A salutary and short tale this week. A friend got a new job based on her success at winning funding for a project. The friend excelled at applying for funding, but she had few skills to run the project. But that did not deter the organization she worked for installing her at its head. She knew she was on a steep learning curve.
Early on she started to flounder. The organization, nominally an intelligent one, failed to provide any appropriate training or mentoring. She flailed around going from one source to another for guidance. Her belief in systems thinking – most prevalent in organizational psychology – became her core sustaining belief. If only she could get everything running efficiently she would be fine.
The more preoccupied she became with this idea the worse her situation got. She lashed out at the people she was leading – also rookies to the enterprise – and started to attack and undermine them. Damn then, why couldn’t they just perform efficiently? She started to dehumanize them in her head, they became cogs in her wheel preventing it going round. She blamed them and other collaborators for all shortfalls, in complete denial about her own inadequacies and shortcomings.
She failed to understand that her systems depended on human interaction, something uncertain and often chaotic. When this is not factored in, our systems may implode. My friend’s did, and she no longer runs it. Her team will take some time to recover.
So thought for the week? It helps to know what we don’t know and to engage with it:
and people matter more than process. Leading anything at all, especially when the going gets tough, we can do with reminding ourselves of that.
Coming Next: Spotting Our Own Talent