Passion and excitement, as well as judgment and fear, characterize the current political environment in the United States. The recent election was the most surprising call for change in government in my lifetime, and it was also a call for meaningful culture change. Government agencies must prepare to accelerate improvements, but the current culture and leadership of these agencies will likely be the greatest barriers to success.
To “do less, better” isn’t something most leaders and their organizations embrace. The seemingly more attractive (and logical) option is to do more and more – the theory being the more markets, products, and businesses a company engages in, the better the results. This is not true.
Do Less Better is a strategy and a culture; it’s also the name of my book. And for organizations and their leaders, the proponents of this discipline worship focus, loathe complexity, and enjoy success.
Workplace culture is shaped from the top down. One of the costliest mistakes to organizations is the inability or unwillingness of its leaders to successfully facilitate difficult conversations. The difficulty may lie in the manager’s skill level. He or she simply doesn’t know how to coach an employee on a performance issue. Or a leader may be embarrassed to talk with an employee about careless social skills. Or the difficulty may be a more complex cultural issue that goes unseen until the problem becomes national news.
This post is the last in a series of five articles describing a major arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, designed and run over a four-year period by Dr. Mark Powell, one of the authors of this article. Previous posts have looked at the way in which delegates to the programme worked with dancers, actors and jazz musicians. This final post explores the most ‘hands-on’– and for many delegates the most emotional – element of the programme: the experience of conducting a small chamber choir.
Disturbing employee quotations
“He would find a hole in the data and then explode.”
“I would see people practically combust.”
“There are so many people running for the door not just because the ship is sinking, but because the captain of the ship is screaming at them, blaming it on them, and telling them it’s their fault.”
“The joke in the office was that when it came to work/life balance, work came first, life came second, and trying to find the balance came last.”
“You learn how to diplomatically throw people under the bus.”
You might be excused for thinking these quotations stem from some terrifying, corporate Ayn Rand winner-takes-all hell-hole where fear, intimidation, and bullying ruled the day. Ironically, these quotations come from employees of two of the most famous retailers on the planet.