Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fish Rots from the Head Down

"Fish Rots from the Head Down"

This is a good quote to remember when we feel like admonishing people who work for us or in some way look up to us for guidance.

Many times we hear senior managers complaining about ineffectiveness of their people. Parents say similar things about their kids. Many times the ineffectiveness is just a symptom. The root cause is somewhere else. Root cause is rotten, that is, rotten head of the fish.

If you go by the saying, it seems fish always rots from the head down. So do organizations and families. In any organization leaders to follower ratio is very large. If the leader is not effective, it trickles down and makes the whole organization ineffective.

How can organizations overcome this problem? There is one remedy to many problems ailing organizations. It's a like wide spectrum antibiotic which can treat a broad variety of bacteria. That remedy is communication. Leader has 3 priorities. They are communicate, communicate and communicate.

People always live up to your expectations. Expect greatness from even mediocre people, it creates such a positive pressure in them that they go too far in delivering performance which is at least a couple of notches higher. So, it makes sense not to write off people so early and easily. You should avoid hiring wrong people. Once you have  hired and confident about candidates capabilities, it makes sense to give them ample opportunities.

Second important thing is the power of positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement happens when you scold people or just do not communicate with people. We humans crave for feedback even if it is negative feedback. If we do not give feedback to people, their minds manufacture feedback. They are free to manufacture anything and everything. Majority of such 'manufactured' feedback is often highly negative and critical. This is extermely demoralizing and damaging. Unless people maintain a balanced life, such conditions have driven people to insanity.

Highly recognized motivational speaker Steve Chandler's book is subtitled "leader are those who deliver insane performance without driving people insane". That explains everything.


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