This is my fifth and final post focused on the book Orbiting The Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. And as I look back across the prior four posts, one theme jumps out - CONTROL.
Post #101 Killing Creativity talks about the desire of the school systems to get children under CONTROL. Sitting quietly in their perfectly aligned seats fully attentive to the instructor.
Post #102 Hairballs talks about corporations layering on rules and policies to keep employees under CONTROL.
Post #103 Too Busy talks about executives smothering themselves in busy work to keep themselves under CONTROL. Sedating themselves by wearing the mask of the busy executive.
Post #104 Are Cows Slackers talks about the drive for efficiency. Allowing the quest for CONTROL to crowd out the space necessary for incubating creativity.
Control. Control. Control.
As businesses grow they tend to get chaotic and scary. And the knee-jerk reaction is to create order and efficiency. And that’s a good idea - up to some unknown threshold. The point where all that control becomes a creativity killing anchor - but by then it’s too late to turn back. You’re the frog in the slowly warming water about to be boiled alive. There’s no easy way to unwind the mess you’ve created.
Here’s a MacKenzie quote that I shared with you in post #104 Are Cows Slackers that gets to this point…
“…Too many enterprises seem self-destructively locked into a debilitating reality of 100 percent perspiration and zero percent inspiration.
A healthier alternative is the Orbit of trust that allows time - without immediate, concrete evidence of productivity - for the miracle of creativity to occur.”
So MacKenzie’s big push is creativity. But he also pushes a lot deeper at times, as in this quote…
“When you wear a mask, nobody (not even you) gets to find out who you really are. When you wear a mask, nobody (not even you) gets to find out what you really need. And when you wear a mask, nobody (not even you) gets to find out what you really have to offer.”
So in his most pessimistic moments, Mackenzie sees work as a masquerade party for efficiency drones.
A clusterf**k of rules, policies, perspiration, measurement, efficiency and people walking around wearing masks. Taking on roles that get them through the day, but that hide their true selves.
And as a business owner you should be particularly interested in this part of the quote. - “When you wear a mask, nobody (not even you) gets to find out what you really have to offer.”
So how can you possibly nurture the amazingness that people have to offer, when they don’t even know they have it to offer? How can you convince your team to take off their masks?
The only way I know is to lead by example. Take your mask off first. Because as long as you have your mask on, it's impossible for your team to trust you. How could they? They're dealing with a fake you. A masked you.
Recall above where MacKenzie talks about the "Orbit of TRUST". Well, that Orbit is an orbit around you. You’re at the core of the hairball, setting the standards for what the company believes. And that core needs to be authentic and transparent in order to be trustworthy.
And then, once your mask is off, you'll have some credibility when you ask others to take off theirs. And then, if they follow your example, together you'll have a chance to create something special. Something that reflects who you are as a person, and a place you’ll all love being a part of for the long term.
I’ll give the final words to Gordon MacKenzie…
“If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you.”
(This site is all about building a Map that will help me do work and life better. So at the end of each post I check in to see if any changes / insights come to mind.)
During my career I had the chance to see a few great businesses. And what stuck out about them was that they had ridiculously tight cultures. So if you want to lead a great company, you can't leave this soft stuff to chance. You can't build your business on a random foundation. You must get in the trench and nail down this culture stuff.
And that's the thought process that led me to build this site in the first place. I wanted to explore how we get the foundation right. My answer was to draw a MAP of what makes me and my business tick.
I don’t care if you draw a MAP or get there some other way. But please, if you want your business to be a masterpiece, do something.