Lisagor: Avoiding management malaise

Negative emotions can drag down any organization that lacks good leadership

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision, the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

— Andrew Carnegie

Some of the organizations I work with have been showing definite signs of management malaise. Local government executives and politicians are at each other’s throats, the president of a technology company can’t get his board to cooperate, and the local barista refuses to add whipped cream to my Caffè Americano. 

I am  an organizational optimist by profession, but my advice that every person can make a difference too often falls on deaf ears, especially in groups that have stopped growing at the top. Most midlevel managers are perceptive enough to recognize when their executives are working at cross-purposes or to no purpose at all.

A long-term solution to this type of organizational burnout requires a higher degree of teamwork.

Eastern philosophers talk about the concept of “many in body, one in mind.” That perspective recognizes that although we all have different appearances, abilities and personalities, we must work together to make meaningful progress.

Being one in mind doesn’t mean we don’t think independently. It means we should share a common purpose. When this happens, we can achieve something truly outstanding and accomplish things that we cannot when we work in isolation.

Negative emotions such as anger and resentment result in self-centered actions that keep teams from functioning well. However, we can often overcome our differences by focusing our energies on developing a successful system or on satisfying our constituents. Otherwise, the things that separate us will prevent us from realizing our collective goals.

Certainly such unity is easier to achieve  in moments of great crisis. Extreme external challenges,  such as natural disasters or acts of mayhem, cause us to band together for a common purpose in ways that elude us when we’re not being tested.

Yet it is the responsibility of enlightened leaders to inspire employees day in and day out as people carry out their responsibilities for the routine operations of government and industry.

Here are a few steps people can take each day to foster teamwork:
  • Make efforts to retain or regain your enthusiasm. There is no progress without hope.
  • Look for ways to work with your peers.
  • Don’t expect perfection from others and don’t hold grudges.
  • Relinquish the “my way or the highway” attitude. Too many leaders get stuck on their own agendas and their own ways of doing things.
  • Make the effort to find win/win solutions.
  • Don’t let personal objectives sabotage the organization or interfere with other people’s happiness.
  • Let’s work harder to find common ground. The alternative isn’t  pretty.
Lisagor founded Celerity Works in 1999 to help executives accelerate and manage business growth. He lives on Bainbridge Island, Wash., and can be reached at

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group