Avoiding the down-side of today’s management platitudes about competition

This guest posting is by Karen Senteio, Business and Life Coach and President of VERVE. You can read more about her and her business here.

The corporate world has gone mad — and we have gone mad with it. A disease has penetrated too many organizations. In the cause of dealing with competition by “adding value,” we have become destructive and combative. In our quest to ensure we are at the top of the heap, we have forgotten teamwork, collaboration and organizational focus; abandoned the notion of organizational relevance for “me relevance”.

The root cause of this behavior is not arrogance — it is fear. It is the fear that we will not measure up; that we will not get a raise, not have a job, and, ultimately, not be able to support ourselves or our families.

Whew, that is pressure. The productivity spurt fear causes is real, but it is not sustainable — and is clearly unhealthy for companies and individuals.

Constant combat

The ”value add” era has created a combative environment where everything is a fight and folks come out with both barrels blazing to solve every issue. Everything is serious. Brainstorming sessions and meetings turn into WWIII; and sharing an opinion brings the wrath of ages down upon you. It is no longer coming up with the best idea that is the motivation; it is how I can make Mary or Bob look incompetent, so I can look better.

This is not the environment to fosters trust, creativity, or collaboration — all of which are necessary for long-term survival of an organization. I completely get it that a company must survive in an era of extreme competition, but is this way to do it? No, sir.

Bringing value in

How do we unwind this tightly wound ‘value add’ culture and flip the switch so that we can bring value in? Bringin value in is when turf is abandoned for the good of the organization and the free-flow of ideas is embedded in the culture.

When everyone concentrates on bringing value in, combat is replaced with high-spirited innovation. The mission of the company becomes being an incubator of new ideas that are discussed, added to, or abandoned when they don’t fit.

I am not saying abandon arguing. I like a good, productive argument or debate. It is the intention behind the debate that makes all the difference in the world.

Intent will determine if you are in an incubation discussion, where ideas percolate, or a destructive discussion where the motivation is to squelch others for a more sinister, myopically selfish reason. Only one of these fosters long-term gain.

Start with an effort to change the environment. Schedule an “incubator” meeting instead of a staff meeting. Demonstrate to employees that there is a new ‘value’ in town and it is ‘value in’. Let them see that their ideas are not crushed, but enhanced. Let them see the new behaviors rewarded and old destructive behaviors discouraged.

This single, small step may be the catalyst needed to repair what is now a gaping hole through which innovation and creativity are draining away.

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