Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Best Thing to Bring to Work Today? A Box of Pins!

Ever feel like your boss is not listening to you? Do you sometimes get the sense that your input does not really impact your organization in any meaningful way?
Well, guess what – you’re right!
Strategy + Business just released information about recent research that will be published in a forthcoming edition of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. The study examined those who held power, and the impact of this on their ability and willingness to accept advice or outside views.
The main take away – the more power someone holds the less they seek out advice or others’ opinions before making judgments, assessments and decisions.
Let’s Think About This
Now that we know this – let’s ask some questions:
Given a group of five people on the factory floor, or the warehouse, or the front of the shop, what will be their level of collaboration versus five people attending a senior executive retreat? According to the research, the front-line folks are more likely to seek out, listen to, and respect each other’s opinions or recommendations. In other words, the level of collaboration will occur near the front-line, not in the leadership ranks.
What is the likely usefulness of the proverbial “open door” policy that many organizations promote? Based on the research conclusions, while people may be free to come and go, the open door policy does not necessarily translate to an “open between the ears” policy!
Given the research, what level of credence can we give to the CEO’s statement that the executive team works really well together?
It All Becomes Clear
In past blogs I have made a point of discussing the organizational silo issue. There always seems to be somebody who is not communicating with somebody else. This research confirms some of those perceptions. Why does Supply Chain not consult with Treasury, or Marketing with R&D? Because they think they know better - they don’t need those other people!
At least the folks at the top are thinking that.
In the Big Data post, we discussed the situation where folks do not avail themselves of data and analytic tools even when they are available. Again, according to the research, this makes sense. Why let facts interfere with what we already know?!!
We Must Be Human Without Being Human
The antidote to this is simple – don’t let power go to our head. However, this is the human tendency, and it is not easy to correct, though there are some things we can do:
Cultivate an Attitude of Servant Leadership – believing that our leadership’s purpose is to serve those who are working for us will cause us to listen openly to our staff and other’s in the organization.
Actively Practice Humility – one of the great steps in the 12-step programs is coming to believe in a power greater than yourself. Just holding on to this belief makes us more open to ideas and people outside our realm of comfort.
Make Advice Seeking and Research a Requirement – if the organization can embed some process of information gathering and analysis as part of the decision process, this can help counteract some of the tendencies discussed above. This was mentioned in the S+B article.
Beef Up The Data Capabilities – the ability to analyze data, convert it into information and transform it to knowledge is a great antidote, and one that will be increasingly available if we learn how to use it.
Walk the Talk – if we want to be open, transparent, honest, then we need to be. We cannot say it, we cannot point it out, we have to do it!
Taking these steps can help us to correct the natural tendency to turn inwards into ourselves as we progress through our lives and careers.
What if all that fails? We can always use one of those pins to pop a hole in our inflated egos!
 I would love to hear your thoughts about how power affects us as leaders or your stories on this topic if you have them.
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Thanks for stopping by the Treasury Cafe!


  1. This is a great post! I'm surprised at your findings and like the simple solutions you offer. I was under the impression that top-level management did listen. Yikes! I hope it's a trend that can be reversed.

  2. Maddie,

    Thank you for your comments. The thing about research is its all about aggregating numbers - each person's individual experiences will vary. Some of us will have leaders who do listen. Yet on average...

    We have discussed on this blog forces that are leading to an "organization of the future" that is flatter, collaborative, and dispersed among other things. This will require different skills, listening being one them.