People


I learned of the Milgram Experiment (https://youtu.be/nexpwnwonRc) in my Research Methods class, and I revisit that learning to this day. Coming out of WWII, the experiment was set up to research obedience. It has been performed many times since, and the outcome continues to be the same. Somewhere around 50% of followers will abdicate responsibility for their actions to authority willing to take that responsibility from them. Why? This remains a question, and one I continue to ponder, along with whether humanity might be able to evolve from it.

Where it made sense, much of my writing through that same education referred to what I call personal or self-leadership. There are many attributes we look for in effective leaders that are important for effective leaders and followers alike:

  • Responsibility
  • Accountability
  • Self-Awareness/Self-Agency
  • Integrity
  • Effective Communication/Feedback

There are others, certainly, but these are a good representation. And, when followers possess these traits, we are better able to hold our leaders accountable, as noted 25 years ago by Ira Chaleff in Courageous Followership: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders. In it, he defines Courageous Followership as follows:

Any organization is a triad consisting of leaders and followers joined in a common purpose. The purpose is the atomic glue that binds us. It gives meaning to our activities. Followers and leaders both orbit around the purpose; followers do not orbit around the leader. Courageous Followership recognizes that to be effective at almost every level of an organization, individuals need to play both the leader and follower role adeptly.

Further, Ira discusses Five Dimensions of Courageous Followership:

  • To Serve
  • To Challenge
  • To Participate in Transformation
  • To Take Moral Action
  • To Speak to Hierarchy

And, how well these concepts align with the self-leadership attributes listed previously:

  • To Serve requires taking Responsibility
  • To Challenge requires an understanding and practice of Accountability of both self and others
  • To Participate in Transformation requires Self-Awareness which leads to the Self-Agency to choose to change
  • To Take Moral Action requires Integrity to Purpose
  • To Speak to the Hierarchy requires effective skill in Communication and providing Feedback

With unemployment trending low for the foreseeable future and many employees seeking new opportunities to better fulfill a need for agency and autonomy to manage our lives across work, family and personal needs, it behooves us as a society to recognize that supporting an evolution to better followership through personal growth opportunities is in our best interest. In so doing, we develop better followers who in turn can better hold leaders accountable to purpose, whether organizational or societal.

As Leaders, we do well to develop and leverage Courageous Followership within our organizations to attract talent as well as define and remain true to organizational purpose. Developed followers could also better contribute to fluid leadership situations like self-managed and -directed teams. Whether stepping into fluid leadership or holding leaders to purpose, better followers make better leaders.

When it comes to change, whether planned or perhaps just keeping up with change inherent to the global business environment, it is well discussed and debated that the success of change has held steady at a rate of around 30%. If we consider the fact that change is typically viewed and managed from a technology and logistics perspective, this might very well make sense. Whether a merger and acquisition, installing a new system or imposing process best practice, without an understanding of the people dynamic of the organization, what gets missed is whether a desired merger, system or process is a fit for the environment.

Think about it, how many individuals read books about the success of leaders only to discover that mimicking their actions does not work for us? How many successful leaders in one environment have been hired into another only to meet with failure? This phenomenon holds true for teams as well as whole organizations. If leaders lack an understanding of the socio-cultural aspects of the people they lead, how can we be sure the latest system or process is a fit for the organization? Taking this a step further, if we do have a level of understanding, do we see a path for developing our people to transition to the change we desire to make?

The most successful system changes of which I have been a part have typically been home grown. They take into account successful process already in place, driven by the unique dynamic of those working in the environment. The most unsuccessful changes I have observed are those “latest and greatest” off-the-shelf options that are imposed on existing workforce dynamics un- or ill-prepared to take them on. Others lie somewhere in between.

For change to be successful, leadership must make the connection between the system or process and the particular human dynamic of the organization. We must then consider how much the workforce will need to be developed to meet the requirements of a desired system or process, or perhaps what it will take to evolve the existing workforce dynamics to organically update existing systems and process to meet the goals of desired change. If we are adamant about installing or imposing externally allocated systems or process, then we must be prepared for the cost of customization as part of implementation. I have yet to witness a culture changed simply by overlaying an ill-fitted system or process structure. In fact, this is where a 70% rate of change failure may very well lie.

If a leader wants a fuller sense of the human dynamics of the organization, there exists a field of professionals who can support seeing, understanding and developing the people dynamic of the business. These professionals might be found in human resources (HR), though HR professionals are traditionally adept at and focused on managing legal, policy and other types of transactions with employees. Their view is rightly based on protecting the business from missteps around regulations and benefits to employees required by law. When it comes to change and transformation, the mindset and professional capacity of those prepared to bring a growth and development lens to the environment are those educated and practiced in organization development (OD) or organization effectiveness (OE). In fact, OD/OE professionals might be considered the original change agents because we have always approached change with an understanding that it isn’t imposed so much as it is coached and facilitated. OD/OE professionals don’t do change on a leader’s behalf; we support a leader to lead change.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ― Heraclitus

With great change, the likes of which the world is and has been experiencing, comes great nostalgia for what was. It can be a sense of loss enough to trigger the grieving process – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The grief is evident on a social scale. We see it in the rise of nationalism, isolationism and authoritarianism across countries, in the resistance to immigration and integration.

It’s too bad that change has come so quickly that many haven’t had the chance to catch their breath, to build the necessary resilience. I am more than hopeful that the change occurring is making us better. Younger generations sense this. Older generations want what was, and cannot fathom a world, that they seem also resistant to accept, they helped create.

To those who work with change, this is all standard protocol. Those who work in change management consistently struggle to bestow leaders with the understanding that bringing people along matters, and in this our national leadership, across the board, has failed. Yet, in the observation that the change has happened on a scale and at a speed never before encountered, how can anyone be to blame?

No. We must all take up our share of the responsibility for making the transition, or at least stay out of the way of those prepared to do so.

… and welcome to my professional blog.  Nurture the Goose comes from the Aesop’s fable:  If you want golden eggs, nurture the goose.  At least that’s the way I remember it.  This is very important to me in that no matter what we construct in our human existence, it all starts with people and when we diminish our capacity as people, as individuals, well, honestly, the construct no longer matters, now, does it?

I have held successful careers in live entertainment production logistics and professional services management and operations.  I also apply a lifetime performance background to facilitation.  In professional services, I loved having daily connection with people all across the organization.  The executives I served were my internal clients, the junior resources were my customers, and I had the delight of connecting my clients and customers to create project teams on a daily basis.  I also got to relate with many people in many departments, like human resources, technology, financial operations, all in the care and nurturing of my clients and customers placement and professional development.  I got to balance their performance goals with client project requirements and business objectives, because it is that, a balance.

I have now solidly entered a vocation of human and organization effectiveness.  It began after certification in OD and consulting which I have converted into a full MS in Management and Organization Behavior.  I continue to connect across an organization through learning facilitation, coaching, team building, survey administration, analysis and reporting as well as in support of change initiatives.

I started this blog as I have many a thought occur on the subject of people and why we matter.  My hope in sharing these thoughts is that more than a few heads might nod, that other’s might share their perspectives, all in the interest of getting to the truth of the matter.  To this end, I openly welcome your comments.

Be well. Be kind. Bring compassion.

~ Jacqueline

Jacqueline M. Gargiulo, Scholar-Practitioner,  Human Systems

DISCLAIMER: The statements or opinions expressed herein are my own and are not to be attributed in any way to any employer or professional affiliation.