5 August 2017 | Sutton & Rao challenge leaders and powerful scaling teams with the question: “Have you done everything possible to make sure that the ties that bind you don’t also blind you?”
Scaling requires leaders to find or develop pockets of excellence, connect people and teams, and ensure that excellence continues to flow through those ties. We’ve seen that such leadership can come from people or teams at the top, the middle, or the bottom of organizations.
Scaling is propelled by leaders who think and act like “connectors.” A big part of this role involves exposing or creating links that ought to be made for the greater good. Many scaling veterans are adept at asking questions that reveal missing or weak links, which sets the stage for building stronger networks.
Some of the most savvy connectors are skilled at asking and acting on questions that uncover weak or missing links— but wield little formal authority and don’t have powerful carrots and sticks at their disposal.
Another part of a connector’s role is to snip or weaken links that create tunnel vision or distorted and dangerous views of reality. When people are too closely connected they can lose the ability to imagine, hear , or remember— let alone act on—information that clashes with their beliefs and ingrained behaviors.
Many other powerful teams that try to do good work but fail. They were imprisoned in a web of connections of their own making that filtered out crucial opposing views and new information. And they intimidated and chased away people and groups that tried to give them disconfirming advice. Ultimately, their tunnel vision condemned them to waste time, reach a flawed conclusion, and embarrass themselves.
There is a similar danger within organizations and projects that are led by very tight-knit and powerful scaling teams. Leaders and other members of such teams can delude themselves about the wisdom and impact of their actions. They may suffer from what psychologists call “confirmation bias,” the tendency to trust, remember, and act only on information that supports what you already believe. Confirmation bias is fueled when they reward subordinates and peers who flatter them, skew the data to confirm their views, screen out messengers and messages that deliver news they don’t want to hear—and ridicule and punish people who present them with uncomfortable truths they don’t want to accept.