College graduates often get the same career advice: be yourself, disrupt the status quo. Meanwhile, their future employers cling to status quo by putting people in boxes and telling them what to do, in the name of efficiency or team cohesion.
People are frustrated and exhausted, not from overwork but from a particularly demoralizing kind of “underwork.” They’ve got skills, ideas and talents that they want to use but can’t, because to do so would disrupt everyone who finds comfort in the status quo.
Most organizations and leaders say they want to empower people to contribute at their fullest capacity. But most leaders are never taught how to do that.
We’re stuck in the age of standardization – an age when organizations didn’t see the need to value one’s individuality or personal perspectives.
But as a society, we are more diverse than ever. We are more informed than ever. We are aware of and proud of our individuality. We’ve entered the age of personalization, but our leadership strategies have not caught up.
If we don’t interrupt ourselves the cycle will continue.
Stop emphasizing conformity.
People feel boxed in because they are boxed in. In our workplaces we have fooled ourselves into thinking we have welcomed diversity of thought (a phrase we love to throw around) – when in actuality we have built shrines to conformity. We hire people who think just like we do, and we reward and promote people only when they meet the standards set by someone else.
Does your organization have a system for training leaders to identify individual capability when hiring or forming teams, so that everyone can look beyond experience and education as the only indicators of potential and invite new thinking into the mix? Inclusion is an action that constructively interrupts the process of always seeking more of what’s familiar.
Stop hiring for ‘the right fit.’
That’s code for you need to be just like everyone else. Your individuality is not welcome here.
Sure, most people want someone who is easy to get along with, in the name of productivity. They want someone who is easy to work alongside, in the name of efficiency. They want someone who is easy to like, in the name of team cohesion. Those are all great things for a team to achieve.
But too often productivity, efficiency and cohesion become the goals themselves, and the pursuit of those gets in the way of the original objective – which might be better served by a wider range of personalities and working styles.
It’s easier to be with and work with people who are similar to us. But if we really want to expand the capacity of our teams and our people, we have to interrupt our preference for ease and invite the discomfort of working closely with people who think differently.
If you threaten the status quo, the status quo fights back. Hard. People who have made the rules and benefitted from those rules are not happy when those rules change – even if that change is good and necessary and just.
Most organizations operate in a certain way: follow this path, get this experience, demonstrate these skills, move up the ladder rung by rung. A subset of people have benefitted from this system the way it is, but they don’t see the system at work because they’ve never bumped up against it. When that system changes, they lash out.
But disrupting the status quo is worth it.
Leaders everywhere tell me they have felt restricted their entire professional lives, and they want to be free to be who they are and empower others to contribute at the highest levels of their individual capacity.
This is where to start.
About the Author
Glenn Llopis is a Cuban-American entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker and senior advisor to fortune 500 companies and organizations in healthcare, financial, consumer packaged goods and beyond.
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