Over the weekend, I posted about my writer’s slump and that I was working on a new book called, 10 Steps to Better Management. Several of you left helpful comments and several more sent me emails – thanks for the support!
I thought I would share a rough wee piece that’s part of the chapter on how to build great teams. It’s not edited, but I would love to read what you think about the concept. Interesting? Helpful? Annoying? Old news? What would you add? Thanks!
Cultivate Productive Irreverence
When we are irreverent, we show a lack of respect for people or things. Productive irreverence is showing a lack of respect for things, processes, practices, and tasks that ought to change in order for the team to progress. I am not advocating that team members demonstrate a lack of respect for one another, but I am encouraging a lack of respect for projects that no longer makes sense. Productive irreverence is needed to ensure that you and your team members are questioning practices and tasks that ought to be questioned. Someone who is productively irreverent is an occasional troublemaker and a person you want on your team — more than one would be even better.
Another aspect of being productively irreverent is knowing when and how to communicate concerns and knowing when to stop. I love occasional troublemakers, I really do. That said, too much is too much! Productive irreverence is selective. I have had the occasion to coach several less than selective folks about how to pick battles to have maximum influence and impact.
How do you, as the manager, cultivate productive irreverence? Here are two powerful strategies. I bet you can guess the first one — role model productive irreverence. Make sure that you challenge the status quo when warranted and show impatience with continuing to do the wrong things. I have had managers tell me that their work environment does not tolerate productive irreverence. I wonder why this is? Of the people who say this, perhaps 5% are really stuck — they work for the top paying employer, need the work to feed their five kids, and the work environment is really looking more for compliance than contribution. Honestly, this book is not written for people who work in this type of environment. And I believe that most managers — the other 95% or so – would improve their reputation, not harm it, by being productively irreverent.
Here´s a bonus – being productively irreverent is so much fun! It is fun because when we help our managers, peers, or team members see something in a new way, breakthroughs can occur. Breakthroughs are cool. Think about your current list of projects. I bet one or more of these projects ought to be changed or killed. What a relief to the team and business it would be to cross off irrelevant projects from their lists of worries. And this relates to enlivening the mind too, because working on a stupid project feels stupid — and draining — and no fun.