A Leadership Team, Power and Performance
Mini Case Study: Power, Leadership, and Performance
Initial Problem: Leadership team not working well together, low performance, decisions taking too long, and limited innovation or leadership occurring.
Problems with performance and team effectiveness can often be traced to psychological safety and more importantly power. Who has it, who wants it, and what behaviors are rewarded with power — these are all crucial to organisational development.
I remember being brought in to work with a team that was not performing as well as expected. As I began working with the small leadership team we uncovered the root cause of the performance issues. This team was responsible for delivering a product related to people’s health. Because of this, the industry was heavily regulated which had created a culture of perfectionism.
Being detail-oriented was rewarded and members of the leadership team who were less detail-oriented struggled to have a positive impact. Their contributions were not recognised or valued to the same extent as the i-dotted and t-crossers. There was a fear that their mistakes would be weaponized, and lead to a loss of respect and authority. It became clear that the reason work was carried out in this particular way was due to an attempt to feel empowered at the leadership table and not about the best outcome.
Understanding the problem: Culture of perfectionism and fear of being dismissed or criticised, not being important or respected.
Changing an embedded culture is always challenging and at first, there was a pushback against letting go of perfectionism. However, they realised that the fear of being less than perfect was leading to delays, reduced productivity, and a lack of innovation.
My work with the leadership team was helping them to understand where in the production process being detail-oriented added value and where it did not. This resulted in a more dynamic and responsive way of working which led to greater productivity, innovation, and improved relationships.
Solution: Support the team in concentrating on a value add perspective, sharing power, and developing more psychological safety.
A Reflection for you:
- Do you share power, at the board table, in meetings, and in the community?
- If you don’t share power you can’t create safety for others to develop.
- Understanding your relationship with power influences how empowered we are as leaders. And it impacts whether we empower others or stand in their way.