It can be very uncomfortable leading your team through creative destruction, but it is usually worth the effort. Creative destruction is an economic term coined by Joseph Schumpeter in his work entitled “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” (1942) to denote a “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”
In this post, I am stretching the term a bit to describe situations where the old is being destroyed in order to create something new in an organization. In this context, creative destruction can be caused by changes you initiate as a manger, changes initiated by your organization or changes initiated by outside factors. The destruction may be intentional or unintentional, within your control or not. Many times you or others cannot see the creative potential and see only the destruction, thus affecting your perspective of events.
How can you lead your team through creative destruction? By acknowledging that the destruction is an inherent element of its creativity. By accepting that something is being created and will result from the situation. By navigating the situation by staying aware, protecting your team, keeping them informed, helping them through, understanding what you can control and what you cannot and creating a set of values to guide you and your team through (for example, developing resilience).
Does this seem like mentation without much practicality? If yes, take a moment and think of the last time your team experienced a system, person, process or otherwise being “destroyed” and something new being created in its place. It’s a concept that may help you navigate the turbulence we all encounter as we lead and manage.
Managers manage through good times and bad. The good and bad times can relate to a manager’s organization, to his or her personal life or other external circumstances. Knowing the source of bad times is one aspect of coping with what is happening, but is not enough to get you through. Here are some coping strategies for managing through the rough spots.
• Take a moment to sense your emotions. Are they affecting your ability to manage? If yes, do what you can to deal with them and regain your center.
• Take the “pulse” of your team. Are they being affected? What do they need to keep their work on track?
• Find a way to express your emotions in a way that doesn’t disrupt your work, but does allow you to feel and move beyond them.
• Keep your eye on your goals and the work that has to get done. You may go a bit slower or take a break, but work and managing go on.
• Stay aware if the rough spot is going to be around for a while. Be aware of your own needs and those of your team, so you can make it through in the best possible way.
• Don’t resist or become rigid. Good and bad times are part of the flow of life and work. Learning to navigate them makes you a better manager.
Within collaborations there are important nuances to be aware of. One of them is to find the line between collaboration and devaluing yourself. While collaboration is increasingly the way we work, it is equally important to honor your own individuality and values. Collaboration does not mean sacrificing yourself for a team or group. It means finding the way that a team of individuals can work together harmoniously and productively.
Here are some signs that can indicate that you may have crossed the line between collaborating and sacrificing.
• Another person(s) is dominating the conversation and your voice is stifled
• You find yourself in emotionally charged conversations with team members where you focus on what you want them to do differently, rather than focusing on what you need from the collaboration
• The project is proceeding in a way that is not going to achieve its goal and the team is not working to improve the situation. You are worried about delivering and how this might affect your reputation
• You find your stress level rising about working with the team and you have not defined clear boundaries for your work with them
• You are not honoring your values
Can you identify other signs?
You gain nothing, and often lose, by sacrificing yourself. Don’t do it. Each member of a team matters. That is the challenge of collaboration: to find a way to work together that honors the individuality and contributions of all team members, including you.
You are not at the mercy of consultants. As a manager, you may find yourself going beyond your immediate team and outside the organization to hire consultants. Having been on both sides, as client and as consultant, here are some of my insights on making consulting relationships work.
Consultants are a varied species. A first step in managing consultants is to set your preferences. Do you want a small or large firm? How much is cost a factor? What working style must the consultant have to add value to your work? It is often a challenge to get through the marketing hype – not doing so, however, can be fatal. Get a set of questions ready that zero in on what you want. Always check references, beyond an initial screen.
When a consultant comes on board, clarity, articulating expectations and setting performance measures are essential to successful teaming. This is an area where some consultants “dance’. They have their own ideas of what they want to do and consider their value as knowing more that you. Not true. They are as much a member of your team as your in-house team and you need them to collaborate.
Another important factor, from the consulting side of the relationship, is to be treated with respect. Too often (although at times justified), consultants are maligned. If disrespect develops in your relationship, the consultant should not be there. They are not providing what you need. However, if your consultant is being grouped, disrespectfully, in a negative category, that is not fair. Consultants are a varied species and each relationship is one-on-one.
In my article, ORGANIC CONSULTING:
A Way To Give Your Clients Maximum Value, I offer one perspective on how consultants and their clients can maximize the value of a consultant’s work.
Inevitably, teams go through times of turbulence – unsteady movement, conflict or confusion. What is the best way to manage through turbulence?
The starting point is to acknowledge that the energy of your team has changed and you are managing in an unusual environment. Then, you can shift your focus to managing in that environment. When I was working for a federal agency, I was managing team turbulence as a new Presidential administration came in with a very different policy focus from the previous administration. At that time, considering we were a policy team, team members were understandably concerned for their jobs and uncertain what was to come. There were early signs from the new administration that our division could be eliminated.
As I focused on managing the team through this time, I openly acknowledged to them the uncertainty we were in and validated their feelings and concerns. We had a lot of pressure on us in our programs, so I had to find a way we could keep going and get our work done. Some team members were looking for transfers within the government or new positions. I met with the team and told them we had to strike a balance. I asked them to commit to spending the major part of the day on our programs. I told them I would be flexible if they had to spend some work time addressing their future. We charted our path forward together. I also emphasized the need for open communication. I would keep them informed of developments within the agency and asked them to let me know if they were seriously considering another position. I said that uncertainty was just that – uncertain. I did not want us reacting to something that would not materialize. We made it through. One team member did leave. Although the nature of our work changed to conform to the new administration’s policies, there were no layoffs.
When managing team turbulence, keep in mind the importance of acknowledging change, being flexible, setting a focus for the team and maintaining close communication. With this approach, you have good prospects for keeping the team functioning and achieving the best results for all of you.
The start of a new year is a time of freedom, if you allow it to be. You are standing in a clearing having left 2012 and now entering 2013. As you stand and look forward, the landscape is open and waiting for you. You have choices. You can clutter the clearing with things – unessential activities, fears, the priorities of others. Or, you can create a path in the clearing, moving into 2013 with focus and resolve. How does the clearing you are standing in right now look to you? My clearing this year looks open and reflects the freedom I have in going forward. It is also reflects the need for me to shape my path and create what my business will be this year. You have this freedom as well. As you stand in the clearing, shape what your and your team’s year will be and how you will go forward.
Following up on my last post Are You Valued As A Manager?, here are some questions to get you started in assessing whether you are valued as a manager.
In Your Organization:
• Are you respected by upper management?
• Does upper management support you when you are dealing with issues with your team?
• Do you have the resources you need to do your work? Or, if not, are the reasons clear and you are supported accordingly?
• Are your role and performance measures clearly defined?
• Do you receive positive feedback for your work (recognition and financial reward)?
• Do you feel positively challenged or constricted in your work?
• Do you see your job as a good fit with your skills and talents?
• Are you proud of your work and accomplishments?
• Are your best traits recognized by upper management?
• Are you doing what you love?
Robert Pozen has written an article “They Work Long Hours but What About Results?” that raises an interesting issue for managers. Pozen writes about work environments where people are acknowledged for late hours and working weekends, but efficiency often goes unrewarded. He recommends rather than counting the hours worked, that you judge success by the results produced. He offers good advice for employees to communicate their results to their managers so that “face time” is not their primary measure.
How do you measure your team’s work? Do you tend to equate long hours in the office with dedication? Do you have biases favoring those who are in the office after hours? The 21st century work world is nimble, agile and demands fast, high quality results. Efficiency thrives in this world. Face time is an outdated notion and best relegated to the lower tier of your success measures.
It is tempting to imagine perfect circumstances or believe wholesale the story senior management creates, but effective management requires that you know the real world you are managing in.
Expressed goals, cheerleading sessions, platitudes about what’s possible or pressures to produce do not define your real world as a manager. Your real world is comprised of the actual conditions you operate in – such things as resources available to you, the time you have to get things done, the skills and aptitude of your team – and how they match the goals and expectations of your organization.
Once you know your real world, you can move on to determine, realistically, what’s possible and then speak truth to power (as best you can in your real world).
Values guide us in many areas of our lives. What are your values as a manager? Here are some questions to help you begin identifying them.
• How would you like for others to describe you as a manager?
• What is important to you regarding the way others treat you in the workplace or market?
• Which of your personal values transfer to your work as a manager? How are they different, if at all, when you bring them into the workplace?
• What kind of work environment do you want to create for your team?
Values are an important foundation for your work as a manager. Know your values. Let them guide you