508 Why I Hate The Lowest Common Denominator As The Leader
Manage episode 358663749 series 1283444
In Japan, we are in a zero sum game, death struggle for talent. Actually, we are in the same struggle for even the modesty talented. We had better get used to a lowering of standards going forward, as we struggle to get people, any people. They aren’t making Japanese in the numbers we are used to and each year the media reports how the number of new babies has declined to a new record low. The 15 to 34 year old population in Japan has halved over the last twenty years and it will just keep going down. We are going to face a “free agent” youth population who will be in high demand.
We talk about recruit, retain and advance people. The recruit part will just get tougher and the retain part is on us as leaders to get it right. If we can offer the right environment, then people will stay with us. The problems arise when we have un-reconstructed middle managers who are asleep. They are like Rip Van Wrinkle or Urashima Taro in the Japanese context. They are not awake to these new changes and are still treating subordinates like they grow on trees and are easily replaceable. They are stuck in the “goode olde days”.
We are going to have to pay a lot more attention to our onboarding process and our internal training. This is all good and fine, but there are surprises in store for us, which we wouldn’t be able to predict. Is the onboarding training well designed? Is it comprehensive enough? One of the problems with the way we do things around here is we all know how things work and they are obvious to us, but not necessarily to the newbie. We short-change new people by making too many assumptions about how to explain how things work and regarding what they have to do. This is where we need to really think through the process and make sure that we are covering all of the bases.
Now at the senior leadership level we are unlikely to be doing much of the onboarding process ourselves so we have delegated this task to others. This is where things can start to depart from what we thought was happening. Instead of on-boarding people at ahigh level of quality we find that the whole process is subject to the lowest common denominator. Some of the information isn't getting shared or even worse the information being shared is contradicting what we think is happening.
The boss says one thing and then the new staff members colleagues assure them that they can ignore that or do it another way. If these staff were geniuses and really producing, you might find some slack should be advanced, but invariably the lowest denominator theory nominates these are people at the bottom of the pile. Are they doing it on purpose to make sure the new person doesn't shine too brightly and show them up or is it just stupidity? Either way, we are not getting the onboarding we expected or assumed was happening.
The bigger problem is how do you find out what is really going on? We are busy bosses and have plenty on our plate and we have moved on to other things which are screaming for our attention. Sadly, the lowest common denominator architecture forces us to find the time to circle back and check our assumptions.
Maybe once upon a time it didn’t matter too much, when there were job candidates a plenty and we were whizzing through piles of resumes, sorting and evaluating who we would bother to meet. That scenario is so ancient, I can barely remember doing that. Today, if we get someone onboard, we have to treat them well and make the time to ensure they are getting the right information, training and assistance inside the organisation. A good starting point is to assume your own veteran staff are telling them things which are different to what you want them to do. They are more likely to listen to their colleagues who are doing the same work as they are, than the boss who is above the clouds and on another plane.
As the boss, we have to spend time with the new staff and just check they are getting the right onboarding as we designed it and eliminate lowest common denominator interventions by members of our own staff. The problem is what do we check, as there are so many possibilities of error being played out without us knowing? Well simply, we cannot check everything, but we can check the most important things. We can also schedule regular checks, because this whole onboarding process is a moving feast and things change from week to week.
As the boss, we are trying to operate at the highest levels of sophistication in our business but we are going to have to fight against our own lowest common denominator people pulling that construct down to their level. Annoying? Time wasting? Yes, but this is the new reality for the leader. We don't want to micro-manage things, but in this onboarding instance we should. We cannot afford to have poorly trained new recruits or have them leave and joining our competitor.