What do you really know?

By C. Villefrance Moeller, TalesOfLeading

They walked down the hallway with firm steps and focused gaze. I stood in the doorway as they past. They did not speak. The decision was taken. I was talking to a colleague. My voice broke and the last part of the sentence sounded shrill. Almost in falsetto. We looked silently at each other in the equivalent of an eternity. Then he said, “what’s that all about?” That day when the CEO, the new division director and the new CFO walked down the hall a time of organizational change, insecurity and layoffs began. The old division director had gone too far. The last peg to his coffin was a fax to the press with a note that should not have been leaked. That’s what they said, but was it the real reason or just an excuse?

What fear in an organization looks like

The incident above happened in the early years of my career. It’s what I always think about when it comes to fear in an organization. As the three men walked down the hallway we didn’t know what was going to happen, though we were quite sure it couldn’t be something good. In the aftermath not much information was given and it left us with a huge hole in the picture of the world we were trying to understand. Worst of all the lack of information left a huge space for fantasy and gossip (Visholm 1993). It left us with a disillusioned idea of the task we were working on. What was the purpose of what we were doing? What was the objective?

From no information to information abundance

Since then it’s more and more common to see boards and screens with performance measures in workplaces. That should give managers and employees a mutual understanding of the objectives they are trying to achieve. Some even have rooms with a lot of figures and red and green colours. Does it really help us get a clearer picture of where we are and what we are doing? Does it drive out fear from the organization? What does these boards tell us about our work?

Trust or performance

In a resent Global Employee and leadership index from ennova they took a closer look at three types of leaders; trust-focused leaders, performance-focused leaders and good leaders. Out of five dimensions the trust-focused and performances-focused leaders only excelled in one. The trust-focused leader focused on trust and openness in the relation to his or her subordinates but was not able to set clear targets, follow up and visualize the effectiveness of the department. In contrast, this was what the performance-focused leader was very good at. Though he or she lacked the ability to motivate and gain trust in the relation to the subordinates. The good leaders naturally excelled in all five dimensions.

How is the information used?

There sure is a lot of performance expressed on boards some of them as results and some indicate whether the process is in control. The board gives the leader a sense of control. Then how can trust be build in the relation to the subordinates? Is the leader wiping and blaming by the board or trying to grill individuals who might not have delivered what was expected? Is the leader telling the subordinates what to do without asking what has already been done? Then I’m sure there will be no trust even though you focus on performance and follow up on the objectives.

Questions for you:

  • What do you want to achieve from your daily huddles?
  • What does the information at the boards tell you about the process?
  • Have you ever sensed fear in an organization?

Visholm, S (1993): Overflade og dybde. Om projektiv identification og det modernes psykologi. København: Politisk Revy

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