I was a little depressed after a colleague told me about a CEO that had fired several people because they used an outdated procedure. Unfortunately, this company was the only work anywhere near where these folks lived so they had to change their profession or move to another city. To make it worse, no one would have known about the procedure except that this team had volunteered to post photos of their work so that others could learn from it.
Firing them seemed harsh, and my colleague had tried to convince the CEO to change his mind because this action would close down trust and communication. Nothing would change his mind, however, because he felt he had to assume the responsibility to hold them accountable. Of course, immediately all photos and videos that had been posted on the company website for learning purposes were deleted by the workers who had posted them.
This depressed me because here is a CEO trying to make the point that safety procedures must be taken seriously. I don’t know the full extent of his frustrations prior to this event. I only know that in his effort to create a more accountable learning environment, he created more barriers, and some people lost their livelihood. The perceived injustice will likely be a topic of conversation for years to come.
Could Things Have Gone Differently?
I felt badly for all involved. What could I possibly offer supervisors, managers or executives to prevent a similar outcome? There are so many places where they could have intervened. Let me explain.
I have a friend/entrepreneur who developed a $100+M business starting with $168 in a garage 20 years ago. He told me the stress was overwhelming at times, in fact he had almost gone bankrupt five years ago, lost his health and then managed to pull it all back together. Only his spiritual practice could clear his mind enough to allow him to make good decisions and continue with his responsibilities. He is a gentle and generous man, but don’t try to out-negotiate him! Faith in yourself and your people doesn’t make you weak. It makes you smarter and stronger.
My friend took a spiritual path to self development, but there are other natural laws that can be tapped as well. If you are reading this, you are a life long learner. This is one of the essential qualities of a leader who successfully guides people through change and to higher levels of performance.
Leveraging Your Beliefs through Adaptive Complexity
Today I would like to explore the natural power of thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions–the influence they exert on what happens at work. It is the same power that affects our families and communities, but let’s focus on work for now.
One such natural law is adaptive complexity. The new complexity management science has linked social interaction and relationship networks to the measurable results we see in business.
“An organization is a conversation.” (Gerrit Broekstra)
“Communication is conversation understood.” (Ralph Stacy)
Why is the conversation the same as the organization? Because what happens in the organization is a result of what people are talking about. Why does communication require conversation to be understood? This line of thinking excludes the validity of most forms of communication currently in use. Strategic plans sit on the shelf. Procedures fade from awareness. That expensive training course is forgotten. Yet, we continue to pursue these approaches.
Thoughts become things through social interaction.
Thoughts become things through social interaction. The intangible becomes real through a creative field called a social network. Thoughts through repetition take form. The phenomenon can best be seen on social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn. Each repetition, share, and comment adds credibility to the idea. How? It isn’t just the repetition, but the reason why it was repeated, which is that it resonated with the experience of that person. The more people that confirm its validity, the more credible it becomes.
So, it stands to reason that a leader must remain constantly active within the network to spot and neutralize any communication that is going off-course. This should not be confused with shutting down other perspectives that may be surfacing new information. We must listen and remain receptive to information. Once examined for validity it can be adopted or corrected.
The Relationship Factor in Safety Leadership
There is much that needs to be explored on the topic of maintaining clarity during times of stress. We’ve looked at why it is important to keep engaged in conversation, and how our thoughts influence the quality of outcomes.
In my book, The Relationship Factor in Safety Leadership, I explore eight beliefs about human nature that I learned from successful leaders. Remembering that thoughts are precursors to results there is one belief in particular that comes to mind. “People are able and willing to contribute to the success of the enterprise.” Disregarding all the evidence to the contrary, a student of leadership will maintain that they live among people who are potentially perfect for their job.
Leaders will regulate their thinking to embrace this truth and refuse to believe its opposite. At first it will be hard because people may disappoint. Yet, by holding firmly to a belief that most people for many reasons do want the business to succeed, the positive results will become more numerous than the poor ones.
Isn’t that the light in which we would like to be seen when we err? It is also the light in which we should see ourselves. Setbacks are part of life. We each need a way to renew our energy and find joy if we are to pursue a leadership path and reduce the effect of frustration or fear on our ability to see, hear and correctly interpret the actions of others around us.