Which came first? The hero or the crisis?
Some individuals and teams thrive during crisis, swinging into action without a moment’s thought and – like in an American blockbuster – narrowly saving the day. Everyone congratulates one another and then waits for the next opportunity to play the hero. But is this a model for a company culture?
Everyone – individuals, teams, organizations – takes legitimate pride in their ability to overcome a crisis. But they don’t realize that prizing heroism may actually help provoke crises. In short, a heroic culture generates counterproductive behavior:
- It encourages us to constantly put ourselves in untenable situations by (for example) reducing resources and deadlines;
- It creates one-upmanship in terms of commitment (or, more accurately, exhaustion) among co-workers. Everyone wants to show that they sleep the least and work the most among the team;
- This creates a climate of constant stress that can easily lead to burnout.
It’s a culture of immaturity. The aim should be to avert crises rather than clearing them up. To break out of a heroic culture, allocate your resources realistically. Put a high value on teamwork in order to limit the temptation for an individual employee to play the hero. Finally, make sure you facilitate cross-functional teamwork, as the potential for crises often lies at organizational boundaries.
by Ron Carucci (Harvard Business Review, March 2021).
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