Nov
09

Futility

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

I just disabled Windows Update for some of my “important” security updates.  It’s a lengthy story; but the whole ordeal drove home some important leadership lessons. Let’s discuss the lesson first and provide details for the interested later.

Can you recall ever feeling helpless? There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing that you can’t accomplish what you want. The feeling, “You can’t get there from here.”

As an owner or manager of an organization you come to understand that your associates and employees fall into two categories: those that want to do something for the success of the organization and those that want to do something for themselves.  Everyone wants to do something.  The real question for management is, to what end?

Results Expose Motives

When your people consistently fail to perform in line with organizational goals or meet expectations; examine their motives.  People who consistently seem to refuse constructive feedback, resist engagement, and avoid correction over time must be deemed to either be operating for themselves or is incapable of the task.  Look at the trend.

Once you begin to evaluate motivation, begin to address the problem constructively. People who consistently fail to adopt the organization’s shared values and goals need to be given an opportunity to search for an organization whose values and goals they can adopt.  People who seem to consistently be unable to complete the task may need to search for a new place too. That decision, however, must arise from an objective assessment of the effort to get them up to par or better.

Adequate?

Netflix posted a slide presentation which contained the idea,” adequate performance gets a generous severance package.”  They decided that “adequate” is something to be tolerated, and they choose not to tolerate it.  If you choose to tolerate adequate performance, eventually it will be seen as an endorsement.  The longer you endorse “adequate” performance, you risk increasing above-adequate performers’ hopelessness and futility.

Once you’ve determined than an individual wants to achieve and excel at organization-focused goals, you become a coach or a guide. They might attempt to achieve objectives that, in actuality, do not line up with the organization’s true goals.  When the person or group’s activities don’t line up, but you believe their motives to be good, then you simply need to educate, communicate, train and encourage in order to help them improve their work efforts and, therefore, become more productive.

When stymied by their inability to achieve goals, your teammates need your assistance. Frustration is a vicious circle.  It originates from an inability to accomplish, but it causes energy to be wasted.  Help your team direct their energy and find the open path to constructive output.  They may a need some guidance, additional resources, obstacle removal or just some encouragement to stick with it.  As their leader, make their energy productive. Everyone wins when a properly motivated team member becomes as productive as possible.

Today, please do whatever you can to guide your team’s energy toward shared values and goals. That frees you to creatively equip, resource, encourage and applaud.

Anything less results in futility.

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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

davidburkus  |  09 Nov 2009  |  Reply

Great point Mike. I argue that adequate people get invited to be successful…to be successful in another organization.

Mike Henry  |  09 Nov 2009  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment David. You’re correct for Netflix and many other excellent companies. But it seems the majority drive for safe and adequate.

Doug  |  11 Nov 2009  |  Reply

Hi Mike,

Your post inspired this line of thinking:

If organizations decided to eliminate adequate staff I suppose they would be gutted. Adequate is the norm even in star powered organizations. What is unfortunate is when adequate people get star positions, or star people go unnoticed and get stuck in adequate positions. This kind of thing happens all the time in unionized environments but it also happens in management ranks. Adequate people get promoted because they have seniority (most often by adequate bosses). Or they advance because they are popular or deserve a chance.

The error is not in tolerating adequate but in promoting adequate.

Doug

Mike Henry  |  11 Nov 2009  |  Reply

Doug, thanks for the comment. Netflix is a bit extreme, but their culture seems to reflect it (based on what I’ve read, nothing firsthand). The more “adequate” you tolerate, the more adequate you become. Thanks, Mike…

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