Roy Osing is former executive vice-president of Telus, educator, adviser and author of Be Different or Be Dead.
You’ve probably heard some of these comments before about individuals who are highly valued by leadership and expected to go far in the organization.
"He can be counted on to deliver consistent results; he's dependable."
"She's predictable; you get few surprises from her work."
Predictability can be a negative
Predictability is often, if not always, looked upon as a strength – an attribute that leaders find "comfortable" and desirable.
Throughout my career, I have noticed that many predictable employees found their way up the career ladder, but these people didn’t add the greatest value to the organization.
In fact, I believe the easy and comfortable employee robs an organization of long-term value because of their restrictive and conservative ways.
A high comfort level implies that predictable employees follow the approach expected by the organization’s “establishment”; they follow the rules that govern acceptable behaviour.
Meeting leadership expectations can sometimes be unwelcome bedfellows to breakaway thinking and achieving glorious results. The best result can sometimes be achieved not by following the prescribed direction exactly, but by following your gut – though that requires risk-taking and the conviction of your ideas.
Predictable behaviour prohibits breakaway results.
In many ways, being relatively certain of an outcome is uninteresting – the "amaze factor" is absent.
The capacity to discover something unexpected is stripped away. While you are busy doing the expected, you’re not on the lookout for a surprise that could vault your performance to another level and change the direction of the organization.
Learning from what is achieved while it is being achieved and then taking whatever action is implied by what is learned is severely restricted.
Predictable behaviour is boring.
Acting involuntarily by a prescribed set of rules and behaviour means predictable folks' actions can be formularized to a certain extent.
An equation – or some other tool that creates a relationship between inputs and output – can be used to determine the outcome of their actions with a high degree of precision.
It begs the question: "If an algorithm can be constructed that uses a person's action(s) to predict an outcome, why use a human in the process?" You don't need human value-add; use software to create it.
Predictable behaviour limits the human factor.
Predictability suggests compliance and risk minimization, which stifles innovation and creativity.
People look for rules and governing policies to guide their behaviour and approach to problem-solving, rather than finding the appropriate method to solve the problem at hand.
Original thought is missing in favour of dutifully following the rules and practices of the organization.
Predictable behaviour quashes originality.
Individuals who operate mechanically have difficulty creating new approaches to a challenge or problem if the accepted method doesn’t work.
A “Plan B” mentality is preferable to a predictable one; inefficiency and frustration are caused when one continually attempts to reapply the same approach in hopes of achieving a different result.
Predictable behaviour fails to recover when Plan A doesn’t work out.
Predictability does help some individuals be successful in a controlled environment, but there are long-term opportunity costs to the organization that are always ignored.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.
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