Friday, December 18, 2009

Using Sun Tzu's The Art of War

I was talking to a gentlemen at dinner last night. He was the CEO of a mulit national media company. We started to discuss some of the challenges that we all are faced with in modern business. Being management-centric, I voiced my opinions about how we are faced with a dilemma of performance malaise. Of course he wouldn't settle for such a broad statement so he asked for deeper clarity. Being the extrovert I am, I happily obliged.

I explained that we are being overwhelmed by a sense of status quo. Employees are looking to stay off the radar. They want to perform to standard but they don't want to take any risks for fear that failure may lead way to termination. He exclaimed, "what an awful outlook on the American Worker but... your right. I think I see it now that you put it that way." I was relieved that he agreed and didn't take his Martini to another table (I was enjoying a Johnny Walker, Black Label Neat if that matters) "So Terrence, how do I fix my company" he inquired.

I wanted to tell him, "You hire me" but I decided to take the higher road. I told him, you find the enemy. He looked at me confused and curious. How can you fight what you can't see? You have to know what's causing the malaise. My experience points me toward anxiety. In these tough economic and political times, employees don't see their future. They're anxious and that anxiety causes mass paralysis across an organization's payroll. Then I remembered reading Sun Tzu's, The Art of War and explained a strategy he could take.

Needless to say I had a captive audience. I explained Sun Tzu's approach to overpowering his enemy, in this case Anxiety. He called it Attack by Stratagem. One of the rules under this caption is "Strength Against Weakness". "We give Anxiety its legs", I revolted. I am adamant about trying to help manager's put a face on this performance killer. Our fear fuels and energizes Anxiety. The only way to defeat anxiety is to destroy it's fuel source. Attack it's replenishment lines and cut it off from its garrison. Okay, perhaps my military background gets the best of me. But that thinking has helped me reduce obstacles to nothing more than memories.

In layman terms, attack the weakness of Anxiety. Too often managers look on powerless by the thrusting blow of change only to decide, there's nothing I can do about it. B...ologna (you can insert the appropriate explicitive). Here is what Anxiety feeds off of:
  1. a lack of information
  2. a lack of respect for each other
  3. a lack of courage
  4. a lack of ownership
  5. a lack of self worth
  6. a lack of accountability
  7. a lack of perspective
  8. a lack of focus
  9. a lack of leadership
I exalted to my captive audience of one, "CUT OFF THE SUPPLY LINE OF ANXIETY".

If you want employees to perform have your management step up and deal with the fuel supply. The previous list is a visual representation of the Enemy's (Anxiety's) weakness. Use your strength to attack it vigorously.

  1. Provide constant information
  2. Reward and encourage strategic risk
  3. Hold everyone accountable
  4. Celebrate success
  5. Coach failure
  6. Create opportunities for teamwork and leadership
  7. Keep everyone focused on the prize (laser sharp focus)
  8. Step up and encourage others to do the same
  9. Collaborate on decisions

This list is one to empower management. Anxiety is not to be dealt with passively. It can be nuetralized. You can use "Strength Against Weakness". Chip away at the sharp edges of Anxiety and you'll discover a blunt fragile enemy who will retreat away from your aggressive front line.

You can follow me on Twitter @TerrenceWing and @LiquidLearn

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