Sunday, March 30, 2014

Are You on ‘Cruise Control’ or Driven to Be the Best You Can Be?

It’s probably obvious that different people approach their work at a different pace – where some like a challenging, fast-paced environment and others have their ‘cruise control’ switched on, just going through the motions, but not really interested in pushing themselves.
The immediate thought might be that those on cruise control would be quickly spotted and dealt with – but that is not always the case. Those that have only worked in small to medium sized businesses would be right in assuming the ‘cruise control’ mentality would stick out like a sore thumb and can easily be dealt with through appraisal and disciplinary procedures. That’s unless of course the organization has a ‘cruise control’ mentality in the first place.
But in larger corporates it’s not quite that simple. Here you can find people in management positions, earning good salaries and benefits that simply don’t want to be challenged. They are happy to do their time with as few ‘challenges’ as possible – often because these challenges can put them at ‘risk’ of failing something and/or cause them to work a little bit harder than they would like, and/or highlight that they don’t have an up-to-date skill set to do the job at the highest standards.
Some big corporate cultures allow people to hide and keep performance churning over, but at a very slow pace – they often have managers above them who for some reason either don’t want to push their subordinate manager and/or who are ‘fooled’ into believing that these ‘cruise control’ managers are  ‘doing the best they can under extraordinary circumstances’.
The cruise control work pace seems to be one of those ‘unspoken’ behaviors that employees know about – but often find it hard to formally address. It certainly isn’t something that one can easily assess at interview – unless you give the person specific tasks to do - and even then you can’t be sure that’s the actual pace they’ll work at if employed.
The problem with the ‘cruise control’ mentality is that when it is adopted by people in leadership positions on people who don’t have the desire or natural inclination to work at this kind of slow pace – the leader creates a demotivated and eventually disengaged workforce. Employees who have a desire to continually improve and want to be part of the best organization need leaders that will enable them to optimize their true potential and this is done through positive engagement around a desired future state and best practice – or at least an environment that allows them to strive to be the best they can be at any point in time
It’s worth being aware that these ‘cruise control’ leaders can remain hidden in large organisations their entire career – destroying the potential their department had to create something really special during their tenure and at the same time ‘sucking’ the innovative, life-blood out of their employees. In the work place these leaders (and I use the term loosely) are very good at manipulating their environment – they like to surround themselves with like-minded people who also don’t want to put in too much effort and are pretty good at ‘selling’ their work load as ‘overstretched’ as it is – giving the impression that they don’t have the time to do more – rather than not having the inclination.
If you’ve ever worked for someone in ‘cruise control’ mode you’ll know how demotivational and frustrating the experience can be. Where these leaders will listen to your idea’s but always find reasons why the idea can’t be implemented – often blaming executives or managers further up the chain – making comments like “I’d love to support this idea but so-and-so doesn’t want us to implement any new initiatives at the moment”; where often, in these command and control like structures, the employee can’t verify whether these comments are fact or fiction.
Leadership isn’t rocket science as many would like you to think – it’s about optimizing an organizations sustainable growth through the optimization of existing and latent potential in each and every employee and bringing those individuals together in well-designed teams, in a transparent culture that makes work and innovation a pleasurable rule, rather than a strained exception.

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