The fact is that, aside from specific product or service offerings, most companies are exactly the same. Today’s business world is a homogenized culture that prohibits the true diversity of any individual or department to shine. Business owners and managers enforce rules that stifle what is unique and creative in their team so as not to offend any outside group. They dictate regulations about company dress, speech, practices, and even office decorations in an attempt to create safe and predictable environments that limit risk. The irony is that in the midst of enforcing all these standard operating practices, many business leaders actually wonder why their company is, at best, mediocre.
When employees encounter such environments, complacency sets in and productivity declines. Sure, many of them may enter the company full of motivation and great ideas; however, as the top executives pigeonhole them into certain departmental tasks, the employees lose that initial spark of creativity. They begin to do the same procedure day after day, and as they feel more and more like a mere drone, they become less observant and less willing to break the status quo. No wonder so many companies today are unremarkable.
Who is to blame for this state of affairs? While finger pointing is easy to do, we can’t completely blame the companies or the employees for such complacency and mediocrity at work. Why? Because we can trace the root of this problem to our current society itself.
In today’s culture, people are afraid to stand out, be different, or make waves because we’ve conditioned them to believe that exhibiting any kind of behavior deviant from the norm can be a crime. We arrest such people and contain or punish them for a specific period of time. However, what business leaders need to understand is that “offense” is stimulating in an otherwise static, controlled, and predictable environment. It’s when we introduce behaviors or practices that go against the flow that we inspire our people to function beyond what anyone thought was possible. The keys are to offend — or change — within limits and to do no harm.
This is not to say, however, that the change you initiate must be monumental to be effective. In fact, sometimes the smallest change can compound and deliver massive results. The goal is to look around your organization, discover where complacency exists, and then challenge your team to make a change. Release the reigns of control so they unleash their creativity and unlock the barriers to their potential. As long as everyone has the same goal in mind, you can allow more leeway and attain better results.
If the thought of change frightens you or your team, put the following principles to work. Before long, you’ll discover just how stimulating and rewarding change can be.
A discerning follower perceives or recognizes that something is different than the norm, measures that difference against the yardstick of right values and principles, and then consciously makes a decision whether to follow or resist. It’s about having the courage to trust your gut and instincts rather than solely rely on fact and logic. When you follow discerningly, you feel when change is right, listen to that instinct, and then make your move.
While rules and regulations do have their place in the business world, they need to be loose guidelines rather than stringent policies. When you keep the rules simple, people will feel the freedom they have and they will be willing to take risks for positive change. They’ll bring good judgment and creativity to the workplace, which will position your company ahead of the others.
Sanderford-O'Connor is a 16-year veteran of the California Department of Corrections who rose through the ranks to manage a $14 million annual budget. She is the principal of ClariQuest Consulting, which helps organizations unlock barriers to business success. She can be reached at 916-961-5394 or visit www.clariquest.com.
Publication date: 04/21/2003