Adolescent Psychology is the Enemy of an Effective Workplace

The leadership and organizational effectiveness I experienced in the U.S. Navy were extraordinary.  From Officer Candidate School to shipboard responsibilities to duty as admiral’s aide, my training and development was reinforced by laser-like alignment from the top of the command to the newest member of the organization, of values—mission—vision—goals—strategies—tactics.

It was purposeful, focused, clear, and apolitical. The intelligence and work hard ethic was very similar to what I witness in profitable commercial enterprise.  Yet, there was very little psychology distorting the field.  The general lack of fear and anxiety in the Navy’s mission-oriented culture promoted brilliance and insight with efficiency throughout the day.  In the Navy, people spent time being effective in the context of the worthy mission, not being self-absorbed, politically correct or personally greedy.

In a word, it was adult.

There was such a lack of adolescent psychology in the mission-driven Navy workday that I was completely surprised to run into it in commercial business life when I departed active duty. The prevalence of adolescent thinking in medium-to-large American business organizations is in stark contrast to what I saw in the Navy, yet there is little to justify this gap.

A friend once observed that my post-Navy career is based on my ability to bring adult perspectives and performance into the wealth-and-status-driven adolescent culture in business organizations.  My response was that I am lucky to do what I do, namely to work with unselfish people who insist that their customers and social values are strategic priorities; thus, I work with adults. Remarkably, I also find that the adult can be led forward from the adolescent. People can learn to discern, particularly around points of honor and social values, to stand to their full height as adults in the workplace.

Each of us has a responsibility to align our respective organization for optimum performance in the global community.  What are you doing to lead the laser-like alignment of core civil values—mission—strategic vision—strategic goals—guiding strategies—and tactical acts (see Strategic Terminology)?   Do you know how to lead and manage this alignment?  Share your perspective in the comments.