Monday, May 16, 2022

Leadership, Silos and Onboarding

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for nearly 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Bruce Rosenstein and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Since 2011, Bruce Rosenstein has been Managing Editor of Leader to Leader, the award-winning quarterly journal co-published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley and the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. For 21 years, he worked for USA TODAY as a librarian/researcher and writer about business and management books for the newspaper’s Money section. Based in Maryland, he is the author of Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way, and Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life. His digital footprint includes the following links:;;; and Twitter at @brucerosenstein.

QUESTION: How do you recommend that employees who are forced to work in silos by their leadership teams overcome the silos and work together?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: Depending on how literally people are being forced, there should always be a degree of personal/individual choice on the part of people who are working in silos. I’d recommend that they continually think of ways to work around the silos and outsmart the situation, including figuring out whether the company/organization is one big silo or a series of silos.

This would also mean finding like-minded people internally and developing ways to work together and share information, and learning more about informal norms and ways of getting things done. It also means that you stay connected, via social media and otherwise, to people outside your organization, within or related to your area of specialty or expertise, especially in case you ultimately decide to work elsewhere.

A great book to read on this subject is The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers by Gillian Tett, an editor and columnist at one of my favorite publications, the Financial Times, who has a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge University.

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any leader from history, who would it be and why?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: I would choose Socrates, as sort of the original/eternal thought leader. I’d like to fill him in on the whole thought leader construct, and how his ideas have lasted and remained relevant for more than 2500 years. I’d then ask how he thinks he reached that status, and probably brace myself for a Socratic dialogue with the originator of the concept, ideally over coffee.

I think he’d be intrigued by the concept of the Socrates Cafés that have sprung up around the world in recent years. I would bring him a copy of the book by Christopher Phillips, the founder of the movement: Socrates Café: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy.

He might  be interested to learn that questioning, one of the main components of the Socratic Method, has become influential in the business/organizational world. If he could time travel to today and become a consultant, he could name his price!

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: You may not have to be the smartest person in the room, but you DO have to apply your mind, and think clearly and creatively in the moment so you can be effective. That would mean the supposedly “small things” and “unglamorous things” that can nevertheless be difficult to do well.

It can mean a leader protecting and looking out for people, clearing obstacles that can prevent them from doing their best work, and helping them work through problems. It reminds me of the important concept of servant leadership, which is less than 50 years old, and was originated by the late Robert K. Greenleaf. He was an HR executive at AT&T (and also a New Jersey neighbor and friend of Peter Drucker’s), whose work has been carried on and extended at the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

QUESTION: How can all members of the C-Suite care more about onboarding, which directly impacts corporate culture and employee engagement?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: This would have to be part of the corporate/organizational culture itself; how involved upper management is in the process, what components of the process they take seriously and how that plays out internally.

If people really are your greatest asset (which so many organizations say is the case), shouldn’t helping people be successful starting from the beginning of the process, and be adequately supported by as many members of the C-Suite as possible? At the same time, it would be a serious commitment of time and energy, and should not be taken lightly. Done properly, it could even have positive effects related to your earlier question about silos, as it would be a way for people to learn about different departments and components of an organization, and to make contacts and develop lines of communication.

However, if some people, especially in the C-Suite, aren’t taking this seriously, it could be related to exactly what each organization means by the term onboarding, and what the process exactly entails. Is it seen as more bureaucratic and form-filling, rather than an area directly related to results? It could point to the fact that the term onboarding, if not the process, has become a buzzword with a nebulous meaning, and therefore possibly in need of new terminology or different branding. For more background on this, see Patti Waldmeir's "The Perils of Onboarding in a World of Hybrid Work," in the Financial Times, February 7, 2022; and "The Case Against Onboarding," February 27, 2017, by Merrill Perlman in the Columbia Journalism Review.

TWEET THIS: If people really are your greatest asset, shouldn’t helping people be successful starting from the beginning of the process? ~@brucerosenstein #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from Arnold Glasow, an American businessman often cited in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and other pubs: “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” What does that quote mean to you?
BRUCE ROSENSTEIN: Realistic leaders know that a certain part of their success is due to luck, as well as due to the work and knowledge of other people, circumstances beyond their control, and so on. So it would also play out in reverse, knowing that “failures” are subject to the same invisible laws regarding luck, circumstance, fate, and the work and roles of colleagues, competitors, and so on.

In a broader sense, it means less of a show of ego, more humility, more realization that you will develop a better reputation internally and externally if you strive for this type of balance. It could also directly relate to servant leadership, in one of your earlier questions. Fairly or not, credit/blame in many cases must be shared with others, and allows you to display a sense of grace.

Two recent books come to mind, that I believe amplify this quote: Marilyn Gist’s The Extraordinary Power of Leader Humility: Thriving Organizations - Great Results; and John Baldoni’s Grace Notes: Leading in an Upside-Down World. I’ve edited articles by both Marilyn and John for Leader to Leader.

TWEET THIS: Fairly or not, credit/blame in many cases must be shared with others, and allows you to display a sense of grace. ~@brucerosenstein #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Bruce for sharing his inspiring leadership and employee experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Waldemar Brandt via Unsplash.

Note: John Baldoni (@JohnBaldoni on Twitter) has appeared on this blog numerous times (I'm honored to have also met him via Twitter), and I shared a review of his book GRACE NOTES on Business 2 Community.

Check it out here:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment!