Source | LinkedIn : By Christian Barrios
Years ago, while in a senior management offsite in one of the bustling cities of Asia, our HR leadership team had gathered to review our business and future plans. In the customary team-building section of the agenda, we were asked to share a moment in time that’d had an impactful effect on each of our careers. The answers varied from person to person: the decision to take on an international assignment; having a child as a working mother; deciding to quit a previous employer; pursuing higher studies; meeting a great mentor, etc. When my turn came up I realized I had a rather unconventional answer. The day I decided to read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I was sincere and earnest in my response. Reading that book had triggered in me a wealth of insights that helped me become a better and rounder HR leader.
I’m an avid reader of business literature and typically will be up-to-date on the best Business Books lists of the year, best business books rankings by the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal or The Economist, yet, if you read business literature you will find a fair amount of rehashing, repackaging, re-visiting and a pursue of the newest and latest management fad, approach or design under a book cover that will live for a few weeks or months before being replaced by the next ‘new’ thing. In the digital era we live in, the new goes old faster. Today’s innovation can quickly become tomorrow’s forgotten idea. In 5 minutes you will have forgotten you did read this on LinkedIn.
The year end is a time of reflection. Reflecting on the learnings I’ve had throughout and observing what makes organizations tick both in positive and negative ways, I realize that many (if not most) of the causes of failure in leaders and organizations don’t come from not following the newest management principle, or the recent best way to performance-manage or the latest organizational design workshop, but rather – most (if not all) failures stem from neglecting to pay attention to some timeless truths or failing to realize learnings that had been with us for centuries or more. Take the simple case of Employee Engagement, Performance Management or Leadership Development. Why do organizations/leaders fail at making progress here? Is the root-cause of the problem the fact that they are not using the newest tool? Is it because they have a 3-scale rating vs a 5-scale rating or vs no-rating system? Why do companies fail to innovate faster than some competitors? Is it because they lack the latest innovation platform that was suggested in the latest book or workshop? Probably not.
It’s tempting and easy to see solutions thru the eyes of the latest and newest, however, we ought to be more concerned with what is true than with what is new. So in the case of Employee Engagement, chances are that engagement is low because managers are not spending enough quality time with their people, which happens because managers don’t think (or notice) they need to make the time for it, because they are busy doing something else, while they multi-task themselves to self-satisfaction or self-destruction at the expense of overall organizational health. In Performance Management and Leadership Development, some fundamentals of human nature are missed, ignored or dismissed by leaders and companies in their search to try to fix everything with a silver-bullet system or program. So here is where Dostoyevsky comes in…