Thursday, September 11, 2014

Newton's 3rd Law of Management

Hello everyone.  It's been a few months since my last blog post so I'm happy to be back and communicating with you.  I haven't been idle during this time, at least in my mind.  Needless to say, I have quite a number of topics to cover between now and the end of the year.   Hopefully I will make your wait worth it.

Today I want to talk about the invisible repercussions, both good and bad, of the decisions we make as leaders and figures of authority.  Since anything interesting needs a good label or title, I like to refer to this subject as "Newton's 3rd Law of Management".

For point of reference, Isaac Newton's 3rd Law, which is as famous as science gets, reads in simplified form: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction

So how does Newtonian physics concepts apply to management?  Think of it this way.  Each day, all of us, all managers, make decisions that affect our teams, companies, and ultimately our people.  When we do things, the effects are positive to some people, neutral to many, and negative to others.   Think of these events as ripples in a pond, much like you would see in this short YouTube video.  The video provides a unique point of view because, upon first glance, you just see the ripples flowing outwards.  But if you take a closer look you'll see them strike the bank, or circular edge of the pond.  At that point the ripples are actually coming back to the point of origin!

So the question is how or why does this apply to you or to any of us?  Think of it this way.  If you make a great decision the results of that will carry from you out into the organization.  By creating a positive effect, what you send out will come back and wash over you.  Some people call this effect "creating corporate karma" or "generating good will".

Now conversely, if you do "evil" things, that too will ripple out well beyond the original act or point of origin.  As an example, let's take a look at the following situation.  One of your subordinates or even a colleague does something to frustrate or anger you.  Acting on those feelings, you go and confront the individual in question.  Imagine that you are standing in a hallway or break room screaming your lungs out or just saying unkind words.  Obviously the other person is going to react to you in some type of negative way, but additionally your actions will begin to radiate outwards.  Rest assured that at some point you will pay some type of price for the way you acted.

The example above is easy to use because these types of things happen everywhere.  I can safely say that most organizations have some lore about a "screamer", or someone that has built a reputation for verbally mistreating people.  Rather than stay with a trite example, I want to talk about the real danger to a manager who creates negative ripples.  You see, most of us have to make decisions about very sensitive things, which can affect the very lives of the people that work for and with us.  It's important to keep this in mind because nothing that any of us does that stays secret.

I am not saying that every detail of what we do eventually becomes known.  But in general, our intent, whether for the positive or negative, always radiates out far from us, the center of origin.  Inevitably the ripples of our actions meet the metaphysical shore bank where they rebound back towards us.  Whatever you send outwards will most often come right back at you.  When you push outwards, the organization will push back towards you.  It is part of the essence of human nature.

Be a leader that resonates strength and determination yet acts with prudence and mercy.

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