Why Managers Violate Natural Laws
How the Study of Human Nature Can Guide Managers to Make Better Decisions
Everyone seems to know about natural laws and the consequences of violating those laws. Take the law of gravity. You trip – you fall; you roll out of bed – you are rudely awakened; you step off a cliff – you die. Everyone knows this and everyone is incessantly accountable to working with the law of gravity to avoid negative consequences.
This is true of many natural laws. If you don’t follow the laws of aerodynamics your plane crashes. If you violate the law of thermodynamics by touching a hot stove, you burn your hand. Unless there are mistakes or accidents, people obey these natural laws 100% of the time, without fail, and without someone looking over their shoulder to ensure obedience.
Why is this true? Well…we like incentives. We like pleasure. We don’t like pain. Working with the law of gravity allows us to walk freely to a chosen location. Working with the laws of aerodynamics allows us to fly to a vacation spot. And working with the laws of thermodynamics creates a warm and cozy winter evening.
But, as bizarre as it is, there are times when we look at a natural law that is as clear and powerful as the law of gravity and just walk off the cliff as if it doesn’t even exist. We can look a natural law in the eye and defy it, disobey it, maybe even deny its very existence. What’s going on? Why do we obey some natural laws and not others?
A moment of reflection gives the answer. When the cause and effect of a natural law are greatly separated in space and time, we are more likely to violate that law. In fact, the further the separation, the more likely it is that we will ignore the consequences of that law. Sadly, we also ignore the benefits too.
The cause and effect of smoking and death are separated by years. If the cause and effect were associated as closely as the law of gravity’s cause and effect, smoking would stop instantly. Alternatively, if the cause and effect of gravity were separated by years, we probably would violate that law too. We would step off a cliff and float effortlessly believing or hoping a “cure” for smashing our body into the ground would be found before we smashed our body into the ground.
We humans can get real creative when we want something. We find ways around natural laws. Figuring out the laws of aerodynamics, for example, got us around the law of gravity. Learning about the law of displacement enables us to float tons and tons of steel in the ocean. And those who don’t like to save money found an alternative which is, in essence, a “reverse savings.” Instead of putting money in a savings account every month until you have enough to buy a boat, a “reverse savings” allows you to buy the boat then put money into a “savings” (a loan) every month – which, of course, comes with a price called interest.
Sometimes, the incentive at the end of a delayed effect from a given cause is sufficient enough to encourage appropriate action. Getting an educational degree is an example. Even though there may be years before the “effect” of that education comes to pass in the form of a job or career, we are willing to invest the effort because the “pay off” is a sufficient incentive.
How does this discussion of human nature apply to a manager or leader?
Over the years we have found that the dynamics of violating natural laws illuminated above are exactly the dynamics of most leaders and managers experience when it comes to the laws of business and management.
A leader knows she needs to create a strategic plan or the company will end up behind the competition, reactive or simply surviging the moment, but it’s too easy to delay that activity because of the continuous crises that bombard every moment of every day. The “effect” of being more appropriately positioned in the market place and prepared for growth from the “cause” of strategic planning is not realized. Instead, like the not-so-proverbial dog chasing it’s tail, we see leaders entrenched in a reactionary stance, not taking the time to plan.
A manager may know the importance of staff development, training them in the hard and soft skills necessary to create productivity, eliminate conflict and develop teamwork. Instead, the perception of not enough time and too much work derails the good intentions of employee development. As a result, the manager becomes more micro in his management and dictatorial in his style. After all, the work has to get done!
Some of the questions we hear prove that the leader/manager does not have the perspective of cause and effect. The focus is on the issue or crisis of the moment. The questions seem to be centered on “what can I do NOW?” To us the answer is obvious, but the manager can’t see it. The focus is on the moment, not on the systemic cause and effect of the natural laws associated with the issue.
When this happens, we lead the manager to answer her own question by performing one simple mental exercise. In so doing we nudge the manager to think more systemically about cause and effect. Here is the mental exercise:
“If you ever wonder what to do for your team or your business, up the risk quotient and ask the same question. Imagine a situation that has huge safety threats like climbing a mountain where your lives depend on each other or flying tight formation in a Blue Angel’s show –then ask the same question for that scenario.”
Consider these questions we’ve been asked in the context of the above mental exercise:
“How often should we meet? When should we invest in new tools? How important is training? How important is strategic planning when we already have some direction right now? What should we do with a certain employee who has not been performing well…for quite some time…actually, for years?”
Notice how the answers become quite obvious when you consider the question in a high-risk scenario? What’s happening when we up the risk factor in the mental exercise is this; we’re simply shortening up the time frame between cause and effect, helping the leader to consider the situation within the context of a natural law. In essence we’ve taught the leader how to think differently, possibly at a more foundational level – which in itself has a more beneficial cause and effect. Thinking differently creates different action.
When working with a company to enhance their organization’s success we will remind them that the laws of business and leadership and management and achievement are no different than the power in the laws associated with climbing a mountain – except for one thing: the length of time between cause and effect. In fact our success comes from one thing and one thing only, working WITH natural laws; and that’s more HOW you do something and WHEN you do it than whether or not you do it. We will often tell the leaders of a company, “We are not here to ask you to do different things; but to do things differently.” Then we teach them tools and processes that work within the cause and effect of natural laws.
What natural laws are we referring to? What natural laws are associated with business and organizational success?
There are laws of economics, accounting principles and legalities associated with running your business. But underneath all of these utility laws, there are more basic laws, laws that are as vital and as central to your business as the laws of physics are to the universe. These laws are the 5 Laws of Achievement. And, just like the simple elegance of the four laws that govern our universe, (the strong and weak nuclear forces, gravity and quantum electric dynamic) the laws of achievement are simple too – and just as powerful.
When you understand the power of natural laws it becomes easy to obtain success. Why? It’s because the power is in the law, not in your efforts. When you work with the law of gravity to roll a bus that is out of gas downhill, it is an easy task. Pushing it up hill is working against the law. Working against a law takes a lot of effort and reaps little in return. Working with a law allows you to leverage effort. A little effort reaps great return, because, again, the power is in the law. Your effort only determines whether you are working with or against the natural law. It’s the same with the 5 Laws of Achievement.
For 30 years we’ve seen the powerful effects of the Laws of Achievement with our own eyes. The first time we put the laws into effect was in a print shop of 12 employees in Napa Valley, California. The owner and managers were violating or working against virtually every one of the natural laws. The staff had low morale, production was barely enough and everyone felt overworked, and the owner was weary of it all.
Within ten months, the same group of people doubled their production while experiencing less stress and feeling like they weren’t working as hard as before. Morale was at an all time high. Customers were more satisfied and the business continued to grow exponentially – all because they began working with the Laws of Achievement, rather than against them.
The laws are always at the center of success – and failure. Ironically, the laws are always engaged. Whether the managers know about them or not, acknowledge them or not, understands them or not, or is resistant to them; the laws exist and are engaged – every time, all the time. Just like the law of gravity. It’s always engaged. The issue is whether you are working with the law or against it.
When we begin working with an organization, the laws are at the center of the success trail. We typically go through the laws sequentially to teach the tools and concepts of working with each law. But after people learn how to work with the laws, the laws become either cyclic or diagnostic. In other words, successful companies continue to repeat the cycle of visiting the five laws, working with each in sequence, returning to the first law when finished visiting the fifth law.
The diagnostic aspect of the laws is when a leader or manager uses the five laws to diagnose a problem. If something is not going well, the question is which of the law is being violated? (And there can be more than one law violated at the same time). The answer then is to work more closely with the laws being violated to remedy the situation.
Following is a brief explanation of the five laws. We’ve used the acronym P.O.W.E.R. to explain and remember the laws. This acronym is extremely relevant since the laws interact with each other to create success and abundance and POWER. Success comes from working with all of the laws.
1. P.O.W.E.R. = Perspective: Belief determines attitude and action.
The first law of achievement is the Law of Perspective and speaks about the beliefs associated with that perspective which automatically result in a person’s attitude and action. Belief and attitude/action are inextricably linked.
Invariably there are differing perspectives in companies. The perspective of leaders and their beliefs about the company are usually quite different than the perspective and beliefs of the staff. This can create trust issues, attitude differences, and varying levels of motivation to name a few of the results. Sometimes we will find a company virtually paralyzed because of differing perspectives. Leaders can emit fear of future success causing managers to become more harsh and dominant to safeguard their jobs resulting in staff feeling confused and only willing to “just do my job.”
Working with this law is to conduct assessments to understand the differing perspectives. Then it’s important to get everyone on the same page with a clear and informative report about what is truly going on. An assessment followed by clarity and information helps align perspectives.
2. P.O.W.E.R. = Others: Relationships regulate success.
The second law of achievement, the Law of Others, acknowledges the reality that we are not alone in this world. Any time we attempt to achieve something it is necessary to deal with others. Even if you are a single person buying a home, there are many relationships that will enter the process – realtor, loan broker, insurance agent, inspector, Title Company, etc.
We often find this law is one of the most violated laws in the 5 Laws of Achievement. To work with this law is to create connections and boundaries with the people involved. You build connections with the relationships you want to align with in the achievement process. In a business it means creating good communication, delegation, and teambuilding. You erect boundaries with the relationships that are not aligned with your achievement. Termination rather than putting up with incompetence is one example of working with this law.
Training in interpersonal and team skills reaps great return; not because people feel better, but because they learn how to work with this second law of achievement.
3. P.O.W.E.R. = Waymarks: Direction comes from internal response to external input.
This Law of Waymarks implies that you will go in a certain direction that aligns with where you’re looking (your external input) and your internal response to that focus.
Too often we find the focus of leaders and managers to be on the crisis of the day. The decision about what to do next is often made based on the pressures of the moment. And often, that can delay or dilute the achievement of a chosen goal or direction.
Working with this law is simple. You choose your chosen goal, your direction, your strategic plan. At every mark along the way, a waymark, you stop and determine your next step by calibrating on your chosen goal – not on the crisis of the moment. Granted, there may need to be a temporary delay or detour, but it is by choice, not reaction. When you calibrate by the end goal you cannot fail at getting there if every decision about every step is made with that goal in mind.
4. P.O.W.E.R. = Efficiency: Economy of motion saves you time and energy.
The Law of Efficiency is where you make money. When you are working with the previous laws where there is aligned perspective, people working well together in synergistic teamwork, and you have a clear direction; then this law can be employed to propel you toward your goal. Productivity and profitability are in direct proportion to working with this law because this law saves time and energy – or “resources” – but it does so only when there is economy of motion.
There are two elements that create economy of motion: Structure and systems. A racer’s bike, a pit crew, a bow and arrow – or a company; all save time and energy when there is a clear and effective structure supported by efficient systems. Working with this law is to create a clear org chart complete with every role and area of responsibility needed to be successful. Then each of those areas of responsibility is assigned to a person. This creates an effective structure.
Then you create efficiency systems for every repeated process in your company in four areas: How you manage your company, how you get work, how you do work and the support functions that are necessary for your business. A clear structure supported by efficiency systems saves time and energy by creating productivity and profitability.
5. P.O.W.E.R. = Renewal: Growth sustains success.
The power in the fifth law of achievement, the Law of Renewal, is deceptive in its stark succinctness. But it’s true of all life forms and relationships; including relationships with staff and relationships with customers or clients. Your business is either growing or slowing, there is no middle ground. There is no such thing as a plateau. There is a constant need to renew, reinvent, learn…and grow, both in knowledge and nurture.
All parties in any relationship need to be nurtured. “Nurturing” and “feeding” is how you grow relationships and thereby work with this law to create sustainable success. The company itself needs to grow through marketing. Customers need to be nurtured and maintained through contact and customer service. Staff needs to be fed through acknowledgement, feedback and development.
This process is not unlike our bodies which need a constant process of feeding and nurturing in order to live. Continually learning from mistakes as well as successes creates continuous improvement and growth. Continuous feeding and nurturing provides the fuel and health to grow. Continual renewal in knowledge and nurture sustains success and keeps your company alive and successful.
For 30 years we’ve been working with companies who were struggling, sometimes bumping along, sometimes on a road to failure. In all cases, not some cases – ALL cases, their situation was because one or more or the Laws of Achievement were being violated; just like we humans tend to do when cause and effect are not closely associated in time and space.
But these companies turned around and began experiencing success. How? In all cases, not some cases – ALL cases, the solution was to simply begin working WITH the Laws of Achievement; to develop the mindset of a more closely associated cause and effect and to get out of the way of the laws and let them do their job. After all, if we stop violating the law, we’ll have easy success because the power is in the law!