Embarassment is not the way to lead a team

When do people perform at peak efficiency?  Management consultant David Maister says it’s when they are excited about their daily tasks.  That’s why I was surprised to read a quote in the midst of an otherwise very positive New York Times story about Lego’s recent success from its CEO, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp.

“We needed to build a mindset where non-performance wasn’t accepted,” Knudstorp told the Times.  OK, so far so good.  But he went on.  Now, “there’s no place to hide if performance is poor.  You will be embarrassed, and embarrassment is stronger than fear.”

I hope that managers who go on to read the rest of the story focus on the specific ways that Knudstorp has aligned strategy and tactics, redirecting some of the long-held beliefs of the company’s founders to take a far more bottom-line approach.  Or that they recognize that this turnaround is still in its infancy.

I’d hate to think they’re going to decide that the best way to drive change is to “embarrass” their managers.  I’d prefer to think — given all the other good things that Knudstorp has done — that something was lost in translation with the reporter.  That Knudstorp shares Maister’s view that excitement has nothing to do with strategy, systems, process and operations and everything to do with managers who are credibly perceived to have an ideology (that isn’t rooted in embarrassing them).  Otherwise, I suspect we’ll read a follow-up story in the years to come that focuses on Lego’s short-lived success and long-term failure.

What do you think?


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