Where there is smoke, is there a fire?
I can’t help it; I see leadership lessons everywhere. In every conversation, in every story.
Isn’t it weird when disaster strikes, how curious we become about understanding what went wrong? I recently had a get-together with some business owners over a coffee and the conversation came around to the recent implosion of the Titan. I really don’t know all the ins and outs because I actively avoid the news for the most part, but one comment really struck me because I have seen it before.
Apparently, one of the leaders of the Titan cautioned the leadership about the dangers and got fired for his trouble. When you have a culture where people who are the voice of reason or caution are shut down, it never ends well. We only hear about it when there is a massive catastrophe, but it happens in small ways in offices worldwide every day.
For as long as I have been working with teams, I have seen the dynamic of that guy, so I could see how it could happen. There is the one guy or gal, who sees gloom and doom where everyone has great visions of the future. They accuse him/her of not being a team player and people roll their eyes when they bring up “that thing” once again.
This is the guy/gal who everyone wants me to “sort out”, and sometimes they are the ones who see the smoke or the iceberg that no one else sees. The worst part is if they have done it before and nothing happened, people stop listening. As in the case of the Titan, it wasn’t the first or third or thirtieth dive that had the catastrophic failure, and I wonder if that gave them courage or bravado to just keep on going ignoring the signs of failure. There are many disasters where someone comes out of the woodwork and says I tried to tell them. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, and as it is all being unpacked now, everyone is astounded that nobody shut them down.
Look, I don’t have the answers, and we might think, come on man, nobody is going to die here, but as Andy Stanley says, “leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say”. The worst thing is to have a team of people who have given up speaking up or are too afraid to disagree.
I wonder if the need to all get along and not be that guy is a form of artificial harmony.
Why do we want to shut down negative comments and thoughts so quickly?
I recently posted some thoughts on the dangers of artificial harmony.
“Artificial harmony may seem appealing at first glance. It creates an illusion of peace and tranquillity, where everyone appears to get along perfectly. But beneath the surface, serious issues can fester, stifling innovation, hindering critical thinking, and impeding progress”.
So, what can we do to avoid the pitfalls of artificial harmony and foster a healthier work environment?
Encourage healthy conflict: If we embrace, and even encourage people to question, have different perspectives and create a culture that encourages healthy conflict. Constructive debates lead to better decision-making, improved problem-solving, and more robust solutions.
Foster psychological safety: Cultivate an atmosphere of trust and psychological safety. Ensure that team members feel comfortable expressing their opinions and challenging ideas without fear of retribution or judgment.
Promote open communication: Encourage open and transparent communication channels. Actively seek feedback, both positive and negative, and create opportunities for everyone to contribute their ideas and concerns.
Remember, true growth and innovation emerge from the crucible of constructive conflicts and diverse perspectives. Embrace the discomfort of disagreements, and together, let's build a workplace culture that values authenticity, collaboration, and continuous improvement.
I think if we foster a culture where people are encouraged to speak their minds for the good of the company and in a constructive way, we will listen when someone is warning us of problems. And this requires leaders who are secure and open to improvements.
Are there people in your organisation who look like nay-sayers but are really your chance to avoid disaster?
Leadership Lessons Amidst Disaster.
Where there is smoke, is there a fire?