Ending Strangling Tangles Starts at the Top

Tue, Jan 20, 2009

I watched today's inauguration of President Barak Obama on a large screen television in front of San Francisco's City Hall. A large and diverse crown gathered and there was a palpable sense of expectancy and hope for better times and change. A change in leadership always presents the opportunity to right past wrongs and chart a new and more successful course.

I have witnessed the same phenomenon with many of my client companies. The opportunity to change directions and create a new tone and culture is often a turning point for many corporations. In today's speech, President Obama said the following:

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics." What did he mean and how does this apply to corporate leadership?

In my many years working as an organizational consultant, I have witnessed leaders focusing on their own agendas at the expense of the company good. For instance, in one company, a sales executive refused to cooperate with efforts to automate the forecasting system because he felt it would anger his sales force and reduce motivation. On the other hand, manufacturing couldn't adequately staff or control inventories because they either had too many orders to fulfill or too few. These and other similar scenarios often lead to blame, and in some cases what I have coined as a strangling tangle, which threatens to choke an organization's windpipes.

At the heart of corporate gridlock is an inability to work together collaboratively toward a common good. Sometimes this is a skills issue. Leaders simply have not learned how to put grievances aside, see a situation from all viewpoints, and negotiate mutually beneficial outcomes. Sometimes it is a will issue. Leaders do not see the benefit and/or are rewarded only for their wins, not the overall company win.

However, charting a new course is possible. What is needed is strong leadership willing to declare that the only path forward is one in which everyone wins.

If you are struggling to prevent a strangling tangle, contact info@rubenconsulting.com for a free 10 minute consultation.

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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