The Trouble With Oversimplified Conversations

Oversimplified ConversationsBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Sometimes in the rush to make a quick leadership decision, we end up “dumbing down” an issue to speed up the process. “Dumbing down” an issue may make the decision easier to make, but it can lead us to make choices without considering current information, trends or context. Decisions made that way can cause problems.

It is particularly dangerous to oversimplify conversations about ethics.

An oversimplified message about ethics lacks traction in the naturally complex world of organizational life. 

How we talk about ethics sets the tone for the rest of the organization. That means that oversimplified conversations like “just do the right thing” and “use the highest integrity” will be spread throughout the organization. If the message is not clear, we are just spreading uncertainty.

Oversimplified conversations about ethics lead to oversimplified ethical decision-making. 

By oversimplifying the ethics message, we miss the chance to help people be successful, and increase the chances that they will make short-sighted choices.

To avoid oversimplifying the ethics conversation, use this ethics discussion guide (previously published in Training and Development Journal). It will help you have meaningful conversations about ethics in the context of your organizational challenges: Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership.

522For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

It’s Not About Us

By Linda Fisher Thornton 

You may have noticed that society’s expectations of us as leaders are continuing to increase. Consumers prefer to choose companies that genuinely care about their well-being. Employees want to work for companies that treat people well, do meaningful work and give back to the community. To survive in this new land where ethics is key to success, we must understand that it is not all about us.

Its Not About Us

In a human development sense, our understanding of leadership has essentially “grown up” and moved past personal ego and a self-centered view of things.

Leadership may have once been defined by eloquence, power, or charisma, but today’s successful leadership is defined by creating value for others.  In a human development sense, our understanding of leadership has essentially “grown up” and moved past personal ego and a self-centered view of things. It has progressed from being “all about us” to being about our long-term impact on others.

FROM  SELF-CENTERED VIEW             TO  OTHER-CENTERED VIEW  

FROM  DEMONSTRATING POWER      TO  CREATING SHARED VALUE

What does this less self-centered view of leadership look like in action? It looks like this in a typical day:

  • Talking with employees, customers and other stakeholders to learn their deepest needs
  • Treating everyone with respect
  • Asking how we can make things better for those we lead and serve
  • Being open to change, adapting quickly, and staying competent (because these things define how others experience our leadership)
  • Keeping ethics at the center of everything we do and every decision we make

We need to avoid thinking that it’s all about us. Today’s less self-absorbed leadership is all about proactively and ethically creating value for others.

522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

                     

Case Study: Overwhelmed

OverwhelmedBy Linda Fisher Thornton

“The issue of the overwhelmed employee looms large” according to Josh Bersin, Bersin by Deloitte. (Are You an Overwhelmed Employee? New Research Says Yes, LinkedIn, March 11, 2014). Employees are having a hard time managing an overload of information and tasks, and the problem is not getting any better as technology use continues to increase.

Have you ever gone to your manager to ask for help prioritizing your tasks? Usually we try to avoid it, and do it only as a last resort when we are overwhelmed. It may surprise you to know that how managers answer gives us a clue about their priorities, ethics and values. Let’s listen in as a manager responds to an overwhelmed employee who has come to her for help. 

Take 1

Employee Request: I’m working on 10 major projects, and all of them have tight deadlines. I’m getting behind and I’m not sure which ones are the highest priority. Can you help?

Manager Response:  They’re all important. I’m sure you’ll figure out how to get them all done.

Ethics and Values Insights: This manager has probably not communicated a set of values that should guide the employee’s work. She may not know how to prioritize the tasks herself, and is therefore not able to help her employee. Worse, she shows no compassion for the stress the employee is feeling, and the courage it must have taken to be willing to ask for help. She does not demonstrate respect or care for the employee or her work.

Without guiding values and a formal way to decide on priorities, work is overwhelming and lacks meaning.

Take 2

Employee Request: I’m working on 10 major projects, and all of them have tight deadlines. I’m getting behind and I’m not sure which ones are the highest priority. Can you help?

Manager Response:  There is a lot going on. Let’s take a look at your projects and how they support our top three department goals. Projects that support our top department goals will almost always have the highest priority, regardless of the deadlines… (reviews projects with employee). So that makes these two your top priorities. Let’s go back to the internal clients on these three lower priority projects to renegotiate the time frames.

Employee: That will help a lot, but both of those top two projects are due in the next three weeks. It will still be a challenge to get everything done.

Manager:  Give it your best effort this week and keep me posted on how it’s going. If you find that you still need help, I’ll see if someone from the product team can pitch in and help you one day a week. 

Ethics and Values Insights: This manager shows compassion for the stress the employee is feeling and offers to help, showing care and concern. She clearly knows the department’s priorities and sees her leadership role as enabling the success of her employees. It is clear that she values this employee and sees enabling her success as a leadership priority. Her leadership is based on the ethical values of respect and care.

With guiding values and a formal way to decide on priorities, work seems manageable, and employees feel valued. 

Dale Carnegie’s report “What Drives Engagement and Why It Matters” (White Paper, 2012) revealed that a “caring” manager is one of the key elements that drives employee engagement. So managers, let’s remove “It’s all important. I’m sure you’ll figure it out” from our vocabularies. It not only lacks respect and care, which are important ethical values, it also signifies that we are overwhelmed and incapable of helping employees sort things out.

522

For more, see Linda’s book 7 Lenses and the 21 Question Assessment: How Current is My Message About Ethics?

7 Lenses is a Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner in Business Ethics41cEVx-Tu4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
2014  Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner 
About 7 Lenses
 
 
Info@LeadinginContext.com  @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses

© 2014 Leading in Context LLC 

 

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