Q: A fundamental problem facing our society is that we seem to be economically structured in ways that virtually prevent caring in the workplace. When caring happens, it’s a heroic behavior, even though it contributes to the long-term interests of an organization. What’s really going to cause a change in this institutionalized behavior of not caring?
A: Jim Collins’s research in Good to Great makes it clear that caring pays off and should not be a function of economics. Unfortunately, caring does not pay off (except in people’s hearts) in the short term?the time frame defined by Wall Street’s attention span and the average executive tenure. Looking toward the horizon, however, I am optimistic because we are getting older demographically and, I hope, wiser.
Q: I am not familiar with 360-degree leadership assessment but would like to submit to one. We have no budget, however. Any self-help suggestions?
A: Just by your willingness to undergo self-assessment, I am sure that you are a better leader than you think. If you want to challenge yourself with a 360, here’s a low-cost alternative: Contact MJ Inter-national (www.corporatelibrary.org) and purchase its Leadership Practices Inventory materials. For less than $200, you will have all the materials (including tabulation software) to conduct a good, high-level leadership assessment. Good luck!
Q: What are your suggestions for dealing with a manager who exhibits many of these qualities?
A: First and foremost, forget about changing your boss; work on yourself. Figure out what you need that you aren’t getting from your manager and get it from somebody else (this can include yourself). For example, if your boss is a self-promoter and your team is not getting the recognition it deserves, enlist support from clients you serve. If you aren’t having productive career conversations with your boss, don’t wait for him to ask about your dreams; make sure he knows. If there is a poor performer in your group, don’t be a martyr and silently suffer. If your boss doesn’t have a strategy, offer to facilitate a strategy for the organization. If your tactics are being ignored, see if you can position yourself as the COO. If this all seems impossible, move on?and be very careful about selecting your next boss.
Q: What’s the best way a company can evaluate how well it does in this area? An employee survey?
A: Start by ascertaining whether the senior leadership is truly interested in developing great leaders along the dimensions I’ve discussed. Conduct an employee survey only if leaders are truly interested in taking action over the long term. The survey will raise expectations, and a lack of follow-up would be a clear sign of “not caring.” If you proceed with an employee survey, then move on to 360-degree leadership assessments.