“Of all our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” -Walt Disney Company
It has been said that pictures are worth a thousand words…and more and more we see this becoming the reality of our current society. We are inundated and saturated in images and visuals. According to Paul Martin Lester, “we are becoming a visually mediated society.” We live each day under a constant bombardment of visual information and communication…much of which we find fleeting and passing, while other bits and pieces sear and etch themselves forever into our memory.
Pictures and images have a deep effect on us, they can move us, change us…affect our moods, our emotions, even our disposition.
One thing about visuals…they can hit us with startling ferocity. Even through the flood of pictures, videos, shows, and movies that bombard our senses daily…some just seem to stand out. Pictures and scenes that grab hold of us, catching our full attention…lingering in both our conscious and unconscious memory.
I recently ran into one of those…a visually amazing, as well as startling and shocking scene from the movie World War Z…a scene that takes place at the foot of the wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem.
Not only was the scene visually arresting in the jaw-dropping rawness of the images, but for the ideas that it provoked…and the dots that it connected.
For those who have not seen the movie or the trailer…
The scene shows thousands of agitated and mindless zombies climbing up and over each other to get over this obstacle…thrashing and clawing, pulling each other down and away to try and get themselves over the wall. Completely and utterly focused and blinded by their own needs and wants…focused only on getting themselves over.
It is an incredible visual…both horrific and fascinating simultaneously.
As zombies, they were unable to understand, to comprehend that if they took the time to work together, to help and support each other…the getting over the wall would be that much easier to accomplish. However, they are in such a frantic and frenzied state…it is an option not even considered. There is no care for the others, or even that they are all trying to achieve the same objective.
They only cared about themselves, their own welfare, their own wants and needs…their own survival.
The unfortunate thing is that these situations occur within our own organizations. Especially when an organization has slipped into a dysfunctional state. People lose their collaborative spirit in favor of a survival mode. As they say, it becomes “every man for himself”. Unfortunately, just like the zombies trying to ascend the wall…we too, begin to crawl over each other to get to where we think we need to go.
And we run into the same problems as the zombies…we struggle to make headway, we find ourselves stepping on and over each other…pulling each other down and back to try and get ourselves over that wall. However, without that collaborative, laddered support…we not only keep others from reaching their objective, we keep ourselves from reaching it as well.
When we lose our sense of service and support, we lose the joy of what it is to work with others, for others…for something bigger than ourselves.
In dysfunctional situations, when the organization becomes more about personal satisfaction, personal wants, personal needs, and personal survival…the organization loses itself. It loses its life and purpose.
Organizations are created for the betterment of all involved, of those they serve…and that gets lost when those within focus only on pushing forward their own best interests.
When we turn the focus of the organization away from the whole, toward small individualistic, self-serving components…we slowly disintegrate and fray the organization internally, eventually tearing it apart at the seams.
It is only when we recognize the dysfunction…when we stop ourselves from the frenzy and choose to help those around us that we begin to make headway…that we begin to move our organization forward in a better, more productive fashion. It is that focus on connection, relationship and serving that allows us to begin to pull our organizations out of the muck…even in times of chaos and dysfunction.
And sometimes, it only takes that one person to stop and recognize…to try to end the madness that we see things start to change. To slowly turn around…
As leaders, we have to refrain from creating the conditions that cause this chaos and dysfunction. Through communication and transparency we clear away the concerns and lack of clarity that cause people to focus their energy and efforts away from what’s most important…their work. They create an environment where those in the organization don’t have to spend their precious mental resources focusing on themselves and their own survival. Rather, they create conditions where people can focus on something bigger and better…the vision and next steps.
Great leadership takes the dysfunction off the table, they clear it away so that people can get on with what matters most…the work that drives and moves us forward.
It has been said that culture eats strategy for breakfast every time. Always remember, that in the end…dysfunction will eventually eat it all for lunch and dinner.