Solo performers may miss out

More and more bosses and workers appear to be wearing blinders in the high-stakes horse race that career-building has become.

A new study of some 2,500 high-level executives finds them to be so focused on performance - both their firms' and their own - that they're no longer open to new ideas that may bubble up from below.

"They believe their companies are [best] led by action-oriented bosses who by and large work either independently or in isolation, not in networks or teams," says Albert Vicere, the consultant and Penn State professor of strategic leadership who ran the study.

What happened to that vaunted nonhierarchical business model, where groups formed around tasks and embarked on solution-finding free-for-alls? You know, the kind of positive competition that can occur when people collaborate.

It could be that layoffs, and the insecurity they engender, have workers taking their cue from the top. Such employees may favor solo acts that win glory over anonymous participation in a creative collective.

And many firms today may be fostering this adversarial brand of competition as a way of goosing the throttle on productivity, as today's lead story explains.

To do so, they may need only to tap deep-seated characteristics many American workers share.

"We are traditionally taught to be really focused, to be really driven, to try really hard at tasks," psychologist Richard Wiseman told Fast Company magazine this month.

Like Mr. Vicere, he also pointed to the downside of never looking up from your work: "[I]n the real world you've got opportunities all around you," Mr. Wiseman said. "And if you're driven in one direction, you're not going to spot the others."

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