Fanfare For The Uncommon Man Or Woman
February 25, 2014
Does it feel like more and more people are graduates of Saint Apathy's Order of the Indifferent Monks? These gritty times have meant saying goodbye to many, while stretching to retain our best performers. Fatigue makes cowards out of us all and though we may not want to acknowledge it, 50% of all line officers today are presiding over a dysfunctional organization through no fault of their own. For those who survived the life boat drill, we make a near-fatal mistake by assuming, "Oh, they'll be just fine."
Here's the deal as researched by people who specialize in the unknown: Recent data clearly shows downsizing lowers survivors' creativity, which in turn is a lethal-but-silent predator. I've always used this gauge: Most people stop when they begin to tire. Above-average people go until they think they're on the verge of collapse. But the very best know the mind tires before the body, and push themselves beyond normal limits. Without our attention to their courageous effort, we're guilty of performance punishment, setting ourselves up for losses of those who may not be demoralized, but certainly unsure and probably frustrated.
Downsizing affects climate, social interaction and self-confidence. This is the time to promote more exchange, more fun, and dialog day-to-day. In practicing the time-honored "tight-loose" leadership model, if ever there was a good time to be tighter, it's now. It's not enough to "think positive." Good intentions trammeled with indecision and automated management won't feed the bulldog. It's slippery at the top of the pyramid; even the most talented people are uncertain, under duress, and under-whelmed. Their ranks are swelling.
Pay special attention to your "350 hitters." This does not suggest favors, pampering or cronyism. Instead, remember that the higher your people want to climb, the more they depend on your leadership as opposed to being presumed on auto-pilot. Stop thinking "vertical" and become more "molecular" through more interaction than you've traditionally practiced. There will likely be more downsizing with sustaining uncertainty. Often, the impending dread of staff reduction is more injurious than the actual process itself. What you may not recognize until it's too late, is the hard evidence which shows your company's most talented and resourceful are also the most likely to quit if left alone or dissatisfied.
Coaching legend Dick Vermeil said, "If you don't invest much of yourself, then defeat doesn't hurt very much, and winning isn't very exciting." The last place gifted and inspired people want to work is in that gray abyss between triumph and uncertainty.
Success is never accidental, and is rarely ever singularly achieved. Identify your best, tighten your trust and credibility, and memorialize their contributions.