Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How Fables Destroy Corporate Culture

Leaders who make up fables in their mind can easily ruin their chances of success. At the same time, those below the leader can destroy the culture of an organization with fables. In worse case, from recent research, fables can possibly erode the health of a human being.

A fable is a false or inaccurate account of something. Yet, when we are born, we have no idea about fables. In fact, we don’t know anything about
love, hate, right, wrong, good or bad. In time, these ideals and many more are imposed upon us. Rarely does society provide us with the opportunity to discover those ideals for ourselves. We learn about them through parents, teachers, books, movies, etc. Built into those ideals are judgments, assessments, presuppositions and opinions that, in many cases, have nothing to do with reality.

Therefore, when we encounter people, we automatically judge them according to the environment we were raised in. Unfortunately, our environment has limits in what it teaches us. The limits we inherit from our environment are the same limits we use to judge and assess people or situations. In many cases, we are unable to see the limits. We believe what we see and know to be the facts of life. Furthermore, once we believe in those facts, we spend an enormous amount of time seeking evidence to prove our point of view is correct.

Once again, so what!  What does this have to do with our relationship to leaders? When a leader says they are committed the company accomplish something it has never done, many people judge that leader’s conversation with fables. For example, perhaps it occurred in 1983 when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPad. At that time, it was considered a failure.  Some may say it was before its time.  Others say technology could not support Jobs’ vision.  Maybe! Consider that people may have had conversations that were heavily weighed with fables. They may have thought Jobs was crazy for wanting to make the iPad. Some may have thought it was a product of his drug usage. The list goes on.

Instead of listening to what Jobs was committed to creating, they added a fable and believed the vision was impossible. Consequently, they had conversations and took actions to prove it was impossible. 

In other cases, if a leader comes into the office happy and excited, some employees could make up a fable that the leader got laid last night. This is unfortunate because he could be excited about a new initiative and ready to empower the entire organization. However, if staff and/or management believe his enthusiasm is a product of intimacy with his spouse, they will invalidate that leader. In addition, the corporate culture eventually may become toxic because people are apathetic towards the leaders enthusiasm.

Perhaps what’s most troubling about fables is the impact on health. In a recent article in Collective Evolution, research shows that fables often cause unnecessary stress. While stress served a specific purpose to prehistoric man, it can negatively impact our health in modern times. Ultimately, stress is designed to shut down important functions like the immune system which enables the body to more effectively handle crises. As a result, the fables that cause stress make us vulnerable to illnesses. Many of those illnesses, like high blood pressure, stoke, heart disease, etc., can destroy the body/life.

As you can see, while fables are interwoven into our everyday lives, it comes with a cost. The cost can be failed leadership, failed business, failed relationship or failed health. With so many failures in health, what is the cost of unhealthy employees on a corporation’s productivity?

For those who want the satisfaction of being a leader, it is wise to understand the human condition. We/people are programmed to make up fables in order to make sense of reality, especially when we do not fully understand what is occurring. As a leader, you can manage the fables. Be responsible for the fact people have them. Address them in such a way people are not invalidated for having them.  And assure them their fable has no merit for the current situation. In other cases, it may be wise to bring someone in with an expertise to provide people with tools, such that they can better navigate through the fables and uncertainty new initiatives bring.  How will you manage the fables in your team or enterprise?  

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.

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