Tag Archive for organizational development

Humanness: The Antidote to Leadership Dysfunction

opAs I’ve read and considered the various ideas contained within any number of leadership-related books, the idea of dysfunction being related to our humanness, or lack thereof, becomes increasingly clear. Whether it be the concept of dehumanization in some ways leading to, and in some ways being an effect of, oppression; or whether it be the idea of dysfunction stemming from a lack of being loved and being able to love; there is an emerging theme. quote-love-and-work-are-the-cornerstones-of-our-humanness-sigmund-freud-65999

It seems that the more we, within the context of organizations and relationships, can be more appropriately human, the more healthy and functional those organizations and relationships will be. It seems overly simplistic, but perhaps that’s the beauty of it. As we learn to better love and serve, dysfunction begins to diminish.

If on both sides of the leader-follower relationship there is a willingness to be more “human,” for lack of a better term, the relationships, as well as the group or organization, will begin to function more appropriately. As teams and groups embrace their humanness, they will be more willing to serve others (since they’re our fellow humans), admit faults (since to err is very much human), listen to input (since different minds bring different and possibly better perspectives to a given situation), and so on.

So my question, then, is this: Within our organizations, how can we encourage others to be more appropriately human and functional, and as a result serve others well, admit faults, solicit feedback, and the like? How can we encourage both leaders and followers within our respective organizations to embrace their humanness, and as a result become more functional?

Employees Can’t “Just Get Over It”

changeBeing a human, or a human being, is a tough gig. One of the more difficult parts of being human also happens to be a thing we frequently experience in one way or another: change.

Change takes many forms. Growth. Development. Shift. Adjustment. Redirection. Rejuvenation. Rebirth. Rethinking. Transformation.

And it can be experienced and perceived both positively and negatively, yes? Sometimes the change feels good and generates feelings of happiness or contentment. Other times, not so much. It can drive us to our knees in despair, anger, and hopelessness.

Organizational life isn’t immune to this phenomenon. Shift happens. [Insert your favorite cliché shift_happensphrase about change here. Maybe “Change is the only constant” or something.]

Since we’re all humans (I’m operating under the assumption that it’s mostly humans who read this blog), we each deal with change differently, and we deal with different types of change in different ways.

Many times the way some folks deal with organizational change frustrates leaders. These leaders, most of whom I’d assume are very well-meaning, often wish others would work through change in a manner they find more acceptable. Perhaps they believe the employees are being immature. Maybe it’s the pace at which they’re working through the change. It could be the methods they’re using to navigate that time. It could be any number of things or combination of things, and I’m not even saying there’s not ever merit in those things.

Everybody, certainly including leaders, has immature moments or periods. Everybody loses their cool sometimes. Everybody handles some types of change better or faster or more smoothly than other types. Everybody has all sorts of baggage, whether you see it or not.

The-Wizard-of-Oz-House-on-witch So here’s the thing — most of the time, if there were a way for employees to slip on some ruby slippers, click their heels together, and make themselves be flawless as it relates to their ability to embrace and drive change, I think they’d do it. I know I would (although the ruby slippers would be pushing it).

But no such voodoo exists. There are reasons people all over organizations everywhere can’t just snap their fingers and “get over” things or “move on.” Sometimes they’re trying extremely hard, but just can’t do those things as quickly or in the same ways as some might want them to. Other times maybe they’re so emotionally damaged that they’ve essentially given up trying.

Again though, there are reasons. There are always reasons people do things, and that rings true here as well. What might some of them be?

We’ll look at some of them tomorrow. In the meantime, think through your own attitude toward change. How do you cope with it? What methods work for you? What methods don’t? What tips would you share?

But also, think through your attitude toward others as they navigate change. Are you empathetic? Kind? Impatient? Arrogant? Cranky, irritable, and bloated? (wait — I think that’s from some commercial or something) What do the best leaders seem to do to help people through difficult times?


5 Steps Towards More Transparent Talent Planning (Guest Post)

topsecretIt’s treated like a covert operation, flawlessly planned and executed – as if it never really happened. Confidential folders holding its contents are protected under lock and key. Faint whispers are overheard by the water coolers. Employees wonder what secrets are being discussed. Leaders hope that employees won’t ask about it. It has become one of the great mysteries of the modern world: the talent planning meeting.

Why all the secrecy?  Doesn’t it feel a little over the top? As leaders, we have an obligation to have honest, thoughtful, and robust talent planning meetings. It’s our opportunity to review our bench strength and discuss the leadership we have for the future. It allows us to take an enterprise view of our talent, create development strategies, and plan for succession. The success of our organization depends on these outcomes. But we often struggle with how to communicate this important work within our organizations.  Poor or non-existent communication not only sets a negative tone culturally, it can be damaging and risky.

Here are 5 steps leaders can take to bring about more transparency with talent planning meetings:

1. Get aligned around philosophy and approach.

If you haven’t already, invest the time to talk about your philosophy for communicating talent planning processes, approach, and outcomes. Anticipate employee questions and possible reactions and decide how you will position messages to high potentials, solid talent, and those who may not have what it takes.

2. Deliver messages consistently.

Once you’re aligned on the approach, bring that united front into the organization. Stay on script and show your advocacy and support for the process through each interaction and message. Employees often look to leaders to see how aligned they really are.

3. Be clear about objectives and process.

This is often a missed step. Share the objectives of talent planning and the fact that the organization uses a deliberate and consistent process. Show how this piece of the puzzle fits into the broader talent management cycle.

4. Openly share criteria.

Communicating the criteria that is used, such as competencies and leadership requirements, will demonstrate rigor and objectivity.  It will also show the organization what success looks like and what the expectations are for career development and succession for key roles.

5. Have open and candid conversations.

Engaging in really productive talent planning meetings can be like working a muscle (that you didn’t know you had). The same goes for communicating the outcomes. Preparing for various employee interactions and difficult conversations will increase your confidence and help you to effectively handle questions, concerns, and reactions.

So, communicate what you can and be honest about what you can’t. Your employees will appreciate it and you’ll be making an important leadership contribution to creating a culture of openness, professional maturity, and mutual respect.


Audra August is a Principal, Succession & Talent Planning with Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions.  Audra works with organizations to build strong leadership capacity. Her areas of focus include succession management, team effectiveness, and organizational development. Audra can be reached at aaugust@knightsbridge.ca and @AudraAugust on Twitter.