08/11/2010

By Andrew Lester

“My Way” is a famous song performed amongst others by the iconic Frank Sinatra. Given his alleged colourful background, his amazing career, and his countless “farewell” concerts he could justifiably have the strongest hold on the phrase and concept. Except one thing: doing it “My Way” is rarely optimal. It works for very few, unique individuals who have the genius to carry it off and who often work in solitary roles.

Despite this however, many business owners and directors take pride that things are either done “My Way” or not at all. What goes with this attitude is an ability to choke off growth like no other behaviour. Such bosses generally have little ability to take on board the ideas and innovations of others. They can even tend to see such input as implying criticism on their own capabilities!

Such sensitive souls use the “My Way or the Highway” attitude as an aggressive stance that treats team members as sub ordinates in a top down hierarchy that overtly demonstrates power. The fact that the overt heavy handed and blunt use of such power stifles innovation and growth is lost to most of them. Even when they do recognise it, their general arrogance refuses to acknowledge that the impact on the team would have any damaging effect on the business or how it should be run.

My father in law made a telling comment to me when I first started in business: if there are two ways of doing something (and both lead to a satisfactory result), your way and your sub-ordinates way, the good leader will always choose the sub-ordinates way. This is the exact opposite of “My Way” and reflects an individual who respects the input of others and wants to see them grow as people and resources for the organisation.

One of the other great chokers of the “My Way” behaviour is in recruitment. In general people tend to employ people they like. As a result they tend to employ people with similar values and personalities. This is why many businesses have formal recruitment processes to stop these natural prejudices restricting the power that a well balanced team can provide. The “My Way” boss however is often different: seeking to hire people who are easily manipulated and who will not threaten how things are done and will not “rock the boat”.

However “My Way” also shows itself insidiously in the “Not Invented Here” syndrome found in many larger organisations. This is where a team rejects a new idea, offer, or opportunity because they hadn’t thought of it themselves first. Even in smaller SMEs the power for human behaviour to choke off growth through simple jealousies and arrogant “we know best” mentalities is legion. Business owners and directors need to check out how they themselves behave and how their teams operate to make sure these damaging and restrictive behaviours are contained.

Please feel free to comment by contacting me: andrewlester@carr-michael.com. Andrew Lester is Managing Partner of Carr-Michael Consulting, specialists in growth management and business performance improvement.


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