PRINCIPLE THAT GUIDE ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP:
MAINTAIN DISCIPLINED ATTENTION
Different people within the same organization bring different experiences, assumptions, values, beliefs, and habits to their work. This diversity is valuable because innovation and learning are the products of differences.
No one learns anything without being to contrasting points of view. Yet managers at all levels are often unwilling or unable to address their competing perspectives collectively. They frequently avoid paying attention to issues that disturb them. They restore equilibrium quickly, often with work avoidance maneuvers. A person who exercises leadership must get people to confront tough tradeoffs in values, procedures, operating styles, and power.
That is as true at the top of the organization as it is in the middle or on the front line. Indeed, if the executive team cannot model adaptive work, the organization will languish. If senior managers can’t draw out and deal with divisive issues, how will people elsewhere in the organization change their behaviors and rework their relationships?
One of the most interesting missions of exercising leadership is getting people on the executive team to listen to and learn from one another. Held in debate, people can learn their way to collective solutions when they understand one another’s assumptions. The work of the authority figure is to get conflict out into the open and use it as a source of creativity.
Because work avoidance is rampant in organizations, a leader has to counteract distractions that prevent people from dealing with adaptive issues. Scape-goating denial focusing only on today’s technical issues, or attacking individuals rather than the perspectives they represent – all forms of work avoidance are to be expected when an organization undertakes adaptive work. Distraction has to be identified when they occur so that people will regain focus.
Diversity is treasured as is the avenue for innovation and learning. In conflicting situation, a leader is expected to step in and put the team to work on reframing the issues, deepening the debate with questions, and unbundling the issues in a manner that the conflicting parties can handle. This prevents the conflict from remaining polarized and superficial. Diversity is critical in bringing different experiences, assumptions, values, beliefs and habits to their work.
Daniel, the Operations Manager of Hoops company noticed that the relationship between Nancy; the procurement office and that of the mechanic had deteriorated. Nancy had established a control process during the repair process which required the mechanic to record repairs he had done and the materials used. This had affected the attitude of the mechanic. The mechanic started taking longer after being contacted to get to the office.
The mechanic had just finished his task and Daniel wanted to discuss with him and Nancy. Daniel went to the office where the mechanic was populating the schedule. He asked Nancy to join them. Daniel thanked the mechanic for fixing the machine. He went ahead and explained the recent behavior change by the mechanic and wanted to know the cause. The mechanic started blaming Nancy; explaining the dissatisfaction. After which Daniel asked Nancy to give her view. Nancy explained the reasons behind the additional controls with some being in line with the business requirements.
The mechanic noted that it was not the decision of Nancy to add some controls. The controls were meant to improve service delivery. Nancy admitted that she had no chance to explain to the mechanic of the recent developments.
A person exercising leadership is also expected to identify and handle work avoidance and maintain focus on tough issues and disciplined attention to make progress in learning.