Recently I left work at a well established retail store here in Aberdeen. It is a national chain similar to Wal-Mart or Target in the US. I had a lot of time to contemplate things while I was picking up orders that had been made online. i was also confronted with several different leadership failures by the people in power. There were some moments where good leadership shone through but these were few and far between. I am writing this blog post as a future reminder for me as I lead in the various areas that God calls me to. I am also writing in hopes that this post will spark some contemplation in you, the reader, towards what quality leadership should look like. Please comment and let me know leadership fails you have witnessed.

-The entire system behind the online shopping centered on productive efficiency. Employees are given a certain time per item to be picked. Speed is emphasized to the point that there is no time for human interaction with fellow employees. This type of system can be highly productive but will never be conducive towards the development of a team. This failure in leadership stems from a lack of understanding how important a cohesive team is in creating loyalty and quality performance from your employees.

The other day one of my fellow workers was having a bad day. You could read it all over his face and body language. So I stopped what I was doing and asked him if he was OK. He then proceeded to tell me about some personal issues he was having that were affecting not only his job performance, but also his motivation to continue in his current position. The conversation lasted all of 3 minutes before one of the shift managers pounced on us. Claiming that the online shopping area was running late and he could not have us standing around chatting. The sad thing was that during our conversation there was an underlying worry (coupled with furtive glances by my colleague) that we would get caught talking and be reprimanded. I was not planning on having a 15 min conversation (we do have a job to do) but even a 5 min conversation without the oppression of bad leadership could have provided huge dividends towards the attitude and camaraderie (and even productivity!).

– In antithesis to the regime of productivity this retail chain has made a huge push towards quality face to face customer service. Employees that are tasked for online shopping (pickers) are expected to interact with customers as well. This would not be a bad thing (in fact I would have found it quite welcoming) except for the extreem push towards speed and productivity. In short, pickers are expected to fulfill their time requirements (a feat in an of itself) and interact with customers they encounter on the shop floor. This creates a kind of Catch 22 that serves to do nothing but demoralize an individual.

The above is a prime example of the difference between what I have dubbed integrated vison and imposed vision. Imposed vision is a new idea that doesn’t mesh with an existing system. Rather than influencing the existing system at its core and creating something uniquely new in the process, it hangs like a weight over the heads of your employees demoralizing them. It basically creates a no win situation for everyone.

Good vision must be integrated in a healthy way as it communicates and interacts with the core values of a system. An Integrated vision will either tweak the core values of a system or express the core values in a more plausible way. It can never be slapped on to an existing system and expected to work, this only causes redundancies and Catch 22s like I mentioned above.

More thoughts later!

3 responses to “Thoughts on Leadership”

  1. Imposed vision, interesting thought. I don’t think enough of that type of ides when it comes to “vision casting”. I guess i honestly have to say that I have fallen guilty of this in the past. There has been some improvement and I ask God for direction and guidance so that people can see what He is doing and not me.

    I can think of many times of where I have worked or been under leadership that this is imposed. The problem I think that happens is that it gets into micro-management. To work in that type of environment makes for poor moral, poor productivity, high turn over rate, more fear, and numerous other things I could list but then I would not be able to accomplish my tasks for the day.

    Maybe a solution would require management to be involved with the productivity again. In other words, what model does our Lord show us? He modeled Servant Leadership. This means that, as it has been described, an upside down triangle leadership model, where the manager is the servant of servants. He/she serves their employees and helps them to reach higher standards. If all corporations/businesses/churches/etc. did this, what kind of things could be accomplished?

  2. Hi Josh – definitely miss you brother, and it sounds like in Scotland life has been an adventure. regarding this blog topic, If you have the time, check out this link on management philosophy between Frederick Taylor and W.E. Deming…

    As a manager of a bunch of engineers, I struggle over how to lead and manage with the tendency to drift toward Taylor, which is the cold impersonal, disposable way to treat each job and each task as a definable and optimizable, versus taking a more holistic, personal and creative systems approach that is espoused by Deming, and counts each individual in the system as valuable with a contribution to continuously improve the system.

    I think your concepts of imposed ( Taylor) vs, Integrated (Deming) vision are at the heart between all management struggles to achieve productivity vs. achieving quality, and the root of struggle is how most management is being trained to care more about analytics and the bottom line, and less about utilizing intuition, system thinking an care for individuals to drive the group to better quality and better systems.

    I think this is true, whether running a business or leading a church or a ministry.

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