Ten ways to kill productivity and passion: 4) Demonstrate distrust

Jan 1, 2011 by

This is the fourth in a series of ten posts about common problems that can lead teams to fail or otherwise limit their success. The previous post in this series was 3) Exploit efforts to the extreme.

Organizations have lots of rules. These rules are encoded in various processes and procedures, methodologies and ways of working. They are necessary to avoid chaos that can result when people don’t know what they are doing, perhaps because they lack experience or proficiency. Most teams are under constant fire, overworked and stretched to the limit. This is even more true in our current recession where cutbacks have reduced human resources and the people that are left must do even more. In these situations, rules can ensure that the right things get done.

You can relax rules if you have good people. By this I mean that you may be able to drop the enforcement of a rule, make it optional or just forget about it completely. Good people know what to do and if they don’t know what to do they will figure it out. The possibility of relaxing rules is based on trust. When you can trust Joe to post the press releases without checking with his manager or when Ann can take the project plan updates to the XYZ committee instead of the much larger and slower ABC committee, you can reduce friction, increase speed and reduce costs. Of course you don’t want to end up with a Barings on your hands. There are many good reasons for having rules in place. However here’s the thing:

As individuals get better, more experienced and more proficient, and teams get better, leveraging the combined efforts of the individuals, processes needs to change too. When organizations fail to do this they limit the performance of teams. Even worse, they frustrate high-performing individuals who will interpret the continued enforcement of unnecessary rules as micromanagement and a lack of trust in their abilities. In a jazz ensemble, capable musicians need to have the freedom to let loose and express themselves. This begins with music that allows for opportunities to improvise. Even when someone is not actively soloing, they want the same opportunities because there is constant improvisation by all musicians in small jazz group. The pianist may want to reharmonize some of the chord changes or the bassist might feel inclined to change the groove. This freedom is not only an issue in jazz. A great cellist playing entirely from a written part may want to write her own cadenza, change the bowings or introduce new dynamic contrasts that are not written in the music. Such things might be the catalyst for a truly unique performance. An incessant maestro who insists he knows everything may do more harm than good. Sure there are stylistic or other considerations but the point is that when you have good people you don’t box them in. You don’t impose the same set of rules on someone with a lot of experience as you would on a novice. At the very least leaders should be open to the possibilities because they can’t know everything. Unfortunately way too many think that they are the only font of knowledge.

Demonstrate enough distrust towards high performers and you will lose them.

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1 Comment

  1. Sylvie Duchesneau

    And where do you go from there? WHat is the Ideal band/ music jobs etc we want could we make it happen….. COuld we stand-up and really realized it like a passionnate Business man we need sturcture, business plan, vision, creativity and believing we are worth-it and we could have fun too…. WHy still in 2011 we see musician paid the same amount then 30 years ago and others are really succeful. What did we forgot in the way do we accept more just because we have some believed…. At least I play music…. or somebody else will do the JOb or I read once I do it for love……Ok we are worth-it and we can be paid for what we do….
    As a musician what could we do all together to be recognize, respect, and treated well… HOw do we see ourselves… knowing we are amaing musician. I think it is time to stand-up and changed this. Music is great….

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