Oh wow, you’re the CEO!? SENIOR Vice President, you must be really important!
Titles Influence Actions
Think about this. If you automatically attribute certain rights and privileges to a certain “class” of titles, your interactions with those people are artificially influenced right out of the gate. In addition, if you attribute a level of superiority with certain titles and YOU have one of those titles, that can influence the way you interact with other people as well.
I was talking with someone recently about an issue at their company. They said that they thought that they had a fine solution, but they didn’t feel comfortable sharing it because they’re not “a director”. Please!!! That kind of stuff drives me nuts. As I shared with him my feelings about that kind of thinking, it became clear that he had gotten the “who are you to suggest something to me?” treatment from people in his company before, which sadly prevents him now from speaking up.
Knowing that certain kinds of titles influence the way people act, why do we still insist on having those types of titles within our organizations? Don’t we want every person within our organization to feel like they can disagree with anyone, and that their ideas are as important as anyone else’s? Don’t we want people to gain respect and admiration based solely on their contributions and character, not an artificial label?
So what’s your title? Do you think people would address you differently if your title were something “less important”?
Time For A New Approach
Why not revisit the way you assign titles? Do you need them at all? Maybe each person in your company can make up their own title? Maybe your title is based on the department you work in, and is the same as everyone else in the department? Maybe a title has clear objective accomplishments that need to be met in order to attain it, yet it’s not tied to any rigid management hierarchy?
In the end, it comes down to the culture and management structure of your organization. Unfortunately, some companies want titles to keep people in a box. Other companies have traditional titles, but they have such a strong culture of equality and value for each individual that titles may not have much of an effect on the way people treat one another. In the end, titles alone will obviously not solve the problem of overly hierarchical and bureaucratic management, but they can play a role in breaking down those barriers.
Only you can judge the effects of titles in your organization. It’s worth considering.
Yesterday, I came across this amazing series by Jonathan Fields entitled: CEO’s Secret Weapon: little-known tactics that fuel visionary thinking.
The Three A’s that Jonathan talks about in the series are:
Train Your Attention
Time To Get Active
I won’t even give a quick summary here. Read the whole three part series. When reading it, think about the people you know that really seem to stand out as visionaries and top performers. The people that consistently excel in most everything they do. Maybe that’s you? You are probably doing these things in some form or another.
Late last week I had the privilege of talking with someone that opened and ran numerous McDonald’s in the 1970′s.Two things he said really stuck out to me. One speaks of his own innovative management practices and the other of the leadership of McDonald’s CEO at that time (Fred Turner).
He told me about one McDonald’s he ran in particular, and how he had problems in that area with many of the younger employees. He came up with a hiring strategy in which he would hire half younger/teenage employees, and half nannies. What he found was that the nannies would naturally organize, and manage the younger employees. He said it was so successful that he rarely had to deal with disputes, or really run the store himself. He would come out of his office, and the nannies that were working would immediately tell him to relax, and assure him that they had everything under control!
What an innovative management strategy!
He also told me something that Fred Turner said to him, and the other 48 managers at the time that were out in the field, growing the McDonald’s business, and opening stores all over the world. He told them: “When you guys are out in the field, you are the CEO. You make the decisions, and you’ll be right 75% of the time. And that’s the best rate in the industry.”
Fred empowered his employees to make decisions and he encouraged and inspired them to be the best.
I love hearing stories like these.
In thinking about innovation and how innovation can become a cultural trait, as opposed to something that organizations strive for artificially, I came up with what I call the “SANE” approach to innovation, or SANE Innovation.
This approach is to be used by leadership, or the individual/individuals you have made responsible for managing innovation within your organization or team. In my opinion, at the company level, this person should be your CEO or another executive. I don’t believe it is by any means their sole responsibility to innovate. I do believe however, that innovation needs an owner, a champion in your organization.
SANE = Set Expectations->Ask->Nurture->Execute
Set Expectations – Set the expectations of your team members appropriately. Let them know that you want innovation to be a core part of your culture, and not just something you talk about. Let them know that you are confident that each and every one of them has the ability to truly innovate, and that as the leader you will shoulder the responsibility of supporting them, and helping them hone their creativity and talents.
Ask – Ask them to innovate, and ask them often. Now that you’ve shown that you are serious about innovation being something that is expected from everyone, and that you are willing to help them innovate, put the ball back in their court and ask them to come up with innovative, outside the box ideas and solutions to problems. Reinforce how much you value, and expect their ideas by providing them with a system and/or process for submitting those ideas regularly. Depending on your organization, some ideas may need to be private, and reviewed by specific people, but the more ideas that are public, and accessible to everyone in your organization the better.
Also, don’t shortcut the process yourself. Be sure to submit your own ideas, and ask the rest of your organization to comment on them and give their honest opinions, just as they would with anyone else’s idea.
Nurture – Nurtue ideas and innovators properly. Make the nurturing and refinement process something that not just management is involved in. Ensure that the original stake holders in the idea maintain ownership of it, and are comfortable with their level of involvement in it going forward. The more involvement on their part the better. Taking their idea and running with it on your own, even if you at some point give them credit for it, will only create angst, and resentment. In the end your realization of “their” idea will most likely be far from what they envisioned it to be anyway, and they may not even want to be given credit for it.
Execute – Great ideas in and of themselves are worthless. It’s the execution of those ideas that counts. Make sure that when innovative ideas are identified and supported, that you execute on them to bring them to reality. One of the worst things you can do at this stage, when you have a mature idea that has been fleshed out, and that you have supported, is let the idea flounder. Make the execution of innovative ideas/concepts a priority over all things that are not mission critical to your business at the time they arise. Empower the stake holders/idea owners to execute and provide them with all the necessary support and resources needed to do so. Innovative ideas that make it to the point of approval should not become stagnant, as it undermines your entire standpoint, and devalues the worth you place on innovation in your organization.
Remember, you haven’t done anything innovative until you execute.