Lisagor: Organizational tapestry

The best managers share information in an open and collegial manner

New management levels complicate communications and often create personal fiefdoms with managers who have a vested interest in self-preservation.

Individuals filter and distort facts either unintentionally or by design. Top-down bureaucracies prevent the sharing of critical information. Faced with these seemingly insurmountable barriers to effective communication, what is an enlightened manager to do?

I recently attended a local city council meeting during which the level of arrogance and self-interest was mind-boggling. Council members did not appear to have a shared vision, sense of loyalty to associates or willingness to compromise. If this lack of coordination exists in such a relatively basic organizational structure, the difficulty in maintaining open channels of communication at large companies or government agencies is no surprise.

Flourishing organizations that achieve their objectives and honor their employees usually have enlightened leaders.

Managers' ability to effectively communicate with those around them has never been more important. The rapid growth of technology has increased work complexity and the need to coordinate with many individuals located in multiple places and organizational units.

Unfortunately, managers' ability to share information in an open and collegial manner has lagged far behind the needs of modern organizations.

I think there is an underlying organizational structure or informal network that should embrace the official organization chart. It is like a tapestry that ties managers together with a common purpose. The organizational culture needs to promote this behavior.

Enlightened managers expedite and enhance the flow of information across these invisible threads. They filter out the minutiae and quickly forward necessary data. They avoid allowing biases and empire building to slow organizational growth. Becoming a better manager often means becoming a better human being. It means not allowing fear to dictate our behavior.

I wrote in a previous column ("Tone deaf communications," March 8, 2004) about the perils of electronic communications. I'm afraid the hands we once used to lift the phone and the feet that carried us down the hall to clear up confusion or apologize have now atrophied.

If most organizations are as strong as the sum of their parts, the role of the enlightened manager has never been more important. The ability to listen is not a luxury. Treating employees with respect and compassion isn't just New Age mumbo jumbo.

Every manager can make a difference, and the more enlightened the manager is, the more enlightened the organization will be.

Lisagor founded Celerity Works in 1999 to help IT executives manage growth. He lives on Bainbridge Island, Wash., and can be reached at lisagor@celerityworks.com.

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