The Leadership Morale Button
The tyranny of growth works against the planet and for an organisation. Organisations seem to need to grow if they are not to become moribund. Since organisations are simply people en masse let’s look first at why people need to grow. If you don’t you fall behind, lose contact with what is happening and become out of date. It’s the old ‘juvenile lead’ syndrome.
As a juvenile lead you are respected and admired for your precociousness. If you don’t develop when you grow up you become an Ageing Juvenile Lead, than which there are few sadder sights. A company faces the same problem. Its entrepreneurial exuberance is vital when it starts. As it matures the organisation probably puts on a face with more gravitas. Then it becomes old. For both the juvenile lead and the entrepreneurial start-up business new blood has to be injected into the veins to revitalise them.
How do you do this? Stanford University is proposing a lifelong programme of learning amounting to perhaps the equivalent of six years education spread out over a career. The principle of that is good though I am not in favour of a rigid programme. People need handling individually not like battery chickens. Definition lifelong learning involves new technologies, revised morality as it applies to new circumstances and creative adventure.
However well taught the theories of these, the practice is often somewhat different and there comes a time when role-play must become real risk-taking. Whether that is done with new technology and new products / services or whether it is achieved by acquisition will depend on the industry. New vitality comes from chancing your arm. Growing a business is one way.
As leader of an organisation you have the hardest task of all – to keep morale bubbling and to ensure that your colleagues see tomorrow and beyond as key to their interest and fun.
Think of the arrival in a family of a new baby. Disruptive, tension-setting, relationship-disturbing, it causes everyone to rethink their role, their timetable and their values. But the joy of the new arrival, the challenges s/he poses and the rewards when those are met far outweigh the troubles and worries that go with the family growing. So it is with a company.
Handling new acquisitions while driving on with the established businesses I learnt that the way to make use of both was to intermingle the managers, often plucking one from the old product area and putting her or him into the newly acquired business. Who learnt most – the manager or the business – I don’t know. They both learnt a lot and that is what improved morale beyond all expectations.
Of all the tools a boss has the promise of a better tomorrow, of growth, is the most valuable. Even in a sunset industry I have seen individual growth by new skills and corporate growth by new enterprises make what could have been a sad decline into a hopeful future. When a boss can demonstrate that to his team he has them working their butts off for the business.
The secret is that sunset is not an ending. It is a promise of tomorrow.