Let me share with you a psychological concept called social loafing, It explains why and when you & your executive team can be susceptible to being lazy. I’ll then share a few ideas to prevent laziness, or social loafing creeping in.
The why and when executive team members can be lazy:
Any person in a group or team can exhibit social loafing.
Social loafing is the tendency for individuals to reduce the effort they put into a task when they are working as part of a group as opposed to working alone.
Social loafing was first observed in experiments by Max Ringelmann (*). He carried out research in which he asked workers to pull on a rope as hard as they could, first individually and then as part of a group with seven other individuals. Each pulled harder when pulling individually than part of a team. Though the group generated greater pulling power overall, it was lower than expected when taking into account the sum of individual performance.
The same happens in your executive team. Executive team members are prone to put less effort into say decision making when part of the executive team, than when they make decisions by themselves.
The times when you and your executive team colleagues are most likely to loaf are:
- when you believe your effort will not affect overall group effort on a task
- when you believe your performance will not be visible or identifiable to others.
We are also cunning, and are likely adjust your effort depending on the effort we expect others to make. So we have a tendency to “free ride”.
So although as an executive team member you may want to shine, you may unwittingly loaf or don’t try as hard when you think your effort won’t be visible to others.
Social loafing will most typically occur in an executive team when members feel they are acting as a collective.
Think of tasks where you and your colleagues need to make a collective decision. For example, setting compensation or approving strategic decisions. These are times when social loafing is likely to kick-in. Consequentlyexecutive team members don’t contribute to the discussion or decision as much, and a vail conformity can descend over the entire executive team. The net result being that quite possibly a lower quality decision is made.
Clearly when directors care about the task they are less likely to loaf.
However, social loafing does explain why cross functional initiatives can grind to a halt. With all the collective decisions that need to be made, people simply start to ‘switch off’…and lethargy can set in, despite everyone’s gung-ho intentions at the initiatives inception.
Is there a cure for social loafing?
Well if it were possible to evaluate individual contributions then people are less likely to loaf, but this is hardly or rarely practical with an executive team or Board.
Simply being aware that social loafing can kick-in can help prevent it. Asking each member of the executive team to clearly articulate how they plan to contribute to ‘XYZ’ initiative that needs a collective decision can help curtail loafing. Also along the route ask for executive team members for their thoughts & opinions so they are still involved. For larger initiatives try having smaller groups so there is nowhere for people to hide and loaf.
(*) Kravitz, D. A., & Martin, B. (1986). Ringelmann rediscovered: The original article. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 50(5), 936-941
You might also enjoy these articles:
- May 31, 2017 Are You An Impostor At The Top?
- Apr 26, 2017 Is your mother in your executive team meetings?
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- Oct 27, 2016 The Psychological Impact Of Being A Chief Executive
- Sep 22, 2016 Expect More, Get More.
- Aug 25, 2016 "Boys Don't Cry"...but should CEOs?
- Jul 28, 2016 Fear of death: The curse of the executive in their twilight years
- Jul 1, 2016 How To Lead In Uncertain Times
- Jun 1, 2016 How You Deal With Anxiety In The Boardroom
- May 26, 2016 What's The Smell Of Your Organisation?
- Apr 28, 2016 The Attributes Of An Effective Executive Team
- Mar 24, 2016 The Fearless Executive
- Mar 17, 2016 How You Can Create The Environment For Top Team Performance To Thrive
- February 2016
- January 2016
- Dec 17, 2015 “My Heart Belongs To Daddy”
- Nov 26, 2015 How To Make Better Executive Team Decisions
- Oct 29, 2015 How To Tell If Your Executive Team Is Dysfunctional
- September 2015
- Aug 27, 2015 Why Executive Teams Can Sometimes Be Lazy
- Jul 30, 2015 How To Get Buy-In (And It's Not What You May Think)
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015