January 19, 2012
Increasing costs for materials and utilities with an inability to raise prices on final goods and services due to reduced demand or competition, and competitive pressures arising literally from around the globe, create a difficult enough environment to operate a company. But leadership problems in business can stifle creativity, reduce productivity and cripple a company to the point it can no longer remain viable. These problems stem from a variety of sources, from individual personality conflicts to dysfunctional group dynamics.
Companies operate in a global economy. That means more than simply an expanded lot of potential customers and competition. Organizations link to internal team members and external suppliers, associates and allies, whether permanent or temporary, from anywhere at any time. A focus on collaboration advances a company further than focusing on competition, yet much of today’s leadership grooming concentrates on what the individual can accomplish on their own. Leadership direction in companies needs to focus less on a singular leader who rallies the troops to win the battle, and more on a coach or mentor that directs and encourage a team and helps advance the company.
The lone boss can operate under flawed notions that can hinder a team or company if left unchecked, especially if executives promote someone based primarily on skills experience or expertise. Newly promoted people conclude those skills will convert directly into management expertise, or that their expertise is the most important aspect of their new job. They may focus on the work and search for simple, logical solutions to problems, ignoring the personal aspects of management. They may also assume that employees and team members possess similar levels of technical competence, or similar work styles, and fail to adequately take charge of the staff or direct the work flow.
Executives faced with internal or external talent searches to fill management vacancies may exacerbate the problem by paying too much attention to ideal leadership attributes in their managers that reflect what they want the corporate culture to convey, rather than finding people to match the issues facing the company. Executives must start with the corporate strategy, ensure it answers the primary challenges facing the company, and then look for managers who can take charge of groups to confront those challenges.
Beyond skill sets, the attitude a manager brings to the work floor influences team productivity. Attitude problems include out-of-control emotions, being too cheerful or too dejected to match the actual event or putting off decisions and frequently hiding behind too much analysis and planning. Managers also can fail to understand the personalities of team members, taking a one-size-fits-all approach to handling staff. One example of a problem personality is the autocrat: a person who insists on full control over the entire environment, from personnel to projects, barking out orders and insisting on immediate compliance, with no second guessing. This manager is not above using fear to get his wishes realized.
Personality issues spill over into communications, and if people don’t convey information, work stalls. Managers in a position to direct communications traffic can block flow by avoiding conversations if they deem it too uncomfortable, or close themselves off to feedback. Conversely, they can fail to realize different people need different content directed in different channels. So, they may use jargon that clouds the issue or they talk too much, smothering staff with too much information. For example, autocrats tend to dominate every conversation and workers are unable to reply to demands. They make statements rather than ask questions, assert their assumptions and opinions as fact, and they see things in black and white rather than in neutral shades of gray.