There is no more powerful single influence over the failure or success of an organisation than the alignment or misalignment of fundamental, down and dirty, intuitive, imprinted, experience formed 'Beliefs' about what 'Good' looks like in the future.
Humans ... all humans, irrespective of title or position will gravitate toward what they have become comfortable with through their lifetimes. We all adapt to suit our experiences.
Equally we are all guided by our imagined future state. Whatever we imagine our future to contain influences the actions we take now. (If we image ourselves as a Teacher, or a Doctor we will choose the subjects we study and choose to go to university. If we choose to be a racing driver, we are less inclined to study and more inclined to take up hobbies which improve our reactions and visual spatial awareness ... etc.)
We can't get away from this. It happens at a neural level. Our brains dictate our experience and our experience dictates the formation of our brains (neurogenesis). Our imagination predicts the future, the future prediction (our emotional choices) influences our behaviours in pursuit of that future. The science behind these simplified statements is irrefutable.
Live and breath your work experience under good leadership or bad, & your performance will be relative to your experience ... and so will the profits made by the company. 'Bad' might be defined as 'unable to communicate a positive future state' and / or 'failing to understand change' (in respect to imagination relative behaviours and attitudes).
If leaders fail to establish a clear and detailed future state (goals / vision) in the minds of their peers and reports, the resultant behaviours, attitudes and actions will always conflict, undermining the company through confused performance and reduced profits.
This is Neuroscience and Psych 101.
Those who do 'The Knowledge' (memorising the streets of London to be a taxi
driver) have a measurably larger hippocampus* than those who do not do this.
Ballerina's have a smaller cerebellum** than others, because constantly training to spin and not get dizzy see's the neurons required for dizziness reduce. Violin, viola and cello players have more neurons along the central sulcus*** than non-violin players, because they need the 'most' fine motor control of any musician, to get their fingers to land on the string in the right place.
* Hippocampus - the part of the brain most strongly associated to memory and the conversion of short term memory to long term memory
** Cerebellum - The part of the brain most active in respect to coarse motor control (large movements).
*** Central Sulcus - The part of the brain shown in the picture above where fine motor control (Small movements) can be mapped to specific body parts.
As this demonstrates, people have brains which are formed by the experience they have in life. Those experiences are initially triggered by the reactions in the brain. Response mechanisms are pre-packed from birth at a genetic level, but become immediately relative to the prevailing conditions and the quality of the sensory stimulus that allows the individuals brain to respond and grow. It is a cyclic system that is faster when younger, but one which never stops.
Some will find it fearful to jump off a bridge, but be perfectly comfortable riding a motorcycle at 200Mph. Some may feel comfortable crunching numbers in a spread-sheet, while others will feel comfortable welding. But a welder can learn how to use Excel and an accountant can learn how to weld. Each new capability learned will be a new set of neural connections in the brain, the brain can Adapt (or 'Change'), but it is relative to the quality of the experience provided to that brain, by the Physical, Emotional and Social conditions experienced through the senses.
One CEO might want diversity in his group of companies and go on a random acquisition spree, another CEO might want a narrow focus and 'trim' some companies from the group portfolio - this 'desire' will be determined by the CEO's imagined future state.
If 'Trimming' is his belief ... it is what he defines as 'Good', is what he is comfortable with, even companies in that group who do all the right things to improve the business will be cut from the group and sold off. In the process of that, the CEO will be inclined to 'behave' in ways that align with his personal perceptions of comfort, which may or may not be the best actions to take in support of the business he is looking to remove.
This can be considered along the lines of a 'Self Fulfilling prophecy'.
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behaviour.
Although examples of such prophecies can be found in literature as far back
as ancient Greece and ancient India, it is 20th-century sociologist Robert K. Merton who is credited with coining the expression "self-fulfilling prophecy" and formalizing its structure and consequences. In his book Social Theory and Social Structure, Merton defines self-fulfilling prophecy in the following terms: e.g. when Roxanna falsely believes her marriage will fail, her fears of such failure actually cause the marriage to fail.
The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behaviour which makes the original false conception come 'true'. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates
a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as
proof that he was right from the very beginning.
In other words, a positive or negative prophecy, strongly held belief, or delusion—declared as truth when it is actually false—may sufficiently influence people so that their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false prophecy.
Abraham Maslow summed this up with something like this (linking it to assumption);
- If you make an assumption that someone is an idiot, you will treat them
in relation to your assumption.
- Being treated as an idiot will provoke a negative reaction in them, which will confirm to you they are an idiot.
- Thus confirming your assumption.
This applies irrespective of scale. If a CEO assumes a company isn't good for the group ....if a manager assumes he has abad team ... if a team assumes they have a bad manager .... etc. etc.
The good news is, the same principle applies in a positive sense. If leaders understand neuroscience and psychology in sufficient depth to address these issues in themselves and others, the knowledge will influence and direct the outcomes they achieve in a positive sense.
It is possible to achieve alignment at this neural level, even given the fact these differences occur naturally in everyone. That said, it requires 'change' in people, which means 'Change' in brains. If this is not understood, many many mistakes are made.
Policy, process and procedure have their place in helping to achieve that
change, but the change is a human issue in much greater degree than it is a process issue ... unfortunately it is a human issue systematically ignored by the majority of most 'business best practice' training and education methods and courses provided today.
To successfully navigate change, it MUST be understood at a deeper level, if those leading the change are to have an informed opinion about what will and will not work in their pursuit of increased performance and profit.
Now take this principle and consider people in an organisation, all with different perceptions of comfort, with different definitions of 'Good'. Add in the complexity of communication across hierarchical layers (Sub-Cultures), fail to define 'good' in sufficient detail to bridge those sub-cultures and watch the sparks fly, the progress slow, and the organisation looking for change never get out of first gear! (If indeed the poor approach avoids slamming on the organisational brakes & selecting reverse) when a shallow approach (applying process related tools - for instance) is seen as the be-all and end-all of a 'Change program'.
This is naïve in the extreme.
Increasing the bottom line through 'Change' can be achieved, but it absolutely necessitates leaders understand more than the business world today promotes as best practice.
This is the case if we're talking about Parenting, Pedagogy, Production or Politics.
Leadership MUST move into a new era if we're to avoid Einstein's observation that ... 'Problems cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them'.