The inspirational ones have been those that have challenged me personally and made me think deeply about what I believe, value and respect, as well as how I behave. The duds have been those where I have been exposed to some fashionable off-the-shelf product, probably originating from the USA, which has been promoted as a silver bullet for an organisation’s woes.
The list of snake oil management interventions is endless and has made individuals like Stephen Covey and Anthony Robbins extremely influential and quite rich. Chaps like this are the masters of a snappy quotable quote, followed by a pregnant pause – territory occupied in previous generations by philosophers and poets. Carl Jung probably wishes he’d bought shares in Myers Briggs, and whoever designed Tarot Cards probably wishes they received royalties from Lominger.
Quackery has existed at least since the ancient Greeks, and can be relied to promise much for future generations, once enthusiasm for neuro-linguistic programming and similar techniques cools.
Staff who are being trained in the latest and greatest Next Big Thing are expected to embrace it unquestioningly. After all it has been proven to work, according to those who market it. In reality, the people who buy it – usually chief executives – aren’t the people who have to use it.
This disconnect between organisational heads and the level three managers in their organisations who actually lead and make things happen will generally be the cause of most of that place’s woes. This leadership disconnect is often able to be successfully milked for advantage by Management Gurus. It also explains why what can be useful tools, like the Gallup Q12, succeed spectacularly in some organisations and fail in others.
The disconnect between what an organisation does and what its senior managers do appears in many different ways, the most recent being New Zealand government departments using psychometric testing of staff as part of internal restructuring. To me this signals that the management of those departments has no knowledge or interest in understanding the individual competencies, qualifications, knowledge and aspirations of its employees during normal business. If they did, then information gained by psychometric tests would be largely unnecessary, with staff retention decisions being informed by managers already knowing who their best people were.
Over the years I have seen many lists of recommended behaviours and actions printed on posters and cards. The only one that ever inspired me enough to remain pinned to my office wall reads as follows:
- Decide – Clearly, specifically and positively what you want.
- Be honest – Tell the truth, first to yourself, then to others.
- Express yourself – Communicate your view.
- Risk – Break through your limitations.
- Participate 100% – Get totally involved.
- Responsibility – Take ownership of your results.
- Partnership – Create a context for mutual benefit – build a Win:Win.
- Commitment – Do what it takes “My word is my bond”.