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Don't Blame Recruiters, HR or 5,000 Bad Apples. Blame the System.

Don't Blame Recruiters, HR or 5,000 Bad Apples. Blame the System.

This is a follow-up post to Psychology Gone Wild | A New Organisational Tyranny?, examining how we need to stop blaming individuals for organisational messes and instead examine the systemic issues that cause bad or anxious behaviours.

Thanks to Chris Ngo, Futurist Thinker for Humanity Preservation, for posting the question that instigated this response.

NB: For any recruiters reading this, I will get to recruitment in the 2nd half of the post.

The Return of Systems Theory

There's an increasingly significant re-emergence of ideas around systems theory (a school of thought about organisations that briefly sparked into life in the 1950s). When you hear people talking about systems leadership, systems thinking, design thinking, complexity theory et al (listed in no order of preference or importance), you are seeing evidence of this re-emergence. 

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Psychology Gone Wild | A New Organisational Tyranny?

Psychology Gone Wild | A New Organisational Tyranny?

I recently saw two things that made me angry. And made me better understand the ills of the modern organisational environment.

The first thing I saw was this chart from Stephen P. Robbins' book, Organizational Behaviour (2005, Prentice Hall).

This provides a classic overview of the contributory disciplines of OB.

It's organised so that the disciplines that contribute to understanding group behaviour and organisational systems are placed together. You can quickly see sociology has 10 sub-disciplines contributing to group behaviour (6) and organisational systems (4).

And so on through social psychology, anthropology and political science. They are arranged top to bottom in relation to their number of contributory sub-disciplines and whether they contribute to both group behaviour and organisational systems.

At the bottom right sits psychology, which is the sole contributory discipline towards understanding the individual. It's an important inclusion because it ensures the system is balanced by a need to understand and respect the health of the individual. But it is necessarily separated from the rest because it doesn't contribute towards the understanding of groups or systems.

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A Story of a Post-Truth Civilization

A Story of a Post-Truth Civilization

Imagine a country. For over fifty years, it was the dominant economic and military force in the world. Its people were prosperous. Its way of living admired. It led the world in science and art. Its culture admired the world over. It produced a wealth of fabulous artists, writers and thinkers. 

It then got involved with a costly overseas war. That lasted for decades. That it couldn't win. That bankrupt it. The faith of its people in the leaders was tested. They had believed that the country was invincible. Its religion mighty and true. Its army undefeatable. 

The result? Its political class split.

One group believed that the country needed to return to traditional roots. That the new ways of thinking had undermined the country's strength. That a return to the old ways would reinvigorate it. The old faith had to re-emerge. Stronger and more vital than before. 

Another group blamed the establishment. The politicians and the aristocracy. They wanted to suspend democracy. Impose an oligarchy of hard-edged money-makers who would return the country to prosperity. Permanently shut up those that thought and acted differently. Making sure they couldn't stay in the country. Or something worse. 

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The Psychology of Engagement

The Psychology of Engagement

Do you love and hate your job?

It's a simple question. Not either/or. Both/and.

If you answer the latter, you are ambivalent. Not indifferent. Ambivalent. No, it's not the same thing.

Ambi = both. Valent = strength. You have contradictory strong feelings and/or thoughts about work.

Why am I asking this question? Because employee engagement is about how we manage these contradictory feelings. The more love we feel, the more we engage with work. The more hate we feel, the more we disengage. The fundamental claims of the engagement movement.

Somehow, we've becomes stuck in a belief system that sees us as being either/or. Not both/and. Despite nearly all of us identifying with the latter.

How and why did we get to this state of affairs? Develop a system of measurement for feelings and thoughts that doesn't relate to how we actually feel and think. And does this mismatch result in unnecessary emotional and psychological stress?

It's a complex story. It's dramatic. Full of blind ambition. Ethically dodgy practices. Backstabbing politics. Sex and violence. And death.

With all good stories, the best place to start is the beginning.

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Creating a Culture of Leadership

Creating a Culture of Leadership

What is leadership? And how can we create a culture of leadership? Two core questions in today's volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment.

I'm going to borrow Hudson's definition of leadership to answer question one. Partly because Crissa Sumner's blog inspired this article. And partly because she's working in Australia (as am I) and Australia needs to start taking this question seriously. But that does not stop it being relevant elsewhere. For Crissa, leaders are:

"driven, with an appetite to learn and grow; courageous and resilient in the face of uncertainty and change; mentally flexible and able to make sense of disparate and conflicting information; decisive in ambiguous circumstances; and capable of connecting with a diverse range of stakeholders and inspiring a shared sense of purpose."

It's a good definition. She argues that the contemporary organisation needs to develop a culture in which all employees can exhibit such qualities.

Read her post. It's excellent from a talent management / I/O Psychology perspective. But it leaves us slightly short from an organisational design one. What exactly is a culture of leadership? And how do we go about creating one?

These are difficult questions.

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The Ironic Manager seriously rethinks how organisations work at the most fundamental level and offers a variety of solutions for businesses struggling to cope with the ambiguity and stresses inherent to contemporary organisational conditions of constant change.

Richard has been helping businesses and people deal with leadership, management, communication, technology and change for over twenty years through his training, coaching, speaking and consulting services. 

His innovative research is highly regarded by world-leaders in management and leadership. 

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