The Starting Point
The starting point is this: As a senior manager, you have no eternal right to exist. It is no taken for granted assumption in a conscious business that you are always needed. Your starting point is one of being always humble, and ready to step aside and to allow in whatever is truly needed by the organisation.
The business does not exist to serve you, nor even to satisfy its shareholders. It exists to behave consciously in order to meet the needs of its customers, the users of its products and services. Shareholder satisfaction, in a conscious business, is a by-product, an outcome of conscious business practice, not an aim.
A conscious business is an organisation that is awake and aware, alert and responsive, internally and externally, in real time.
Sometimes, dear senior manage, your personality, your habits, your self-image, your subjectivity are all blocks, limiters of the consciousness of your business. Sometimes you behave in deliberate ways that diminish the consciousness of your business, thinking that you are being “smart”. Political game-playing, power-mongering, fear-engendering, all ultimately, shatter the innovation potential of your business by stifling and suppressing the energising qualities of people that exist when they feel more free and awake. Senior management, when it is a leading example of institutional, over-fixed behaviour, defensiveness and aggression, damages the very organisation it claims to serve. Even benevolent, but egoistic acts that achieve success are short term victories that still undermine conscious business.
A conscious business has a very different role in mind for senior managers. In the emerging fields of conscious capitalism and conscious business, there are many stories and examples appearing in the public domain.
Overview and Inspiration
Senior management has the often fairly permanent role of acting as the overview, the “helicopter view”, the inspirer of vision, and the identifier of what needs to be done at the strategic, “overview” level.
In a conscious business, senior management is a leadership role – a role that is sacred, a privilege for all those who step into those roles.
In a conscious business, senior management identifies the essential in what needs to be done. Senior managers focus on naming things truly, based on real time flow of information, knowledge and experience. This “Pool of knowing” crystallizes into an up-to-the-minute knowledge base that informs where and how, as a business, we step next.
Time to Drop the Personalities
It isn’t about personalities; it is about awareness, from personal to business self-awareness. The role of senior management is to remain objective. What does that mean? It means both inner and outer observation. In a conscious business, senior managers practice introspection, (they look at their own biases as if they were objects to be studied) and they subject their opinions and intuitions to third party “devil’s advocacy”. Senior managers seek out different points of view. Senior managers prioritise
– sensing and serving the needs of the organisation’s customers and key stakeholders
– enhancing business consciousness
– keeping the organisation awake, aware and alert, internally and externally, in real time.
– changing organisational to meet environmental changes, including the transient need for senior management itself. Hierarchies are temporary, emergent and flexible in a conscious business.
Welcoming the New and the Useful
Senior managers develop and practice emotional intelligence, active listening, and welcome and seek out useful and new ideas and suggestions from any helpful source. Status is not a cultural default in a conscious business; respect is earned not given by favouritism or clunky vertical structures. Measurement is authentic, and focused on identifying how the business can improve its consciousness.
Senior managers see their “higher viewpoint” – awareness of risk, taking of critical decisions, and ability to hold authority over others – as something sacred, something they steward rather than own. They do not see themselves as more important; they tend to view their role as part of the whole system. Both the chief executive and the cleaner are fundamental parts of the whole system. This isn’t a form of socialism of clunky equality; it is a form of systems thinking, where senior managers see themselves as parts of the integrity of the whole. Everything needs to fit together in whatever way it needs to in a conscious business.
Ten Features of Senior Management in a Conscious Business
1. Senior managers are much more “present” in the processes of the business. Consciousness is high – meetings are more emergent, alongside more regular “rhythmic” processes such a monthly strategy reviews etc. Senior managers are both “overview” and “out there”.
2. There’s an ability to quickly undo decisions, reshape key processes and structures, identify technological paths to innovation of products, services and processes, learn from mistakes and be humble with that learning.
3. Roles morph and change, even pass away. Senior management is drawn from whoever and wherever, whenever and however it is needed.
4. Reward is based on self-motivation, a wish to serve professionally, and there is no place for primitive “motivation by bonus” which warps commitment and consciousness
5. Information systems are seem, not as “below” senior managers, feeding upwards, but “above”, feeding down. Information is real-time, useful, accessible and accurate, truly informing overview reaction, proactivity and direction-finding
6. Senior managers are ethical, emotionally intelligent, able to listen, dialogue, inspire, and challenge. Truth is seen as vital to “clear-seeing”.
7. Senior managers are self-aware, practice introspection, aware of their own biases, and open to devil’s advocacy and different points of view. Cronyism is banished. Freedom of thought, without fear, is a core value.
8. There is a culture of seeking out the real needs of those who are served by the business. Shareholders are also aware of the business purpose and in tune with the business’s culture of practicing conscious business.
9. The business is led by managers who are an example – transparency, openness and honesty are core values, lived in practice
10. Promotion is based not on years worked, nor on any favouritism and delivery of narrow measures. Promotion marries business need with capability, motivation and “fit” with the integrity of the business.
And, Yes – It is still about Leadership
Senior managers are leaders. Leadership is a role and process in a conscious business that enables inspiration, motivation, strong decision-making (when needed) and strategy making to happen. The role never fixes for too long or in one particular way. Leaders emerge, from different parts of the organisation. Permanent leadership roles are only created if needed (for example, if stability of a role is needed).
Leadership largely associated with process rather than personality in a conscious business. Leadership can, and should happen anywhere in a conscious business, even in its realm of digital working. Leadership may arise out of digital processes as much as physical ones. Leadership involves direction-finding, true-naming, inspiring others, fitting parts together into a bigger picture, and unblocking conflict and difficulty.
Senior managers in a conscious business are “senior” for different reasons. Sometimes that seniority is bestowed because the senior person is wiser, and has experience and wisdom that helps guide the wider organisation. Sometimes it is born of the unique position of ownership of the business. Here leadership is only assumed if the owner has a unique contribution to make to the organisation and may also carry the inspiration passion that will later be shared across the organisation. Sometimes the senior manager will be a temporary specialist, with temporarily needed skills and oversight. Sometimes the leader will emerge because a leader is needed, a hero, helping the organisation on a “quest”. The leader’s role then coincides with the post of a senior manager.
In all cases,. reflection is practised and permanence is never assumed. Rewards are never for the position in the hierarchy, but for the quality of the work done for the business.
Daring to be Different
Senior managers are often very different in a conscious business. Their career isn’t to climb up the organisation, but to serve it with a unique and important skill set and experience base.
Senior managers in conscious businesses are not the same people as the senior managers at an earlier stage of that business’s development, when it was more traditionally structured and managed. They represent and reflect the organisation radically transformed.
Conscious businesses perform excellently, because senior management is a role that practices excellence. And excellence is born of consciousness. Senior managers have the vital role of occasionally acting as the eyes and ears of the enterprise, but not always. Often they interpret and articulate the essence of the organisation’s will. But they are one of the means to the business’s consciousness, not the sole cause of it.
In a conscious business, as a senior manager, you might just have to wave goodbye to yourself and become less attached to the word “senior”. Yet it also might be the hello to the authentic, genuinely useful and fulfilling next step you’ve been wishing for.
Paul Levy is author of the book Digital Inferno.
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