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Friday, November 4, 2011

Fighting Entropy

Al Malinchak gave the latest episode in the further adventures of Sister Maria Tyrannica today at the Human Resources Leadership Forum, titled On Wednesdays We Wear Pink, from the influential leadership blog of the same name.


Al has two strong skills. One, he and Jimmy Buffet are the reigning chroniclers of post-Altar Boy development, and two, Al has a knack for bringing simple physical exercises that create profound understanding.

If you want to learn the exercise, buy tickets. 

The learning for me was again, how quickly an attitude change can trigger a significant performance improvement, and second, how people under pressure choose to abandon unfamiliar behaviors, almost never initiating better behaviors.

We wanted to build an excellent company in the worst possible way, and looking back, I guess that was exactly what we did. Common refrain

When I am leading a cadre, my proteges usually adopt (in chronological order)
  • suit, then
  • tie, then
  • shoe shine, then
  • name tag, then
  • handout.

Pressure encourages entropy, so under duress working the handout is abandoned first, then the name tag is left somewhere, the shoe shine forgotten, the tie askew, then abandoned, the suit creatively augmented, then finally we stop showing up for work.

How do you stop the slide?

Al made me realize that when times get tough, the antidote is to add structure to do the job better. Instead, people want to abandon the new and unfamiliar. Finding and implementing a skill or practice that improves performance is an important behavior of an effective leader. It's especially important with the influence of Web 2.0. 

Or as General/Secretary/Citizen Colin Powell writes on page 264 of My American Journey, “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than management says is possible.”

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