Death by Policy

Death by Policy

This year I have the privilege of serving as a coach for the first LeadingAge CT Leadership Academy, a year-long program that inspires leadership development. Last week was our first session, during which we reflected upon and drew a depiction of the values that guide each of us at work, and in every day life.

Creativity does not equal artistic capability!


Probably no surprise to those of you that know me, amongst some other important values, I placed a high priority on creativity and independence. 

Which got me thinking…

What if I worked in an organization that stifled creativity? Or, for an organization that was controlling and didn’t give me the freedom to do my best work in my own way? What if my every decision was made for me by a supervisor, or a policy, and I never got to use my gifts?

Not only would I lose out, by being in a job that made me miserable, but the organization would lose out on all that I had to offer.

I often hear leaders complaining that staff members are not self-motivated or able to make their own decisions.

To address this, the “powers that be” create more policies, more forms…and more rules.  Task after task is clearly defined on job descriptions for new employees and on evaluations for current employees.

But is that the answer or the very problem?

Consider a different approach; one that assumes staff shows up to work each day with the intention of doing their very best.

I imagine that most of you reading this regard your leadership style as one that already supports self-motivated people. However, a quick look at your organization might tell a different story.

I encourage you to review the why behind the current rules, policies and forms you have. Before you add a new one, challenge yourself and ask:

Is this policy being created to punish a few or does it support the many?

What purpose does this rule serve?

What is going to be done with the form and information we are tracking?

When you lead with the belief that employees are best kept to task by imposing restrictions and controls, the self-motivated people (like me!)  are suffocated.  Either they become disengaged employees or they flee the organization.

Regardless of which they choose, what remains is an even larger percentage of demoralized employees…employees who require lots of oversight. Congratulations, you have just created a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Leave a comment below and let me know:

Have you ever had a job where you felt stifled? What exactly did you do?

What leadership beliefs do you think may be hindering your staff member’s motivation and how can the above process help you right now?

Thank you for reading and contributing. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic, as it’s a really important one!


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