Thursday, December 25, 2014

Everyone is Replaceable, and Other Business Lies

"Everyone is Replaceable" and Other Business Lies

Dec 9, 2014 - By Liz Ryan - CEO and Founder, Human Workplace

"Everyone is replaceable" is a lie, thankfully. If we were truly hiring people who could be replaced at any moment, we'd be doing a terrible disservice to our customers and shareholders. Yet we hear the expression all the time: "Everyone is replaceable." Really?

What an awful thing to say, or to believe!

Some people believe that the best part of the Industrial Revolution was the idea to mechanize work -- to chop up a process into such small parts that a trained rhesus monkey could be trained to do any one of the parts in no time. In fact, that process of dumping down the work that our employees perform is the worst idea the business world has ever had.

When work is boring and trivial, who cares about doing it well? I've done boring and pointless jobs, and you probably have, too. It's a complete waste of human ingenuity.

If we aren't hiring people to do complicated things and use their brains every day at work, then we should automate our processes and be done with it.

Plenty of procedures formerly performed by people have been automated already.

Only fearful managers say "Everyone is replaceable." Fearful managers say other hateful things, too, things like "I don't pay you to think" and "That's my decision, not yours." Those fearful statements make it easy to tell which managers are deserving of your talents and which aren't.

"Everyone is replaceable" is one of my favorite Business Lies. If it's true in a given organization, then the place is headed for bankruptcy. If we aren't allowing people to bend and stretch their job descriptions, to have great ideas and push those ideas throughout our organizations, then we're idiots and don't deserve to be in leadership roles.

If we truly believe that anyone can be replaced in a heartbeat, why would anyone with a good brain want to work for us?

If you own stock in the company where the managers say "Everyone is replaceable," get rid of that stock now!  Better yet, go to a shareholder's meeting and start a campaign to oust the current CEO and bring in someone who understands how to lead people, and how to motivate a team.

Another Business Lie is "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." That's completely false!

You can manage all kinds of things that you can't measure, like the goodwill of your customers and the good energy on your team. Not only can you manage them, you must. In business, managing the intangibles is much more important than managing columns and rows.

We are addicted to managing numbers. We think numbers are the language of business - yet another lie!

Fearful managers obsess about metrics, merely because metrics are tangible. We can point to them. Look how many companies showed great numbers on all their spreadsheets right up until the minute they didn't, and then they failed. Those poor foolish managers gave all their attention to particles and failed to notice the waves swelling and crashing around them.

Any human endeavor takes place in an energy field. We have to pay attention to that energy, cultivate the good momentum and quickly identify and deal with bad energy when it creeps in. In other words, we have to manage the waves.

That doesn't mean putting people on probation or firing them. It means being human, telling the truth about our own faults and worries as managers and allowing our teammates to be fallible humans, too.

In our work at Human Workplace, the energy blockers we see most often have to do with fear and trust. Energy gets dammed up in an organization and people get frustrated when there's a big problem that no one is talking about. It's the elephant in the room.

The elephant could be anything. It might be slipping market share or the fact that no one believes the upcoming product release is really what customers need.

No one wants to name the elephant, but the energy field reflects the energy blockage nonetheless. Eventually something erupts and everyone looks around for someone to blame.

We don't have to run our organizations that way. We can talk about fear and trust every day, because fear and trust are business topics as surely as product returns and markdowns are.

We can talk about feeling anxious and not being sure what to do next. It takes a real leader to be that honest with his or her team. People will follow a truth-telling leader to the ends of the earth. Can you be that strong as a leader?

Another Business Lie we hear all the time is "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It." Most of us in the West grew up with the break/fix mentality. We leave things alone until they go haywire. We only do this in business, not in other important areas of our lives!

When we plant a garden, we don't say "There are weeds among the vegetables, but I haven't been told to pull them out, so I won't" and wait to react until the weeds have choked the vegetables to death.

We constantly check on our children to make sure they're healthy and happy. We don't view our own health or our family's health as something to ignore until there's a crisis. In business, we tend to downplay the constant stream of little signals we receive from the universe, courtesy of our five (or six) senses.

People in a business know when something needs attention that it isn't getting, whether it's the sales order processing system or a talent-repelling recruiting apparatus. They know about it, but fear of saying the wrong thing or offending a higher-up keeps them silent.

We don't talk about things that need attention, because someone has told us "It's not your job to worry about that." Everyone gets hurt when the system finally collapses under the weight of its problems.

We can make every workplace a Human Workplace and ask every one of our workmates every day "What's up? What's new?"

We can listen to what they tell us. We don't have to rely on Employee Engagement Surveys and formal systems to tell us what's happening right under our noses. We don't have to repeat the Business Lies "Everyone is replaceable," "Numbers are the language of business" and "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." None of these things are true.

Godzilla, the scaly reptilian edifice of nineteenth-century business rules and thinking, is falling apart - and not a moment too soon! We can hasten his demise and usher in the Human Workplace together.

We can replace fear with trust and bring ourselves to work completely, the same way we bring ourselves to the gym and the car wash and the preschool holiday pageant. It's not hard to do. We just have to listen to our bodies and tell the truth to make it happen.

Today is the perfect day to start!

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