Blinders by Dr. Robert Gerwig

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When it’s time to make an organizational change, do it. Don’t delay. This may mean dismissing someone. You can use other words, such as firing, laying off, making redundant, etc. The word doesn’t matter. What matters is that you address the problem. Ignoring or hoping the problem will go away is a mistake. The people in the organization know it’s time to make a change. Do you?

Many organizations put blinders on when it comes to leadership performance, allowing the organization to suffer for the ineptness of a single individual. World-class leaders recognize that there are times when you need to make a change. Delaying or ignoring the change results in negative performance and, often, dysfunctional behavior. Take the blinders off and lead with courage. Take the blinders off and be honest. If you need help taking the blinders off, do it. Use a third party group or person to ensure you’re not too close to the situation, to ensure you’re being objective, to ensure you’re really evaluating the data properly.

Work with the individual in question. Make certain they understand what you want them to do. Make certain they have the tools to do their job. Make certain you’ve done everything you can to shape their behavior. Yet, in the end, there are times when a change needs to be made. When everyone in the organization is begging for a change. Disregard or ignore the change and you’ll find yourself facing other problems. Wearing blinders won’t make the problem go away.

I’m familiar with a global organization that has blinders on. The organization has pending law suits due to poor HR practices. The organization has wages and benefits that are out of line with their benchmark groups. These increases were an attempt to slow attrition which is already higher than peer companies. The organization has lost half of its leadership team in recent months. The organization is behind on their deliverables and over on its budget. I could continue, but you get the idea. This organization is in serious trouble.

The interesting bit? Everyone in the organization knows the problem. The problem is an ineffective leader. A poor leader. A self-focused leader. Everyone in the organization is waiting for this leader’s boss to step-in and make a change. Yet nothing happens. Month after month. Year after year.

Ever hear that “people don’t quit their job, they quit their boss?” Ever hear, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire?” How can the executives of this organization ignore the overwhelming data that they’ve got the wrong leader? How can they continue to listen to his excuses for poor performance, high turnover, etc. and not take action? How can they look the rest of the organization in the eye and speak with transparency, authenticity, and credibility?

When you’ve got blinders on, you’re either wearing them because you’re afraid to take action or you truly don’t know there’s an issue. If you’re afraid to take action or have a frank conversation, you’re a weak, ineffective leader. If you don’t know there’s an issue even though everyone else does, you’re slow. Wake-up and smell the coffee!

It’s painful for me to watch this organization as they “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Their leader remains safely in his job. The organization continues to suffer and underperform. Great employees continue to leave. And the leader continues to “rob” the organization by collecting a large monthly paycheck.

If you’ve ever flown business class you know there are perks. Fly from the US to Asia on business class and for the extra $5,000 you’ll get a little goodie bag with a toothbrush, slippers, comb, and a sleeping mask. Put it on and you won’t see well. It may not block all the light, but it does a good job of reducing your vision.

When you wear blinders, the problem doesn’t go away. When you wear blinders, others know you’re ignoring the problem. When you wear blinders, organizational performance drops. When you wear blinders, your credibility is reduced, the organization suffers, and you allow dysfunctional behavior to take root.

Do you have blinders on? If so, take them or off or get help from others to “see” clearly. Need to make an organizational change? Do it swiftly. Do it with honor. But do it. Don’t delay and pretend the problem will go away.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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