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

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