Kouzes and Posner Reading

Nathan – (Kouzes and Posner) I appreciate your questions. The task of asking ourselves if we work in an environment that is demoralized and uninspired is something we should question frequently, especially if we are in a position of leadership.

Surely, a difficult task lies in situations where we are not in a position of leadership and recognize we feel demoralized/uninspired. Couple this scenario with a "manager� (head of the department) that is physically present, but interactively absent. The said manager avoids conflict, speaks through notes, and only communicates when someone needs to be reprimanded. There are never words of praise, appreciation or encouragement, because typically there are never words. In this scenario, most employees DO walk around the office like their favorite pet died. When I read Kouzes and Posner, I related!

What to do to promote change? An innovative leader would turn the table on the supervisor. I would strive for opportunities for open dialogue with this manager. Praise when I recognize his/her personal or professional achievements. In this situation, I could envision that perhaps the supervisor feels uninspired or demoralized. My goal would be to empower this supervisor with hopes that he/she would feel inspired to share with his/her employees.

Comments

I wish all managers would read Kouzes and Posner's book, especially the ones I've worked for over the past several years. My managers who were supposed to be my leaders were once described as being uninspiring, incompetent, lack credibility and liars. The environment was described as a cancer that could not be cured. I've been with this particular company for 10 years and during that time I've had 8 different managers. The turnover rate was incredibly high and the employees walked around as though they just ran over a puppy. I am no longer with this company, and my life has greatly improved. This book is really inspiring.

I have enjoyed the book - finished it, thanks to listening to it on CD in my car. However, I am a bit disgruntled by the fact that the authors focus on the for-profit business world. I would interested in having an on-going discussion on this blog about how these theories would change in non-profits?

I would agree that there is an opportunity to show leadership by being an example to the uncommunicative and unsupportive manager in an organization. I would agree that this course of action is worthwhile and has a fairly high likelihood of success. With that said, I would say that there is some inherent risk in this course of action. One of the risks being that the person in the hierarchacal position of being the "leader" may take the actions of a staff member who is interacting with the manager with praise and pushes for open dialouge may be seen as pushy and overbearing. This may cause some backlash but often a leader has to be prepared to deal with backlash and potentially negative responses to their actions.

I like the idea of encouraging the manager when positive interactions occur, but I agree that it can be a dangerous line to cross. Some managers truly appreciate constructive feedback from their employees; however, some despise it and find ways to punish employees later for speaking their minds. I wish there was truly a safe way to share constructive advice with managers if the need was there to do so.

I would interested in having an on-going discussion on this blog about how these theories would change in non-profits?

Lisa,

This is an area that interests me very much as well. I did a short study last semester that dealt with heterarchy in nonprofit management and one of my main themes was that while this "shift" away from hierarchy might seem detrimental in a for-profit, it actually works well with the mission and inherent role of nonprofits.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, in the Principles and Practices of Nonprofit Excellence, state that "Non-profit organizations provide unique opportunities for individuals to combine their energy, talents and values for community improvement and enrichment. Non-profits are obligated to understand their role as entities that engage and inspire individuals and communities for public benefit, and to conduct their activities with transparency, integrity and accountability." They believe that “Nonprofits should openly gather and exchange information on lessons learned and best practices with other nonprofits to promote overall effectiveness and accountability within the sector.�

Unfortunately I think a lot of nonprofits (possibly due to decreased funding and vulnerability) don't operate with such openness and transparency.

IMHO, I think the nonprofits that do move toward and operate in more open, engaging, transparent structures will be better equipped and more sustainable in the long run.

I may have to disagree with Kouzes and Posner on p. 38. I would the say the message is more important than the messenger, and often one is introduced to the messenger through the message. It certainly can go both ways. For example, I did not think our current president was the right man for the job, initially, but I was taken by the message and now the messenger.

What happens if the decisions are consistently poor over an extended period of time? What you get is a coalition of the willing, i.e. strikes, marches, and then we get change from the bottom-up!

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs