It was a morning like most weekday mornings, which is to say everyone in my family was running around trying to get ready to leave the house. And as you may know, some mornings are better than others when it comes to little kids listening versus dawdling — this particular morning was kiddo procrastination in overdrive, and I was getting frustrated.
In a brief moment when the kids were in their bedrooms (presumably getting dressed, but God only knows), I turned to my wife and said, “Is it ALL children that can’t listen unless they are threatened with some kind of negative consequence? Or just ours?” To which she replied:
“It’s all children, I think…
…and adults seem to be the same way.”
· · ·
It’s one of the most common complaints I hear from leaders about the workplace, though it comes in a variety of forms and phrases…
“People just don’t do what they’re supposed to do.”
“We have an accountability problem.”
“I don’t WANT to ‘manage’ people, but I feel like I HAVE to.”
But these things are like sinus congestion, body aches, and a fever — they are simply symptoms of the underlying disease: “Congrats, you have the flu!”
In our workplaces, we might call the above statements symptoms of Neverland Disease.
You remember Neverland from the story of Peter Pan, of course: the place of eternal youth, where the kids who don’t want to grow up decide to stay. This is exactly what exists in workplaces that have the above complaints — the way we work largely treats people like children, so they act accordingly.
And isn’t that exactly what we’re talking about with the above statements?
When people behave like adults, we don’t have to worry if they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, or about “accountability” or about “managing” them. Adults who behave like adults are self-directed, autonomous, and capable. Children on the other hand, like mine in the morning, don’t always know how to make good choices and need more direction.
So, sadly, no matter where you work, the answer to the question I posed in the title is likely to be “Yes.” The vast majority of our workplaces ARE “Neverland,” a place where people can go and forever act like children.
So, let’s say you’d like to escape Neverland (maybe your company has even tried to do this over the years).
Workplaces who suffer from Neverland Disease often think they need more “training” — maybe a workshop on accountability or something similar.
Or they think they need better “processes” — a better system to ensure people actually do what they need to do.
But they need neither of these things, at least not at first.
· · ·
What our organizations actually need is to upgrade the pervasive “Neverland” mindset.
We need to create a work environment where it’s expected and required for everyone to behave like an adult at work.
And this isn’t about “training” or “process” — it’s about learning to think differently about the nature of work. It’s a mindset upgrade.
Most often, this first requires top leadership to upgrade their mindset, because they are typically the ones perpetuating the parent-child relationship by thinking their role is one of “parent” to all the “children” below them.
Practically speaking, everyone’s thinking needs to be upgraded around decisions — how they get made and who gets to make them. Isn’t this the crowning hallmark of human maturity, when we trust our children to make good decisions on their own? It’s the same in our workplaces. Put simply, until people have the authority and autonomy to make their own decisions, they will forever be “children.”
To make this possible without creating anarchy, our organizations need guiding principles that everyone agrees to follow, including a simple “decision-making process” that everyone agrees to use (you can see ours on page 35 of our CultureBook — get that here).
Wouldn’t you like to work in a place where everyone acted like grown-ups? With just a few upgrades, it’s well within your reach!
Is your organization ready to move beyond “training” into the world of upgrading mindsets? Click here to book a quick call with our amazing Chief Partnership Officer, Pam.