Changing Choice to ForceIn a previous post, I asked whether choice or force was the methodology of quintessential leadership. Now I want to discuss the effects of force when choice is the default. 

In other words, what are the effects when people are forced to do something that is, by default, a choice that they can opt to do or not to do? 

Does forcing people to do something that is presented as a choice for them bring them around to whatever the intended effects are that the people who are exerting force are trying to get or does it make those people even more resistant to opting ever for the choice?

I always go for practical, this-is-what-it-looks-like examples of the topic we’re discussing, so we’ll look at a couple of real-world scenarios.

Let’s say that your organization does a weekly blog on random topics that are interesting, perhaps, but not mission-critical (whether team members read it or not will not have any effect on productivity, project completion, or successful outcomes).

Let’s say, as well, that your organization has a weekly video presentation that, again, is not mission-critical. Instead it is, in essence, a promotional video for the organization that continually pats the organization on the back and talks about how great the organization is. The video is posted on the same website as the blog and team members can opt to watch it or not.

What I’ve presented in these two scenarios is choice. Just like the choice you are exercising right now by reading this post (anyone who doesn’t read it is also exercising choice). 

Now, let’s say that the organization’s web analysts have been told to monitor how many hits the blog and the video get each week and their report shows that almost nobody’s reading the blog or watching the video. Remember, this is a choice that team members have to read, to watch or to not read and not watch.

Commandeering Team Meets to Make Choice ForceThe people in leadership positions decide the response among team members is unacceptable, so they commandeer each department’s weekly status meetings and have the blog read to each team and the video played before the actual meeting about what everybody’s actually there for begins.

There are a myriad of reasons why each of us, as unique and highly-individualized creations from the very hand of God, choose to opt in or opt out of the millions of choices we are presented with daily. 

In the scenario with the blog, some people don’t like to read.

Others want to stay focused on the things that are linked to productivity, to project completion, and to successful outcomes without a lot of extraneous – and, in many cases, distracting or unhelpful – information in the mix.

And still others find themselves in frequent disagreement with some of the subjective and erroneous information (we’re all guilty of it at times, my friends, and to pretend or deny that we aren’t is the height of pride and arrogance) included in the blog, so they don’t read it because it would end up being detrimental to them in the big scheme of things.

In the scenario of the video, some people simply will not watch videos. I’m one of those (the same is true with listening to audio).

Because of my learning style, which requires me to see words on a page, I need to read to process, to comprehend, and to think about whatever I’m choosing to invest into and make the focus of my time and attention.

Others don’t watch the videos because they are simply self-promotion of the organization and they’re not interested in “cheerleading” videos.

And still others don’t watch simply because they’re not interested at all.

However, because the blog posts and the videos are now part of weekly status meetings, the choice for each team member and their reasons for opting out has been taken away.

So what are the effects now that choice for each team member has been replaced with force?

The first effect will be a combination of anger and resistance.

And this is what unquintessential leaders who use this tactic – and it happens a lot – don’t understand or comprehend. The reason – the motive – behind force is to compel people to buy in to whatever is being presented. The belief is that force will lead to choice because team members just “aren’t aware of what they’re missing” or “team members just don’t know what the value of the information in the blog posts or videos is.”

In other words, team members are perceived as ignorant children who don’t know what’s good for them, so by forcing them to read (or listen) and watch, they will see the light and become devoted readers and watchers.

Wrong. Force will only drive those team members who have opted out of choice further away from a buy in. 

These team members will be angry because they are viewed by people in leadership as being ignorant and childlike (in other words, they can’t make good and/or right decisions for themselves). These team members will also be angry because they will see the force for what it is: an attempt to manipulate unconditional loyalty and support for the organization.

The team members who chose to opt out and now are facing force will also be resistant because their choice was taken away. These team members may sit there, but they’re not listening and they’re not watching. Instead, they are committed to the authenticity in their reasons for why they opted out to begin with. In other words, these team members will “check out” for the duration.

Another effect of choice being replaced with force is an outgrowth of resistance: attrition.

The reality is that once an organization replaces choice with force, it has embarked on the slippery slope of attempts to control everything and everybody in the organization. Choice is no longer available. Everything becomes force.

Resistance to that force, which is actually oppression, eventually leads to attrition. When continual and increasing attrition rates affect an organization, the organization has dealt itself a fatal death blow. 

Anger and Resistance Against Force Instead of Choice Leads to AttritionIt may take months or years to shudder into its eventual demise, but the outcome is, nevertheless, certain. Potential team members always look at an organization’s viability before committing to become a member of the team.

Viability is evident in the relationship among what kind of leadership is in place, organizational policies, and the rate of attrition. The higher the attrition rate, the more evident that unquintessential leadership is at the helm and an organizational policy of force is in place. 

If the existing team members are bailing, then potential team members are going to look elsewhere as well. It’s just the inevitable and logical outcome of the effects of force replacing choice.

So, my fellow quintessential leaders, now is the time for us to look in the mirror. We can always point at other people in any scenario we use, but that does us no good. We must instead look at ourselves, because we’re committed to the highest standard, to a different standard, to doing the right thing all the time, no matter what we personally may have to sacrifice in the process or what it may personally cost us, with every team we lead in life. It’s a matter of our character and our integrity.

Are we guilty of replacing choice with force? Are we in organizations that dictate that we replace choice with force? Do we go along because we don’t want to rock the boat or do we have the courage to say “No, that’s wrong. If it’s a choice, then we’re not going to force it on anyone?” 

Are we willing to lose everything – our position within the organization, our income from the organization, and our teams in the organization – to be authentic, genuine, and to stand up for and do what’s true and right, or will we compromise, becoming unquintessential leaders, because it will negatively impact us personally if we don’t?

I can only answer these questions for myself. You can only answer them for yourselves.

How are we doing?

 

 

 

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