Competition and Innovation—Are you a fear-based organization?

Senior leaders play an important role in setting the cultural tone in their organizations.  Without a shift in thinking at the top of an organization, it is almost impossible to change an organization’s culture. In a new article for Fast Company online, Scott and Ken Blanchard share a story and discuss the results of a study that looked at the impact a CEO’s disposition and personality had on a company’s service orientation and collaborative mindset.

“CEOs whose personalities and dispositions were more competitive had a direct influence on the degree of competitiveness and fear experienced by members of their senior leadership teams. This resulted in a greater degree of siloed behavior within the organization and less cooperation among sub-units. The net results were less integration across the business, less efficiency, poorer service, and ultimately lower economic performance.

“A woman recently told us her CEO believed that a little bit of fear was good and that moderate to high levels of competition between people and business units were beneficial and kept the company sharp. This attitude of friendly competition inside the company permeated the culture, flowing out from the boardroom and cascading throughout the organization.

“This approach had worked for this technology company in the past, but began to become a liability as customers asked for more cross-platform compatibility. Because customers were asking for everything to work well together, these internal divisions needed to cooperate more effectively. This required the different business units to think beyond self-interest to the whole customer experience. It proved difficult to change the mindset of this historically competitive culture.”

Drive out fear

What type of culture is operating in your organization?  Is there a spirit of support, encouragement, and cooperation?  Or is a culture of fear, protectionism, and competition more present?  Today’s more sophisticated and integrated work requires a collaborative mindset.  Make sure that you are not inadvertently creating a competitive, fear-based mindset that gets in the way of people working together effectively.

As W. Edwards Deming famously reminded us, “Drive out fear.”  Fear is counter-productive in the long term, because it prevents workers from acting in the organization’s best interests.

To read more of Scott and Ken Blanchard’s thinking on creating a more engaging work environment and what top leaders can—and cannot—control check out Why Trying To Manipulate Employee Motivation Always Backfires.

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