Financial returns from Level 4 emergent leadership
October 15, 2014
The value of timeless values
November 17, 2014

Ripples of hope


Does your manager treat you as a valued human being, with skills, a career and aspirations? Or does he or she just ask you to meet deadlines, offering criticism twice a year at an appraisal?

Despite all the research over the years showing the benefits of engaged employees and strong teams, the latter approach is still common. With this ‘command and control’ approach, people are regarded merely as ‘resources’. It’s unlikely that an employee is treated well, with their individual aspirations catered for. But there is a further impairment from this approach, possibly an even more damaging one: the group dynamics of the company are routinely missed.

The ways in which skills, communication, morale and enthusiasm can be built and spread from one individual to another or one group to another, are hard to identify if you don’t factor them in to your way of analysing and running the company. Yet this dimension makes a huge difference to every dimension of the commercial task: devising new products and services; bringing them to market; serving the customer well, and so on. Even cost control and efficiency are more likely if engagement and understanding are high.

Engaging employees is not just an end in itself, however. That’s why I’ve developed a comprehensive approach to business management, covering Strategy, Systems and Resources, as well as Culture, Relationships and Individuals – the 6 Box Model Information on these six dimensions brings company analysis to life. The strengths and the weaknesses of the real organisation become vivid, and you can start to understand the organisation as an inter-connected set of teams, not an inanimate collection of resources.

And this is where it gets really interesting and dynamic. Some of the more recent scientific discoveries on human communities show that the benefits of enhanced well-being, focus and engagement are not confined to people immediately affected by a shared idea or an inspirational example of leadership, but may spread outwards to other groups. They can form positive ripples of engagement, inspiration and exchange of ideas that spread outwards

Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis noted in a Harvard Business Review article ‘Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership’ in 2008 that research in social neuroscience has revealed many of the often sub-conscious dynamics through which we ‘pick up’ the moods and attitudes of those around us. They described the phenomenon of ‘mirror neurons’:

“This previously unknown class of brain cells operates as neural Wi-Fi, allowing us to navigate our social world. When we consciously or unconsciously detect someone else’s emotions through their actions, our mirror neurons reproduce those emotions. Collectively, these neurons create an instant sense of shared experience.”

The power of creating positive ripples was beautifully illustrated some decades earlier, in this quote from Robert F. Kennedy:

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Of course, the same dynamics can occur in negative ways: discontent and disengagement can also spread. But this is not a contrary point – it underlines the importance of understanding, and paying attention to, aspects of business management that used to be regarded as ‘soft’: engagement, enthusiasm and so on.

It follows from this that my ambition with The Management Shift is not vague or utopian, but thoroughly practical and with a sound basis in scientific evidence. As I note in the Preface:

“This book is about turning knowledge into action to achieve a transformation. This is not a lofty ambition: I describe how it has been done. It is about igniting changes at individual mindsets and organisational culture, that creates ‘The Management Shift’, creating many positive ripples that will go far beyond individuals and their organisations, positively impacting societies on a large scale.”

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