Destroy What’s Holding You Back
Not Your Competition)
By Don Schmincke
For the samurai to learn
There's only one thing,
One last thing –
To face death unflinchingly.
– Noted swordsman Tsukahara Bokuden
collapses the biggest companies in the world, and it is but one
product of the ego. In fact, when the ego is running the show, it can
destroy an organization with dysfunctional, selfish, and dishonorable
behavior. On average, 50% of human productivity in organizations is
consumed by dysfunctional behavior. For example, have you ever had a
fifteen minute meeting take an hour? That’s dysfunctional behavior.
In other words, if individual egos driving the company are not
stopped, you’re throwing half the payroll out the window, not to
mention the immeasurable lost opportunities.
the ego dominate? Well, the ego is part of our biological make-up and
has been for 20 million years. It has served a useful purpose, in that
selfish genetic strategies
are very effective for species evolution. We are instinctive animals
and are still influenced by our genetics. In order to combat the ego,
we must look back to the ancient samurais. Their view of “death,”
both literally and metaphorically, can teach modern day executives
much about leadership and how to unleash performance.
Look Back to Look Forward: As much as modern management theories
teach us to look to the future, the old, ego-driven turf wars,
politics, and hidden agendas never go away until they are effectively
dealt with as the ancient samurai did: through death. Ignoring the
“junk” will never permanently change the organization’s culture
because this impulse to misbehave is actually driven by a deep
biological need within us—to defend and to dominate. From the
ego’s point of view, this is not misbehavior but effective coping
mechanisms to deal with perceived threats and selfish opportunities.
you must commit metaphorical suicide to the ego so that a higher cause
can drive your behavior and that of your executive team. Even though
you won’t ever get rid of the ego entirely, “death” in this
sense means overcoming the
ego so you can pursue a different reality for the greater good.
the samurais, executives must always keep in mind that some day they
will die. Doing this unhooks the ego, allowing you to deal more
authentically with issues and problems. Think about it…Most people
who survive heart attacks don’t care about office politics anymore.
The threat of physical death brings forth bravery, clarity, and often
a total life transformation. Learning to die metaphorically has the
same effect. Unfortunately, modern management has lost touch with the
knowledge that people who are taught to die properly can actually
execute more bravely in their work and not get consumed by the
distractions of office politics.
accept the idea of death, you gain power and freedom for action;
acceptance gives meaning and offers insights. In fact, many companies
that are Fortune 500 today were once on the brink of bankruptcy, only
to find that acceptance leads to great decisions, which made them
great companies down the road. Accepting death, then, really becomes
Dead Man Walking: In order to rid your organization of the ego,
which is the root of your company’s challenges, you must follow a
proven process. Use the following guidelines to get your company back
1. Decide what must die: To implement this process in a company, the
leaders of a team must first look at what needs to die in the
organization. The organization’s leaders must be willing to bring
the bad stuff up to the surface. The team needs to be willing to
self-expose: What haven’t they been saying to each other, though
they’re thinking it? Or what have they been saying to select people
in a power clique? What information is being withheld? At this phase,
the CEO and the team take the journey through the valley of the shadow
of death and expose all of the ugliness that has held the organization
dysfunction can be tough, and it requires the strength of a true
warrior. But only when the team has flushed from its hiding place the
biological beast that has held the organization back can it then slay
it and begin plans for what is truly possible. Only when the beast is
exposed can you focus on the future—when you have turned the lens on
the realities of the present.
Look to the future: Once the management team is able to voice the
things they think but don’t say, then possibilities arise and true
goal setting can begin. Together, they then look at a new
destination—the leadership environment and style they want to aspire
to and represent in the future. They create a new future that’s more
powerful than the bleak one the organization is headed toward.
Get everyone to commit to endure the pain: The CEO must ask the
management team to be willing to “die”; to commit enough to endure
whatever suffering and pain they must long enough in order to reach
the new future they created. However, sometimes the gap is so large
between here and there that unless the group is willing to be
uncomfortable it is better to stay where they are. If they are
unwilling to commit, it is best to find this out earlier rather than
later, otherwise the process ends up on the pile of other failed
programs. This is a dramatic reversal from the typical
“touchy-feely” approaches used in training and consulting. The
team must be challenged to face the truth and be uncomfortable, to
suppress their egos in the service of a greater cause. A good leader
can inspire that.
4. Prepare for rebirth: Commitment to conquering the ego and
enduring the necessary suffering then prepares the team to move the
organization through death to rebirth. After the acceptance of death,
the team can ask one another, “What are the critical success factors
for getting where we truly want to be?” With the freedom to be
brave, they can now create viable strategies to do what is critically
necessary to achieve success. You can’t execute the greatest of new
plans until you slay the beast that’s been stopping the organization
from moving forward. Here the team is able to identify those few key
areas that will ensure a successful transformation.
5. Prevent sabotage: Contrary to what the training industry teaches,
the problems of the past are not in the past; they are in our genes.
No matter how great the commitment and the planning, the beast will
always seek to reassert itself. The group should list how they can
sabotage this process in the future—what they should be sensitive to
in order to help pick each other up and continue on the path. Eternal
vigilance is necessary.
Radical Methods Deliver Radical Results: Realize that not everyone
is strong enough or brave enough to go through this process. Those who
don’t commit will be exposed by their behavior. They may try to
backstab someone, for example, and that person will say, “Wait a
minute, you’re violating our code of honor.” They must either join
the team or find somewhere else to peddle their agenda.
radical, these methods have been proven to work for centuries. And in
fact, most people who tackle this process are simply too disgusted or
ashamed to revert back to the status quo. They grow increasingly
willing to take risks and speak the truth. Examples in our lifetimes
abound: Boeing was faltering
and couldn’t achieve parity with Lockheed or Douglas through mere
goal-setting. They had to accept that they were going out of business.
At that point of death they began making different things happen, and
the commercial jet-age was born. Likewise, Harley-Davidson realized
the extent of the threat posed by the Japanese, fired all their
consultants, took up the reins themselves, and the rest is history.
The point of death can be the point of inspiration. Are you prepared to
follow the way of the samurai and face death to achieve greatness?
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