Healthy disruption versus dysfunctional chaos

Virtually every organisation or team I’ve worked with over the years employed me to help them change some aspect of their team or organisation.

Whether it was to deal with a high absenteeism problem, a high turnover of skilled talent or simply the need to be more profitable — all were situations that required an intervention or change of current practices so that the issues were addressed and solutions uncovered.

Change ruffles feathers. I read somewhere that it isn’t that people hate change, it’s that they hate being changed.

Some change is healthy and necessary. People who love current systems are usually people who benefit from the status quo; they are also the people who will resist any changes with every fibre of their being. In business and careers, stagnation is not healthy. Businesses go out of business, and people who don’t upskill end up on the scrapheap.

Change may require a company to disband certain unprofitable product lines or services, which in turn could lead to loss of jobs. There will absolutely be times when such tough decisions have to be made in order for the business as a whole to survive.

High absenteeism is often the result of a poor manager; people who report to the manager feel under-valued, not included, not listened to. If we investigate high turnover, we will find that people aren’t leaving the organisation, they are leaving a poor manager.

And so organisations needs systems and processes in place that are able to deal with poor managers; another of those situations that may require tough decisions to be made: retrain or remove poor managers?

Dysfunctional chaos is a whole different story. Leaders who decide to change things for the sake of making a personal mark regardless of the cost are actually the worst kind of leaders.

I have to use Donald Trump as my example here.

In my humble opinion Trump falls into the category of a leader who is creating dysfunction on every level, every day he is in office. He has made promises he should never have made i.e. I will bring coal jobs back; he is undoing every environmental protection President Obama put in place. It’s as if he thrives on drama and chaos.

He campaigned on ‘draining the swamp’ yet has built a swampier swamp than ever before. He tapped into the belief among many people that the American government was clumsy, expensive and didn’t serve the American people.

Wanting to improve that system would have been a ‘healthy’ change. However, destroying every part of the system, setting various departments of the American system up against each other, seeding distrust, polarising every aspect of the system and creating an ever bigger and more insidious swamp can only do damage that will take years to heal and will be costing the American public long after Trump ceases to be President.

Any leader worth his or her salt, particularly a leader going into a completely different sector, would take time to investigate systems, to find out why the systems were there in the first place. He or she would take time to speak to every single departmental head to find out more about them and how their departments functioned. Then and only then would he or she consider what changes needed to be made to have a better-functioning operation.

Of course leaders want to make a mark, to have it make a difference that they were there at all; but simply trashing and burning everything and everybody all at the one time just to make themselves look tough and all powerful is a recipe for certain disaster.

‘Nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test his character, give him power.’

Winston Churchill

Ann Andrews CSP

Author Lessons in leadership: 50 ways to avoid falling into the ‘Trump’ trap

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *