News & Insights

​Our detox series looks at key challenges faced by leaders and managers.
Toxicity can exist in any part of an organisation or can be apparent throughout. Typically, it can be a matter of leadership and manifest in the 3 areas below.

1. Inadequate leadership

Leaders can be in post but absent in practical terms and so exercise no effective leadership. Alternatively, or additionally, the structure of the organisation is such that it is difficult to determine functional leads and/ or key areas of responsibility. These factors create an atmosphere of uncertainty and instability where no one is clear about accountability.

2. Lack of strategic direction

Strategic planning is ether absent or inadequate. This means strategic plans if they are in existence are rarely reviewed. The organisation is reactive and tends to plod along and then reacts to events with a sense of crisis rather than methodically planning towards goals.

3. Poor communications

Needless to say poor communication is another sign of toxicity. Information is treated as a power currency and is held in the hands of a few, not shared as appropriate or it is unclear. There can also be another syndrome of communications as camouflage where on the face of it communication is happening and seems fine – but beneath the surface, there is a complete disconnect between what is said and the actual situation. These combined with poor communications systems can have a detrimental effect on overall organisational performance.

Failing to tackle the above factors is a recipe for disaster. Typical issues include mission drift, poor performance culture, demotivated staff teams and reduced productivity all of which can impact negatively on the bottom line.

4. Focus on activity and inadequate thinking / overly thinking and inadequate activity

Activity makes things happen so naturally in order to deliver a service, concerted and planned activity is required. The problem happens when there is a planning deficit, that is planning is not given adequate time or prioritised as a business essential. In these organisations performance is rarely reviewed, evaluations do not occur and long-term thinking is absent. This can lead to stagnation or a failure to adapt services, lack of awareness of key internal or external matters and eventually a decline in performance and growth.

The converse of this is where there is a great deal of focus on planning and thinking but nothing changes as a result. This can be the worst type of analysis paralysis whereby issues are picked apart, examined and a new course of direction is set – but nothing changes as a result. No follow through is a killer of innovation and motivation.

If you would like to speak to us about any of these issues, please contact us.

1. The Naysayer

Everything is impossible to the naysayer. They see the pitfalls in every plan, every risk is imminent and every vision will fail. Unfortunately, the naysayer, will usually share their prophecies of doom openly or undercover. This is detrimental to an organisation trying to develop or build a culture of innovation and a confident and creative team. Usually the Naysayer, if charismatic enough will form a clique and then left unchecked, they will collectively undermine, new initiatives and cause serious doubt to develop in a toxic manner. They are usually overt and challenging which initially presents as open and frank discourse. However it soon sows doubt and distrust, this then causes a split between management and staff.

This is quite different from raising issues in a constructive manner with a solutions focused mind-set. To the Naysayer – there are no solutions. This can be a particularly challenging issue during a change process which by definition may involve a few bumps along the way. The Naysayer is concerned with building a powerbase that sees the bumps as evidence that the destination is out of reach and undermines confidence in the ‘drivers’ of change. Ironically, this attitude often masks low confidence and ‘fear of change’. The big danger of the Naysayer is the ability to undermine the organisation’s culture which unchecked can harm any business.

2. The Charmer

Superficially, the Charmer is a delight. They will volunteer in meetings and take on those tasks that seem vital but without a project lead. They are agreeable, will flatter and will rarely offend. The Charmer has a well cultivated affable exterior.

The problem with the charmer is that they can also be very ineffective. The effort that goes into maintaining a charming exterior is the only effort they are willing to make.

At a push they will work when it becomes obvious that they are not pulling their weight but unfortunately, they are adept at wriggling off the hook. The Charmer lives for the applause and ability to amuse colleagues and clients and does not necessarily enjoy the rigour of completing a piece of work to a high standard. Colleagues soon become disenchanted with them as they wise up to their ways and unless a manager is very skilled in dealing with the Charmer, they wriggle of the hook with a series of excuses which means they rarely get held to account. This is obviously detrimental to team dynamics.

3.The Perennial Networker

The Perennial Networker like the Charmer likes to work people. This personality type is focused on purposeful networking. Initially this is an attractive quality as most organisations want to develop collaborative relationships with other organisations and having a good ambassador for the company is a good thing. Who better than the confident and willing Perennial Networker?

The problem is, the Perennial Networker is not there to benefit the organisation. His/her primary purpose is to benefit their own career progression and increase their contacts. This can lead to conflicts of interest unless there are very clear boundaries and targets set.

Good management including robust performance management is the best tool to ensure that all individuals in the team are not consciously or subconsciously undermining business goals.

These 3 personality types tend to be larger than life and require strong management to support them to use their skills in the best way for the organisation or in the worse case scenario to find a more appropriate avenue for their skills outside of the company.

So much has been written on this topic, so here is a simple list that avoids jargon and reaffirms tips that are generally known but are sometimes a challenge to put into practice.

1. Be strategic about your work load

Don’t get distracted by the small stuff. There are many strategies to employ to use prioritisation strategies, find one that works for you and use it. If it’s simply a task to distract you from work that is uncomfortable, tedious or difficult don’t make it a priority.

2. Learn to plan

Poor planning is detrimental on a number of fronts. It leads to stress, it drains energy and it leads to poor decision-making. Many managers fail to head the saying 'failure to plan is planning to fail'.

3. Be attentive to staff morale

The lifeblood of any organisation is the people. Their enthusiasm, commitment, drive and passion for the company should not be taken for granted. Making staff feel valued and empowered will always yield investment in terms of staff morale. It reduces staff absenteeism and the associated costs, increases motivation and it also enhances productivity. Companies that invest in staff training and development create resilient organisations and retain good staff.

4. Get plenty of rest

Rest may seem like a luxury when the pending pile and deadlines appear to be relentlessly screaming for attention. The key here is to recognise that a chaotic mind will not be an effective one. Getting plenty of rest means you can plan and prioritise without panicking.

It is impossible for the brain to work effectively without proper rest and scheduling rest is an important management skill.

5. Review everything regularly

It is easy to get into habits and do things because ‘it’s the way things have always been done’. This is risky and can lead to stagnation.

One way to counter this is to take the time out to review and ask; ‘how can we improve?’ Carrying out a review is best done with the help of an independent expert to avoid the tendency to ignore blind spots which may naturally occur when people have got accustomed to the culture of a company.

Do you need help to become an effective manager, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us