Category Archives: Values

Unity, Discord, and the Reality of Human Nature

If it is in fact true that organizational performance rises with growing levels of agreement, collaboration, reciprocity and shared vision, why do leaders accept significant (and largely avoidable) costs of disunity? 

Much has to do with widespread below-the-line beliefs that disunity is just the way things are.

“It’s human nature,” clients have again and again suggested in our consulting work, unwittingly giving voice to bedrock assumptions about the human condition. “People fight. They gossip. They clash. There’s nothing to be done about it.”

Unity, in this view, goes against fundamental realities of psychological makeup.

But is this true? Is disunity an inescapable feature of human nature?

It’s certainly true that disunity is not lacking in the workplace. It can be seen everywhere. Most of us have lived a lifetime in its churning waters.

Yet highly unified organizations do exist in the world, organizations in which collaboration, mutual assistance, and commonality of vision are the norm, not the exception.

And the fact that their facilities can be visited, their processes studied and documented, suggests that disunity is not an immutable law of nature, like gravity. Rather, it a choice organizations make – even if only implicitly and unconsciously – and is therefore one they can choose to not make.

Imagine an organization in which departments go out of their way to help one another. An organization in which all individuals make a point of placing the welfare of the whole organization above their personal concerns. An organization in which the success of any one person, office, or division is celebrated as the success of all.

Such organizations can be found. They may be  rare. They may be challenging to create. But the fact that they exist at all – and that their culture stems from connscious, concerted, and sustained effort, as opposed to the happy accident of circumstance – stands as testament to the fact that disunity and discord are not inescapable facts of life.

The unity organizations can establish if they make it a priority is far more than what many leaders believe is possible. A key question facing all leaders, then, is the degree to which they are prepared to make organizational unity an explicit and operational priority.

Appreciation: The Heart of Recognition

When it comes to the role of recognition in the workplace, the knowledge base is clear: we human beings want to be appreciated and valued in the work we do. Recognition, though, is only as good as the spirit that animates it. As a fundamentally above-the-line behavior, recognition can be disingenuous as easily as it… Continue Reading

Crafting Vision, Finding Vision

Given how frequently the word finds its way into discourse in management circles, it is worth considering what vision is and where it actually comes from. What is the genesis of a vibrant and compelling sense of organizational vision? It is not uncommon to hear people speak about creating or crafting vision. Such sentiments are… Continue Reading

Employees, Donkeys, and Getting Things Done

In some ways, motivation is less complicated than one might imagine. Involving people in decisions that impact them, recognizing the value of their contributions, giving them opportunities to assume responsibility in meaningful ways — study after study has shown the importance of factors like these. Yet countless workplaces fail to supply such sources of motivation.… Continue Reading

Who You Are, Not What You Do

Much of what we think of as the business of business takes place externally. Tangible activities like striking deals, formulating plans and launching initiatives fill our days and constitute the prism through which we view and understand our work life. But business authorities, academics, and thinkers have long suggested that the most fertile field for… Continue Reading

Discipline and the Reflective Life

Consider the word “discipline” for a moment.  In one sense it refers to a subject or a course of study. Within the context of the discipline of reflective leadership, the material to be mastered includes the principles of the human knowledge base and our ability to reflect on how our choices and behaviors, as perceived… Continue Reading

Building Blocks of Reflective Leadership – Determination

Building reliable habits of personal reflection is not easy. Like mastering any new skill, learning to hang the mirror involves no small amount of setbacks and failure. We might maintain a sense of objectivity for a time, then lose it at a bad turn of events or sharp verbal jab. We might restrain emotional responses… Continue Reading

Building Blocks of Reflective Leadership – Humility

Few spheres of human activity are more driven by “results” than the world of business. Visible success is the coin of the realm, and confidence, bravado, even self-aggrandizement are pervasive. Humility, then, stands as a somewhat counter-intuitive characteristic of truly outstanding leaders. Humility is certainly one of the more nuanced facets of leadership. In part, this has… Continue Reading

Building Blocks of Reflective Leadership – Detachment

All of us are attached to particular views of the world and given ways of approaching it. We know that a project is pointless and we have no time for those who think otherwise. We know that a favored employee is a gem, regardless of performance reviews suggesting the contrary. We have our positions and,… Continue Reading

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