“Wisdom” is a word that we don’t here much in the workplace. I’ve been involved in the hiring and promotion of thousands of employees. Yet not once do I remember wisdom being mentioned as a job requirement. Why is that? Certainly wisdom is as important in the workplace as anywhere else.
Where can we even find wisdom? Nowadays we are bombarded by information, but that’s not wisdom. We turn some of that information into knowledge, but that’s not wisdom either. Wisdom is something different. Wisdom evolves from experience.
You have likely been amazed and angered by some of the dumb things you have done in your life. You’ve asked yourself many times “how couldn’t I have known better?” Well, you probably did know better. But navigating those times required more than knowledge. They were times that required wisdom and that was something you couldn’t have without experience. So making the mistakes you made were likely inevitable.
There are times when we allow the wisdom of others to guide us. But that probably doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should. We all get frustrated by people who won’t listen to us when we know the right thing to do. Perhaps there is something deep inside us that drives us to experience and grow wiser. It seems difficult for us to embrace the lessons learned by others. Maybe that’s why generation after generation make the same mistakes over and over again. But this is something that cannot be accepted in today’s competitive business environment.
In the workplace those on the frontlines have experience with customers and some of them gain valuable wisdom from those experiences. Yet too often, and to the detriment of many organizations, the wisdom within the organization is ignored and critical decisions are made only based on available information and knowledge.
Great leadership requires capturing and using the wisdom of others to make truly informed decisions. It is for this reason that business leaders must visit the frontlines to learn from those with real wisdom.
Leaders that cannot describe the correct method for solving problems are doing a disservice to their followers; if they can’t describe it they aren’t doing it. The good news is that this performance discrepancy is very fixable.
We’ve recently witnessed with amazement and sorrow how adept so many leaders are at creating problems and how inept they are at solving them. Since today’s leaders do not have the devine insights we associate with Jesus, Mohammed and Buda, they must embrace the Universe’s single most effective problem-solving process and systematize it within their organizations. That problem-solving process is GIADA: goal, information, analysis, decision, and action.
The following example of GIADA is excerpted from my soon to be published book, The Supervision Solution: Manage Performance, Not People.
Imagine a tiger in the wild. She is hungry and needs to eat. Food is her goal. GIADA is how she will achieve that goal. She’s surrounded by information, some of which she collects and some of which she ignores. There is a field mouse about ten feet away; a large deer grazes 100 yards away in a clearing; and a smaller deer grazes 50 yards away near some high grass. She analyzes the situation. She could catch the mouse, but that wouldn’t be much of a meal; she’d expend more energy catching the mouse than it is worth, and she’d alert the deer to her presence. The large deer would be a great catch, but there’s a good chance it would escape before she could get to it. The smaller deer, however, is near some high grass that she could use for cover, and she doesn’t have to traverse as much ground to get to it. She makes her decision. She’s going after the smaller deer. She takes action. She stalks her prey. The moment she sees the deer alert to her presence, she pounces. In the space of about 40 yards and eight seconds, the hunt is over. She has achieved her goal.
Whether it is strategy, operations, or addressing a personnel issue, GIADA is the right way solve problems. It is therefore indisputable that leaders must bring GIADA to their workplace, systematize the approach and hold others accountable applying it. The stakes are so high nowadays; we really need to start doing the fundamentals correctly. GIADA is the simple, powerful and correct approach we were given to solve problems – let’s use it.
Smartblogs.com just published an article I wrote:
The 300-word limit creates constraints relative to more fully exploring the topic of strategy. Still, the two most important principles of strategy are addressed in the article: the definition of strategy and need to work the CLUES. It is beyond dispute that organizations that do not define strategy and do not effectively work the CLUES will always sacrifice revenue, market share, resources and employee productivity – always!
The foundation for effective approaches to leadership development is the development of the situation in which leadership will occur. It is not, as is the common practice, the development of leaders. Consider the following:
Javier Sotomayor is the world record holder in the high jump. He has jumped over 8 feet (2.45 meters), a truly amazing record. Yet each of us can jump just as high him. How? We just need to create a situation that renders his abilities irrelevant. Perhaps we’ll see who can jump highest in quicksand, or in a room with 3-foot high ceiling. Javier is really talented but, as it is for all of us, his talents are limited by the situations in which he finds himself.
The imact of the situation on one’s ability to perform cannot be overstated. Phil Zimbardo has done fascinating and enlightening research in this area. His work demonstrating how the situation could so quickly and easily transform normal individuals into ruthless prison guards remains one of the most powerful experiments in all of social psychological research.
We’ve all been in situations that prevented us from being all we could and should be. It may be hard to admit, but situations are the dominant factors in the direction and level of human performance. This dominance has a profound impact on modern day leadership development strategies.
Billions of dollars are spent each year on leadership books, training, seminars and conferences; all in the hope of building better leaders. The theory seems reasonable: better leaders will result in better organizational leadership. Despite the immense expenditures, however, the results are universally considered disappointing. The reason, the theory is flawed.
Despite their quality, most leadership development programs do not deliver desired results. Such failures are the result of equating leadership development to self-improvement. The metaphor is not appropriate because it overlooks the context of the organization, the situation where the leader’s performance will take place. Unless the organization provides a solid foundation for great leadership, leadership development interventions will flounder and leaders’ talents will be rendered relatively irrelevant.
In the modern organization a quality system of leadership is that solid foundation for great leadership. In the absence of such a system talented leaders will likely find themselves stuck in “performance quicksand” or bashing their heads on very low “performance ceilings.” The inevitable impact on the organization and its most talented leaders are frustration and ineffectiveness. The key to avoiding this all too common result is to always develop the system of leadership first. To do otherwise is to “put the cart before the horse.”
Motivational messages have been popular and often unwanted aspects of the work environment for the last 30 years. They have been popular with managers and typically unwanted by the targets of the slogans: non-managers.
Perhaps one of the most infamous slogans was “choose your attitude.” Although clearly condescending to hard-working people in a highly complex modern world, thousands of managers felt compelled to post this message for their staff. Such messages are based upon the flawed assumption that pithy phrases can realign the thoughts and emotions of followers in the direction leaders desire. They can’t. Moreover, the thoughts and emotions of motivated employees (the only ones who should be on the payroll) are cues to the quality of the work environment: positive work environment – positive thoughts and emotions; negative work environment – negative thoughts and emotions.
If the attitudes of many employees are not postive and this needs to change, the business leader must direct her efforts toward changing the work environment, as opposed to changing employees’ minds.
The 21-century is the time for high-quality leadership – we no longer have the luxury of anything else. Instead of motivational messages, leaders must rely solely on truly meaningful actions to resolve the situational elements that demotivate high-quality employees. But if there are managers that feel compelled to post motivational slogans, they should try some that target aspects of leadership. The following are recommendations:
- “Protect group values – not just your job”
- “Good intentions aren’t enough - provide real leadership expertise”
Motivational slogans are a subtle display of a leader’s power. It is, after all, leaders who decide on the messages and it is they who post them for their followers. Totalitarian states are notorious for doing exactly this.
It is a bit radical to upend the posting of motivational messages. But for those business leaders who still believe in the validity of these messages, it is time to have the courage to target themselves.