Do you remember the old “Whac-a-Mole” game? During my childhood we’d go to the arcade, pick up the oversized, soft, rubber mallet and whack plastic moles that would pop up at random from five holes in a waist-level cabinet. Every mole successfully whacked was worth 10 points, and we’d work ourselves into frenzy, whacking moles as fast as we could before time ran out. The app is available for the iPhone and Android devices, and there is even a $28,000 executive Whac-a-Mole cabinet complete with moles made in the likeness of friends, family, or co-workers and liquor and glass storage.
How many moles have you whacked today? As executives, we want to keep our organizations humming along smoothly and efficiently, correcting and preventing mistakes wherever they pop up. We pride ourselves on being able to identify and resolve problems or quickly root out inefficiencies. We sometimes are frustrated at employees that don’t take initiative, for whom it seems we have to spell out everything. Bass & Avolio wrote about these employees, characterizing them as a “workforce of risk avoiders and individuals who work merely to standards using ‘traditional methods.’” Got a few of those?
Here’s something that may surprise you. These followers “avoid attempts to innovate because they risk making mistakes and receiving negative reactions from their leader[s].” Could it be that the problem is not the employees….but you?
Bass & Avolio describe the leaders as having a “Management by Exception” transactional leadership style characterized as monitors who detect mistakes and are on the lookout for variances from standards. They are extremely reactive and take corrective action when errors occur. While at times this style may be necessary, it creates a “zero-defects mentality at all costs [that] can handicap willingness to take calculated risks to do what is needed.”
Some time ago I used a quote in my signature: “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the precipitate.” See what I did there? Are you part of the solution? Or are you part of the sludge that is holding your organization back, stifling creativity and preventing innovation? Maybe that executive Whac-a-Mole cabinet should be taken out of the office.
At the 3rd Annual Chief Customer Officer Summit we’re going to be talking about accelerating leadership, and specifically about how you can go about becoming the leader that everyone respects and is excited to follow. If you are the senior-most customer-facing executive in your company, can you afford not to miss this event?
I’m going to be talking a lot about leadership and authority in the coming months. I look forward to having you join in the conversation.