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Emotional Intelligence…The Hidden Component of Great Organizations

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence wrote, “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.”

After my brain quit hurting from reading this, I started to understand what he meant. So, I decided to take the quote and break it down into a leadership perspective. Here goes:

1) “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice” – I was in a meeting not long ago with some very high ranking individuals. In the blink of an eye, a well thought out decision made by a process improvement team was overturned. The high ranking individuals gave little reason. Basicially, they limited their thinking to what they “failed to notice.” That a team of highly skilled people already came up with a good solution, which addressed the same concerns that they were citing. I have to wonder, how engaged will this team be once they go back to their normal work environments? How much extended damage did these, “leaders” just do by “failing to notice” someone else’s hard work? Certainly, decisions need careful review by leadership. But, careful review and servant leadership models show that dialogue between leadership and the people who do the job should take place before overturning and disempowering a team. Only then will they believe that you care, and trust you as a leader.

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2) “And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.” – The “leaders” in part one are not bad people. Nor do I consider them to be poor leaders necessarily. Having worked with them, I have come to understand the constraints on their time. I also understand that law enforcement, by its very nature, is a system known for quick decision making. In several instances, this can be a very good thing, as hesitation can get someone killed.

As the second sentence reads, they simply failed to notice what they failed to notice. Leaders sometimes do not recognize the impact of their decisions on the people that do the work, until long after they have made their decision, if ever. This equates to the beginning of, ’What were they thinking,” by line personnel. After that, the shut down starts. Line personnel and middle managers quit offering ideas because they believe, “leadership” doesn’t care about what I say anyway. Leadership then starts to believe people need constant guidance since they never offer solutions. Line personnel then start feeling micromanaged and disengage…it goes on and on and on, until you have a culture of followers. This happens until one day, a leader realizes that he “failed to notice” an important factor in his decision…input from the people that do the job. From then on, he becomes the people’s advocate.

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How much do your leaders,”fail to notice?” What is your organization doing to realign and prevent this from happening in the future? Do you have the courage to tell leaders that they are “failing to notice?” Sometimes I can only …ponder.

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Comments 1

  1. tonyjoyce

    This meeting story is oh so familiar! It’s a very natural pattern: New leaders are somewhat surprised at decisions when they first are introduced to the board room, but after a couple of meetings they become acclimated and tend to ignore the warning signals. It’s then a lot like the cause of many industrial system failures: our first inclination is to disable the alarm system when there are many false alarms. I’m afraid that our leaders fail to notice the signals because they are all in the boardroom together.

    The pattern seems to be one of group think, where the emperor has no clothes, IMHO and from outside the room. One remedy for the board is to consider how they would conduct their boardroom business inside of a glass house. It is a bitter pill and one that most leaders find way too hard to swallow.

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