In Liquid Leadership, I point out the Credo of a Liquid Leader. The second law stands out the most for leadership to be effective: Leadership should cultivate an environment where it is free and safe to tell the truth.”
Ever work for a company that micromanages everything to death? In these environments a paper trail becomes more important than getting the work done. Our current enthusiasm for technology has created even more potential for micromanagement, via massive amounts of emails and documentation and endless meetings to sort through it all.
Yet when this temptation is given in to, the result isn’t better communication or higher productivity, but the opposite. Management becomes the last to know what is actually happening. Conversely, in companies that have moved to flatten their hierarchies and create environments where it is safer to point out the truth, you begin to notice that each person takes their role seriously. When responsibility is shifted to the individual—when people are given the freedom and power to manage their time and solve problems—the result is that no one wants to let down even a single member of their team.
An organization like this runs more smoothly and with more trust. The best and the brightest naturally gravitate toward the chance to work with one another. They know courage will be rewarded, not penalized, and innovation will see the light of day. Such environments operate like entrepreneurial start-ups, with each individual engaged in the success of the company. People are encouraged to challenge one another. They operate with confidence and a sense of personal ambition because they have skin in the game.
This approach may fly in the face of every business manual you have ever read, but those manuals are out of date. We are not in easy times. Consider that betting on one direction or a single type of technology can send a company into bankruptcy overnight. All the more reason to put aside your ego, to listen, and to encourage the sharing of knowledge in every area of an organization’s operations. Environments such as these do not centralize creativity; they make it a systemic part of what drives their entire organization. The truth has become fuzzy these days as people are more interested in the almighty dollar instead of doing great things. We know fluoride is not safe to put in our water and drink on a daily basis. We know our food supply is filled with carcinogenic chemicals. We know our politicians are…well you get my drift. But when drug company whistle-blower Cheryl Eckard tried to fix problems at a GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical factory in Puerto Rico she was fired. The 60 Minutes story is here: Bad Medicine: The Glaxo Case.
Yet when Cheryl brought well documented problems to her boss, she was dismissed, told that it would be taken care of and eventually, when she pressed harder, fired. Admitting the truth can destroy entire companies and bring about unwanted changes. Yet the truth is where progress begins.
It is hard to tell the truth when doing so could bring
a wave of lawsuits.
By the way, how hard is it to act like a human being? Some believe that Cheryl Eckard did what she did for the money – (she was awarded $96 million from a $750 million suit against GSK)…really? Did she know she would be a multimillionaire when she discovered drug mix-ups and unsanitary conditions at Glaxo’s plant? It was her job to oversee quality control and if she had not followed through she would have been fired. But what is unforgivable is the reaction of the executives; they simply tried to make it seem as if conditions weren’t that bad.
Shame does not seem to exist in some boardrooms.
Want to make changes in your organization? How about your life or your community? Start by facing the truth…not your opinion. Like maybe my wife is right – I don’t look good in that sweat suit anymore, (not that that has ever happened to me. LOL).What is important to you? Paper trails, micromanagement, telling people what to do? Truth telling is not pretty…but it is transformational. Thank you all once again for your interest in my work.