Are your people swimming through peanut butter?

Because so many of our blog posts apply to both management and leadership, we often lump the two together. Of course this doesn't mean the two are the same thing: Management is about the efficient maintenance of the status quo, about ensuring that things run effectively as planned, whereas Leadership is about going beyond the status quo and driving change, growth and innovation.

Every organization and every manager must strike a balance between fulfilling the demands of management and the imperatives of leadership. It's a simple fact that those that don't do so will have trouble both functioning and surviving.

When an organization loses this balance by placing a disproportionate amount of time and resources on fulfilling management responsibilities, they often fall into a state of active inertia. Without forward-thinking leadership, people become inwardly focused and blind to the realities of the market, unconscious prisoners of organizational routines that can be next to impossible to break. (And that's assuming that you can ever convince them that they should break their routines!) In fact, people get so used to doing things a certain way that when confronted with adversity, they dig in deeper because they simply lack the clarity and ability to consider alternate approaches beyond what they already know. Many actually believe that the problem is with reality, not them!

A few years ago, in trying to describe how this phenomenon was affecting her company, a senior manager of one of our corporate clients said to us, "Trying to get things done around here is like swimming through peanut butter." It's hard to express it much more clearly than that!

Active inertia is a dangerous state for any organization, and for those that are in it, it can be a nightmare to get out of because it stifles initiative. It takes a serious jolt of leadership to do so, something that reboots and reinvigorates the way that people in the business understand their environment so that they take notice of the 'red flags' that warn of the need to change the way they do things. It takes leadership to get people thinking about where they are as an organization, where it's going and how it will get there.

Are your people swimming through peanut butter? Is getting things done in your organization difficult? Have you allowed your business to fall into a state of active inertia? It's a question that people in organizations big and small must ask themselves because the consequences are real and very damaging. To neglect your leadership responsibilities is to doom your people to a deep pool of peanut butter!

Posted: 8/23/2011 4:26:01 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Filed under: inertia, leadership, management
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