Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Multiple Confusions to Drag Down Digital Leadership Effectiveness

Often the business confusions are caused by lack of profound leadership, clarified principles, and a culture of innovation.

Leadership is all about change, to navigate the direction both for oneself and others. The digital world today is much more complicated and that requires an ability to juggle multiple and competing demands and clear the vision under cloudy climate and uncertain circumstances. Businesses need to recognize the change and help leaders meet the challenge via business savvy and agility. In reality, there are many well trained transactional managers, but very few visionary transformational digital leaders; there are many skillful communicators, but very few deep and original thinkers. Under today's uncertainty and ambiguity as the digital new normal, what are possible confusions to drag down leadership effectiveness and how to improve overall digital leadership maturity?


Confuse guiding principles with rules: Principles are statements of values, to provoke big WHY inquiry -Things that define why one make a decision one way or another. Principles are more abstract based on wisdom to guide mindset, and thus, more universal; while rules are set within different circumstances and time, and therefore, more detailed to manipulate behaviors. The principle is like the light tower, guide people or organizations toward the right direction and speed up to reach the well-planned destination. Principles are often transcendental, going across time spans or disciplines. Rules are often domain specific and time relevant, so perhaps there’s no rule which can “rule” the world all the time. And rules need to be updated continually because often the outdated rules become the roadblocks to stifle innovation and progress. It takes the true wisdom to differentiate the principles from rules across disciplines, though. It’s not easy for a set of rules defined that can be applied holistically - their content contains natural conflict, and without a method of prioritizing and implementing them consistently, they become a source of contention. One has to articulate which rule is applicable in which situation. So perhaps you have to abstract the condensed set of principles from a large set of rules in order to advance and harmonize. If fine-tuned, a set of principle could guide, unify and, accelerate the collective human’s progress.


Confuse “Effective Hands-on” with micromanagement: Top digital leaders do need to be tactical and hands-on when necessary, but being effective hands-on means they shouldn't ignore key details or measure results, envisioning the future and seeing around the corner are both important -why, who, what, when, where, how., etc., all matter. However, ineffective “hands-on” means they are interfering, undermining their people and therefore inhibiting the decision-making processes and stifling execution of the required deliverables. They get trapped by micromanagement – A micromanager will overemphasize the 'how' over the 'what' and ‘why,’ and will be focused on minutiae to the detriment of the overall outcome. What makes the pattern more difficult to break is the fact that micromanagers are often seen by the organization as detail oriented. So they don't see the need to change. This can be very perplexing to some of the most talented individuals in the team because they suddenly find themselves more worried about some routines, not laser focus on the top priority. Hence, to improve leadership ability, the delegation style of digital leadership is more effective than controlling, to improve business self-manageability and agility.


Confuse critical thinking and constructive criticism with “finger pointing”: Many organizations are still run with silo mentalities and culture of “finger pointing.” The business is running as a sum of pieces, not a holistic whole. Thus, the true critical thinking and constructive criticism are very important for the business’s improvement continuum. The effective critical thinking scenario includes, knowing by observing; what is said or done, how, when, where, why it's said or done, and who said this or did that. From a management perspective, the best way to learn critical thinking is simply to listen to your workforce. Ensure that everyone in the company feels valued. Unfortunately, many companies confuse critical thinking with finger pointing, not focus on problem-solving, but on blaming. Critical Thinking becomes more “critical’ in today’s “VUCA” digital new normal, and critical thinkers gain in-depth understanding through asking the right questions and open for varying answers. They not only ask the right questions, but rather absorb information forecast potentials; risks/benefits; mitigation and compare and contrast options, facts, ideas against logic and creativity. The good leaders focus on solutions, not on blame. So as far as who is to blame, per se, anyone who contributes to the decline of an organization can own some fault it in its demise. Before accusing or blaming anyone or any function, the organization should understand what went wrong through all available analytical tools. Even the best Critical Thinkers have blind spots. Because we all have a cognitive bias, whether individually or collectively. Therefore, always be open-minded to embrace the new viewpoint, learn and re-learn all the time. The one thing to differentiate talented people from mediocrity is MINDSET, which further drives attitude, they either demonstrate the positive attitude or constructive criticism to build a healthy or even creative workplace.

Confuse the symptom with the root cause of business problems or issues: Many business functions or organizations still get overwhelmed by fixing the problems, but often they are busy for fixing symptoms, not root causes. Many times, hunting for root cause takes a holistic approach and need to break down silo processes. If functional executives hold silo thinking; or if leadership teams do not collaborate as a whole, but act as the sum of pieces, unhealthily compete with each other internally about budgeting, resources, credit, and blames, there is no surprise about business friction to changes, and organizational level ineffectiveness. Therefore, the two-way trust is critical, the trust means business as a whole work closely to deliver the business solution with optimal speed. Where there are failures the takeaway should be WHAT (not who) went wrong. It would require members across all business scope to work collaboratively to set up business goals effectively & efficiently, diagnose the root causes, standardize processes of due diligence, and  take clear and constant initiatives to improve and grow businesses strategically.


The business speed can only be accelerated with a clear vision, strong focus, and distinctive capabilities. By clarify those confusions, and avoid change pitfalls, an organization can be well prepared to effectively and efficiently absorb and accept change in all its forms; an organization in which change does not disrupt and interfere with business as usual, an organization for which the ability to evolve, adapt and innovate is business as usual, and digital leadership has been moved up to the next level of maturity.


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