. Whatever the history, we need to take the lead and plant a new course of action. Whether it is scheduling a face-to-face meeting or going out to
, we must undertake a new and fresh approach to communication on a regular basis.
Letting go of control
Growing our knowledge requires strong
relationships that help expand our thinking. We must listen to fresh ideas, meet different faces and find new connections.
We can no longer support a world where bosses rule blindly and where people ˜leave their
at home . Each day we are expected to find new answers to new situations and this requires a better mix of thinking and collaboration.
This will often mean people talking and connecting with others who are outside their immediate work function, like establishing cross-functional
or establishing a regular time for a wide range of people to discuss an issue of concern. For many, this means less emphasis on control and command and more on encouraging new interactions across and through the business.
If you view knowledge as a prized possession which must be controlled and
, you will struggle in maintaining the energy and drive for innovation and business improvement. You will most likely be faced with high staff
still, a team that never
. Conversely, if you see knowledge as something that is in constant transition, needing to be questioned,
and discussed, the outcome will be
different. You will build a business culture that will be full of enterprise, promise and ideas, a business environment where people are encouraged to be helpful to each other and one free of fear and retribution.
In this regard simple changes of leadership style can make a world of difference and difficult situations often can be recovered. However, if someone has lived his or her career and life hoarding knowledge and being a controlling boss, making a transition to a more inclusive approach will not be easy.
You can help a person to change by providing constructive feedback that you have serious concerns about their career, lifestyle and health if they do not take action. Such support and concern can often work wonders, particularly if you back this up with real help and tools to make the new learning and performance improvement possible.