Do you ever feel that that your sports team is headed for a major decline? My favorite baseball team, the Phillies, comes to mind. They had a wonderful record from 2007 to 2012, but the last two years have been dreadful. Honestly, they are hard to watch as I count the days for football season to start. Many experts pinpoint the Phillies’ descent when they had the best record in baseball and lost to the Cardinals in the division playoffs. (They couldn’t score one run in that game). Others say it occurred when they did not replace their older players with younger players. The truth is it wasn’t one thing, but a series of little decisions that had a big impact. Similar to the challenge in business, the decline of any organization is often driven by poor choices made by management that multiply into a disaster. Winning teams know what it takes to keep an organization vibrant and when the organization needs to be revitalized.
In Sutton and Rao’s Scaling Up Excellence, they outline five indicators that an organization is in trouble. They are:
1. When the group is fearful of taking responsibility. When employees feel it is safer to do nothing than to do the right thing. Silence is one of the most reliable signs that people are afraid to take personal responsibility.
2. When members of the group are fearful of being socially excluded. In this environment, employees prefer to say or do nothing to avoid public humiliation. For example, when employees risk being shunned by co-workers for bringing to light a problem in the sales process. Another form is when it is known that there is a problem but no one speaks up.
3. When employees feel that no one is watching them very closely. The atmosphere is “do whatever you want” with no ramifications for poor behavior. This can take root when employees perceive the people who serve as nameless and faceless. Are you sales people abusing operations? This is a bad sign for the group.
4. When there are feelings of injustice. When employees feel that they are getting a raw deal from their boss or employer they will give less in return. Effort, efficiency, quality and excellence metrics plummet.
5. When people feel that they are helpless to stop bad forces and events, they will shirk responsibility. Once the employee feels that they can’t succeed, they shut down any effort and start whining, creating a poor environment for all.
Any of the above indicators are early signs that the team my be headed for a fall. Does your team exhibit any of the above fears? If so, what are you doing to transform the fearful environment to a positive one?