A process can do 'NOTHING!' without people!
...This statement, when considered with some neurological insight, helps us see the typical focus on 'process-as-a-control-method' a little differently ... more as an issue of 'Closing the stable door after the horse has bolted'. I.e. imposing control through process may deliver efficiency improvements, but if the underlying issues (getting minds aligned) are not addressed, any improvement will be short-lived before things slip back or get worse.
Controversial? Maybe. True? Definitely!
(For a whole variety of psychological, neurological and sociological reasons and with globally collected and reported 'Change initiative failure rate' Statistics to support the claim).
So what can we do? If we, as leaders, know a bit more about people (including ourselves) and how and why people react (act / behave / perform) we can consciously choose to create conditions in which people perform, change and adapt in faster and better ways, on behalf of their own happiness / quality of life and our organisations!
This 'conscious' approach can and does reduce and in some cases totally eliminate the 'Delay' waste from the 'adaption' process in people, teams and companies, providing flexibility, confidence and comfort in an ever-changing world ... and then everybody benefits - Not only in terms of wealth and wisdom, but also in respect to health via lower stress levels!
When you consider principles like Transactional Analysis (Parent-Adult-Child), it's apparent that we each retain the effect of experience we are exposed to during childhood (good and bad) as a deep rooted influence over our automatic reactions. We react on auto-pilot to the world in general and the specific daily challenges it presents in adulthood relative to what we have experienced in life to that point.
So, the long and short of it is, the real art of leadership is the art of dealing with the human brain and it's automatic responses, in ways which get the best from the person, irrespective of the experience that persons brain had when forming through and since childhood...
Understanding stress (the release of stressor hormones which impact the wiring and firing of the brain) as either Positive, Tolerable or Toxic can really help guide leaders toward the best solutions in respect to organisational performance improvement.
On that basis, it can also be said, Leadership is about dealing with the damage and challenges in peoples heads, caused by emotionally traumatic events from another time and place (Childhood or another company - much of the time, what you're trying to overcome in a change environment has less to do with current conditions and more to do with a persons emotional reaction based on previous experience).
So, how does this link 'leadership' to 'Toxic stress damaging our children'? We're developing our children to become the people who work throughout our society in future generations; and yet we fail to make the creation of conditions in which initial traumatic imprinting is minimised or removed our primary objective, as a society, today.
When we do recognise the latest findings from Neuroscience at a cultural and social scale, and make the development of children an issue aligned to our current knowledge (rather than continuing with the development of children which follow patterns inherited from an ignorant past), then, leadership and management will become a cooperative experience along-side people who are capable of taking full responsibility in an emotionally mature way, with confidence, high self esteem and the brain space to innovate naturally.
That's how it links - at a 'Systems' level of thinking, the Input provided to our children is a determinant of the output they deliver as adults - (a neurological growth and psychological development issue). If we want 'Adult experience' to improve on this planet, the key is to advance our methods of developing the children. We won't 'consciously choose' to do that as the incumbent adults, until we share the belief that this is what 'Good' looks like.
To be fair, today, we rarely if ever consider leadership in terms of neural adaption and stressor hormone reduction such that we maximise people performance. This is a bit of a tragedy, because we have the science and the studies to prove why this level of awareness in leadership teams is the most effective, efficient and thus profitable for organisations (public and private sector alike).
If we were to lead from the very top with such awareness, we may even improve public sector efficiency, reduce tax's, reduce poverty, increase dispersed wealth and have more cash available to improve social care such that we stop damaging those poor children who find themselves with no stability from their own parents. A policy of 'efficiency improvement for investment in child development' could reduce the gap in emotional stability across society as much as the economic social gap.. now that really would be something!
So, that poses a question. Do we
1. remain satisfied with the idea that we can evolve the art of leadership from being a variation on management by control to being focused on the creation of conditions in which we help to 'fix' adult brains (carrying the challenges imprinted from childhood) to get our organisations and society to perform at a higher level
2. do we demonstrate 'true leadership' and strive to learn enough about the human condition, so that our cultural expectation is that every adult action is aligned to the objective of stopping the exposure of children to events which leave them emotionally traumatised / challenged through 'Toxic Stress' in the first place?
I don't know about you, but I'd settle for option 1. but vote for option 2. i.e. don't break it (the individual) in the first place and you won't have to fix it (Society) down the line ... we can only imagine the humanitarian benefits that would follow such a paradigm shift.
So, what inspired me to jot down those few thoughts?
If you read the article (via the link above), you will see it challenges the over-abundant diagnosis of ADHD and the crass labelling of children as, "having a 'problem'" (i.e. making them the 'thing' to be fixed). The issue I have with this, following 22 years identifying 'root-cause' in whole organisations, change environments and systems, is two-fold:
1. A problem 'labelled' usually stops people investigating and identifying 'Root Cause' (drives a focus on 'treatment' rather than 'cure'). and
2. Labeling is a soft way of saying we 'Blame' the child.
In that sense, we might consider ADHD less as a clinical condition due to a genetic fault (which it isn't but is often assumed to be) and more as a convenient label covering a wide range of 'normal' childhood behaviours given the conditions in which the child finds itself; the label however provides parents and 'the system' a way to 'blame' the child and devolve themselves of any responsibility for the 'performance' of that child.
Once we have a label in place, we stop looking for 'Root Cause'! (This applies to people and process).
Therefore, rather than considering a child's behaviour as a pattern of response in relation to their 'prevailing conditions', with 'Root Causes' found in fear, control and other such impressions triggered by parenting skills, violence, aggression, insecurity coming from their environment etc. etc. ... we label the child ADHD and systematically fail to investigate and address the real catalyst behind the behaviour - i.e. the emotional / stressful conditions their growing brains find themselves in and react to... In other words, the patterns of behaviour learned in response to the stimulus their brains receive from their peers and parents.
The current solution? Accept the parents account of the 'problem child' and prescribe drugs as a form of chemical lobotomy to 'keep them quiet' i.e. chemically inhibit parts of their brain to 'shut down' their emotional responses in the absence of conditions which encourage them to overcome their predominant Emotional-Territorial development needs and thus develop the executive function within their pre-frontal cortex. (a La Neurogenesis and early years neuronal connectivity speed of development).
The options open to people with ADHD children are, therefore:
1. Take the responsibility to create the conditions in which the child's developing brains and minds can thrive and develop executive function to overcome emotional responses, or
2. Stick to their own beliefs / Carry on with their own behaviours / Fail to understand what the child is reacting to within their environment and give them a pill to quiet them down?
What the Hell is going on?
In today's self serving profit driven world, money can be made from the supply of pills, screen based shoot em up games and poor eating habits! The obvious choice then, for any self-respecting capitalist looking toward his next huge bonus is to ignore the bigger picture and make products which chemically alter the brains of developing children, either by direct injection, ingestion or by sticking them in front of screens full of violence. This then provides those same 'bosses' the opportunity to complain that you 'just can't get the staff' 20 years down the line and further moan about immigration and that you can only get 'good workers' from abroad.
This money making chemical 'treatment' largely accepted by society for reasons of convenience, allows the conditions the children find themselves in to perpetuate and be 'learned' / 'normalised' (become imprinted and memorised as part of their world-view / reality tunnels).
This ensures only one thing - Children exposed to such poor parenting skills or other emotionally traumatic conditions through childhood will in most cases, accept their 'label', define themselves as 'wrong / broken', suffer immense 'self-concept issues and as a result grow up to repeat the same behaviours as the adults and parents they experienced as a child, providing themselves and 'the system' the capacity to off-load responsibility and perpetuate 'blame' with sayings like, "He's just like his father" and "The Apple doesn't fall far from the tree".
When leaders in organisations consider the negative impact Stress has on individual performance (as listed in the image - above) and they compare this to the performance they require from a 'Good worker', it doesn't take a rocket scientist to identify the correlation between stress and the poor performance of individuals, teams and entire organisations. It's equally obvious that there are huge benefits to leaders in understanding more about stressor hormone release, stress triggers, the type of leadership required and the principles behind conditions which reduce stress and thus boost performance.
This is OK at one level, but it's only option 1. Fix what's broken by increased education.
When leaders of nations consider the negative impact stress has on individual performance and they compare this to the performance they require from a 'good citizen', and the expense of serving those with social services alongside the inordinate values lost from the economy due to days lost to stress related issues ...
Then we can talk about option 2. Don't break people in the first place.
When we start having those conversations, we may develop sufficient reason and thus passion to drive for efficiency improvements with a common purpose - to use the knowledge we have to educate the education system, support parents so they do parenting better and 'fix' issues within the social care system which are currently damaging the brains of our future adults ... our children.