One of the ultimate overlooked pitfalls of organizations is when they develop a culture of creating robots. Over my 20 years of organizational leadership I have been a part of and had various clients who have struggled with creating these robotic cultures. In order to further track with what I’m saying, lets start by defining robot:
ro·bot [roh-buht, – bot] noun
1. a machine that resembles a human and does mechanical, routine tasks on command.
2. a person who acts and responds in a mechanical, routine manner, usually subject to another’s will; automaton.
3. any machine or mechanical device that operates automatically with humanlike skill. adjective
4. operating automatically:
With these clear definitions, it’s easy to see how organizations can fall into the category of developing a culture where people act and respond in a mechanical, routine and expected manner. They become a robot that resembles a human. They are expected to do this and do this in this manner (period the end). Anything outside of “this and this manner” is taboo, frowned upon and ultimately not part of the robotic expectation.
I remember having a conversation with a professional athlete that over their career had the opportunity to play under a number of different organizations. According to him, each organization had a different culture, style and expectation. One particular culture was, “very robotic… you were expected to do this and do it this way… period the end.” Ultimately this didn’t allow the freedom to create and make things happen and therefore limited the success of many players. As players began to transition to other organizations over the years, players began to find their grooves in environments where they could create, play and lead. Some people prefer to punch the clock and simply be robots, others are stiffed by robotic cultures and need the freedom to create.
If an organization wants to have ultimate success they must focus on setting clear expectations rather than programming robots. When a culture removes the opportunity to think, challenge, process, push and get outside of the box, the culture is programming robots and not developing leaders. A leader is the antithesis of a robot, if you’re creating a culture of robots, you’re not creating a culture of leaders.