A generation of the harried
We have raised a generation of organizational “leaders” who grew up in a micro-environment of constant emotional, mental, and physical stimulation. Video games, cell phones, YouTube and much more, have created a state of constant stimulation in a developing brain. Frequently, under the cover of darkness watching videos and receiving text messages at all hours of the night, kids are re-wiring their brains to be in a constant state or ready rather than embracing the importance of calm and quiet. With the introduction of text messages, there is the added expectation on part of both sender and receiver of immediate gratification. In addition, these same adults were the product of busy households, soccer games, lacrosse practices, club sports, etc., and had no time for a traditional, languid meal around the dinner table. Instead, rushed kids were carted from activity to activity with a happy meal tossed in the back of the mom-van. While life at home in the micro-environment was hectic enough, fueled by busy-moms wearing the “I’m so busy badge-of-honor,” the macro-environment has been an influence as well.
Of course the 24 hour news cycle and the internet were a part of that influence, then entered Amazon. The organizational culture of “first to market” or “30% completion rate is fine” has likely been an additional stimulus to move quickly abandoning projects that might have been more long term. And, not many can argue with the success of Amazon, holding them as a model to emulate. If it’s working for them, it must be the right way.
Organizations themselves have some role in this. 40 years of right-sizing, down-sizing, and massive layoffs or RIFs, has further eroded the confidence of an entire generation. We see movement not only from organization to employee, but employee to organization. The result: there is no longer any allegiance to an organization and its strategic goals. The shift has resulted in a model that promotes a constant stream of new ideas rather than a continuation of the existing ones. Another element of this is the desire to “leave a legacy,” as such our organizations are filled with individuals seeking to drive their own agenda rather than that of the organization.
Finally, our organizations are still functioning in a managerial, rather than a leadership paradigm. Management, managing, managers: the art of accomplishing a process. It involves scheduling, prioritizing, task-adherence, telling, and task accomplishment. Nowhere does it require the necessary relationship to influence, dialogue and listen, or generate ideas or creativity. These are the elements of leadership, and they take time. Time…who has the time for time?
Regardless of the influence, we have raised a generation of kids who now show up as organizational leaders with no ability to be mentally quiet. Silence, mediation, mindfulness – the actual keys to innovation – are seen as sloppy, lazy, or complacent. Their brains, wired to expect the rush of neuro-chemicals that provide a false stimulus, rather than the success of long-term planning and collaboration – the joy of seeing a project finally come to fruition.
We now have organizational walls that are covered in pasta. Linguine, lasagna, penne, rigatoni…are those some shells I see over there? All the product of random, failed ideas in the sense of feeling like we’ve accomplished something.
The solution: Move slow to move fast
What is the solution to this over-paced, hectic environment in which we find ourselves? There is an old saying, “we must move slow to move fast.” Move slow to move fast includes the following personal, reflective practices that slows our mind-body connection to make deeper, more meaningful impacts:
We need give our brains the space so that both sides are involved in the processing of information. Often times we make decisions based in the moment, this is usually the case in our fast-paced business environments. However, our best decisions come when we allow our entire brain to process information. Taking the time to allow both sides of your brain to process information will typically result in a better decision. In addition, it ensures that our introvert team members will also be more likely to weigh in.
Being mindful, or adopting a mindfulness practice and culture. A mindfulness practice ensures that we spend the time considering a more holistic approach and perspective. A mindful leader will also take into account the larger impacts of decisions: will it damage another person or part of the organization? What will the larger impacts be to the team, the organization, or even the community?
A reflective practice, are we making the right moves for the right reason, do we have the right people on the project, do we have all of the information necessary to complete the project? This is similar to the first two practices but broadens into the range of perspective taking as well.
The art of listening. To really listen and hear, not just to respond. This is a particular challenge in our Western cultures. We typically listen to respond, which means that we lose the ability to listen once we move into the neuro-space of “what am I going to say to counter this point”?
A process of equitable and transparent program evaluation. We’ve become so busy with results and/or self-preservation that we often loose site of the gift of feedback. A sound evaluation process ensures that we can find and hopefully remove the barriers to success and improvement. This includes inviting all stakeholders to the conversation. One person’s innovation can be another’s nightmare!
The art and practice of GRACE. Recognizing that as humans we have needs that are unique to ourself and your needs are different. We all move through change differently and in our unique way. Like above with innovation, a change, a new approach, etc., might be very exciting for some and feel completely daunting to others. Not all team members will be ready to jump on board and embrace a new process. Make sure that we are giving team members a chance to adopt changes in their own time, through the act of grace, is very powerful.
Professional relationships. Our organizations are suffering from a relationship deficit. Taking the time to get to know one another so we can truly connect at a heart level. We are far less likely to disparage one another when we have connected personally.
Emotional intelligence and the art of reading both the room as well as the body language. This allows us to practice grace.
Compassion and kindness – the organization (goals, productivity, etc.) actually work better in an environment of compassion and kindness than pain and suffering. Once we are in the neuro-space of fear or an amygdala hi-jack, we no longer make effective decisions. Instead, we will make emotionally charged decisions from a fight or flight response.
Be comfortable with being second to market. There is a lot of value that be learned from the original.
We must stop promoting individuals for the wrong reasons. We continue to promote based on accomplishments over behavior. Ineffective promotion practices leads to a culture of potential toxicity, fear, frustration coupled with team members who will seek to emulate behavior that is rewarded.
Make leadership development available to everyone so that all members within the organization can improve their organizational citizenship.
Begin developing leaders sooner rather than later. It is far easier to develop effective leadership skills early in the career – regardless of role – than later. This ensures that bad habits do not become part of their standard leadership practices.
Encourage the development of good mind-body techniques. Utilize wellness coaches who are well-versed in body posture, breathing, pain reduction, and good ergonomics, and finally
Most importantly, let’s remove the organizational ego. A promotion to a formal leadership role should be a humbling experience rather than ego-advancing.
We need to begin leading, truly leading in our organizations, not managing and perpetuating years of bad habits of feedback and dialogue deficits, the build it why you fly it approach, and the constant stop & start of new ideas. Lets stop throwing pasta at the walls; its getting rather messy.