Death by policy overload

leadership productivity Feb 25, 2021

As a leader, you have the choice between two fundamentally different approaches to achieving your goals:

First, you can inspire your co-workers to be hungry for your ultimate goals, your vision, your route to success, so that they will be keen to get there with you.

Or second, you can implement a bunch of policies, rules, and processes to keep your co-workers on the route that you have determined to be best.

Here’s the thing: There is not much space between these two alternatives. 

Having a great vision, but restrictive policies, makes people cynical. Having neither bold goals nor any policies and rules leads to chaos.

Most organizations opt—often unconsciously—for more policies and less vision.

Managers feel safer implementing the next Six Sigma framework or another set of rules than taking the risk of setting clear goals and leaving it to their people to find the best route. The former requires solid management; the latter, real leadership.

Too many policies are designed to keep staff from making mistakes, like an over-protective parent keeping a child away from dirt and danger.

If employees are always shielded from challenges and unforeseen events, they won’t learn how to deal with them effectively.

And the more people don’t use their brains to solve problems, the more managers feel they need to add more policies. At the end of the day, there is hardly anybody left who is willing—or able—to make a decision. 

How to escape this cycle?

Scrap all policies that are not essential for business success, accept failure, create a bold, emotional vision, and demonstrate the new paradigms each day. Challenging? Yes, for sure. But does the alternative of mediocrity look more promising?




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