Breaking the Cycle

Dear Editor,

  Good leadership is crucial for any organization to achieve success, yet it seems to be a rare quality on St. Maarten. Real leaders possess vision, the ability to motivate others, passion for their work, and a track record of achieving results. However, poor leadership seems to be the norm on the island, leading to a vicious cycle of negative impacts on employee morale, productivity, and overall organizational performance. In this article, we will explore the consequences of poor leadership and offer insights into a simple yet effective potential solution; the use of 360 feedback.

  When leaders lack the skills, values, or vision to effectively guide and support their teams, it can create a culture of underperformance that is difficult to break. One of the most common effects of poor leadership is a decline in employee morale. When employees are not supported, recognized, or valued by their leaders, it can lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, and disillusionment. This can result in a decrease in motivation and engagement, leading to a decline in productivity and overall performance.

  Poor leadership can also have a detrimental impact on organizational culture. When leaders fail to set clear expectations, provide adequate resources, and support, or model the behaviours and values they expect from their team, it can create a culture of underperformance. This can be particularly damaging in organizations where there is a lack of accountability or transparency, as it can foster a sense of complacency and a belief that poor performance is tolerated (or even rewarded). It is no secret that this is a general perception of the public sector on St. Maarten, which is often type-cast as having lazy, unproductive individuals who are just out for a paycheque And while this may be the case for a few bad apples, it is unlikely and unfair to group everyone within that narrative. Instead, we should look for the contextual factors that lead to creating the culture which fosters and maintains poor leadership.

  Nepotism (-) Accountability (-) Performance “Quite Quitting” = Culture of underperformance. It starts with nepotism/favouritism. Hiring those individuals that lack the skills to lead simply because of their last name or political affiliation. When one hires a family member or friend and they perform below expectations, it is difficult to then hold that person accountable. This in turn further demotivates employees, who then perform less and less to the point where the term “Quite Quitting” has been coined. This phenomenon describes employees who only do the bare minimum. They still have the job, but only do that which is required not to be fired. Ultimately leading to culture of underperformance where no one is truly motivated/driven/willing to go the extra mile.

  A situation that many readers may be able to identify with, and a terrible cycle to find oneself in, often times leading to an actual exodus of good employees, who do not want to be stuck in such a culture, further exacerbating the problems. We have seen this within several divisions of government recently.

  So, what is the solution? Or what can be done to help break the cycle? An effective strategy that organizations can implement is the incorporation of 360 feedback. 360 feedback is a process in which not just employees, but also management (leaders) receive feedback from a variety of sources, including their peers, subordinates and superiors. This can provide a more comprehensive and objective view of a leader’s strengths and areas for improvement and can help to challenge the status quo if taken seriously. Key words if taken seriously!

  For 360 feedback to be effective, it is important that it is implemented in a way that is fair, objective, and confidential. It should also be accompanied by a clear plan for improvement and support, such as training or coaching. But also, with real consequences if there is a clear trend of consecutive poor reviews. A leader that is scored poorly on numerous occasions by a majority of his or her employees, can then be subject to leadership training or other efforts to help rectify the situation, not excluding disciplinary measures. The added benefit here being that 360 feedback can help flatten the organizational hierarchy, which can foster more innovation and involvement from employees as their suggestions and ideas should be taken more seriously. Essential here is that the reviewing of the results of the 360 feedback is done by a well-balanced committee which are both impartial and critical. An example of committee members can be Human Resources (PNO), an independent 3rd party advisor, and the division head/SG/Board member.

This simple tool, which can be quickly implemented can help identify so-called ‘bad apples,’ or expose bottlenecks in one’s organization that may not have been apparent from the onset.

  Will it solve all our problems? Probably not, however it is a start and it is high time we here on St. Maarten break the negative cycles that constantly have us feeling more and more under pressure. Instead, we should aim for upward spirals, in which positive reinforcing acts take centre stage and motivates each one of us to do a little better each and every day!

David Salomon

The Daily Herald

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