Formality is like Cancer

Why is formality - in your own organization - your own worst enemy?

Formality is your own worst enemy because formality implies lack of candor.

By definition, formality is the rigid observance of convention or etiquette.

When you need to solve problems with your people, when you need the true perspective from all your team members, when you need the honest input from your employees in order to make important decisions, formality kills the essence of the real truth - without the truth you will not be able to make the best possible decision.

In an organizational setting, formality is almost the antonym of candor.

Think about it: Formality is not intentional dishonesty. Formality is when your employees impulsively don't express themselves with 100 per cent honesty - it is when they hold back constructive feedback - it is when they don't speak up their truth in order to avoid conflict and/or maintain appearances.

According to the Corporate Executive Board, "Nearly half of executive teams lack information they need to manage effectively because employees withhold vital input out of fear the information will reflect poorly on them."

A Harvard Business Review Daily Stat - citing the same Corporate Executive Board source - mentions a stunning shareholder return fact: "Companies rated by their employees as being in the top quartile in openness of communication, delivered an average total shareholder return of 7.9% over a recent 10-year period, compared with 2.1% at companies in other quartiles."

If you walk into a room where there is one or more hot-shot executives, and you feel, you smell, and you sense formality floating in the air - you better watch out. This is a red hot button that is telling you something is wrong with your communication environment.

Every time you find yourself in a formal environment, the communication environment is not 100 per cent open - it's that simple.

Outside competition becomes irrelevant if formality is the way you communicate with each other within your team, within your Department, and/or within your Company.

Watch out for formality, especially if it is the environment where you are the leader - because you are responsible for creating such formal culture.

You want an unstoppable flow of ideas, you want open debate, and you want constructive conflict in order to constantly create breakthrough innovative ideas.

Formality can dress in many different ways, it can have various personalities, and it can adopt very different facades - but regardless of the culture where it coexists, it has the same devastating consequence: Lack of real frankness.


How do you get candor in your organization?

Role model it in an exaggerated way, talk about it, teach its value, praise it, and most of all, reward it - seriously.

In the same way that you do not take cancer lightly, do NOT take formality casually - because your company's competitive advantage might well depend on it.

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See you next month!
Jose Luis Romero - Publisher
January 3, 2012. Copyright: All rights reserved
I publish "Leader Newsletter" on the first Tuesday of every month

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