Systems Are Only As Good as The Leaders Implementing Them
I have been hearing a lot of talk lately about being an anti-capitalist or capitalism is bad for all and honestly, I don’t think it is about the system.
I’ve seen systems specifically designed to create equity be manipulated to undervalue my worth.
How A System Designed To Enforce Equitable Pay Was Manipulated to Lowball Me
I once interviewed to be an independent consultant with a relatively well-known innovative management consulting firm. I was referred to the firm because my skillset was a match for a specific project the firm did not have.
Before I interviewed it was explained to me that they had an innovative leveling system to ensure equitable and transparent pay. An assessment tool that I would complete would be reviewed by 4 senior firm members and they would vote to decide my level.
After a few rounds of interviews, a presentation, and a completed assessment of my expertise – I was given an offer. A level lower than the position I was recruited for was sold at. Not to mention the person that sold the project ranked me at the higher level and thought I was a perfect fit.
Four people voted on my position based on my assessment. Two people voted at the higher level, and two voted at the lower level. My assessment was clearly completed at the higher level so when asked why the two people voted lower they said it was because of my presentation.
The presentation (which I knocked out of the park) was not supposed to be included in leveling. The two people that voted higher were not there so they could not refute (or at least they did not). They were not there because it was not supposed to be considered in leveling.
The Founder and his right hand were the two that voted at the lower level. The right hand literally said I was not worth the ‘value’.
I would have entered the firm one level below her.
When I declined the lower level pay and position, and requested they round up instead of down, they decided that the project was too much for the firm ‘to handle’ at the time.
They walked away from a project rather than give me the ranking I deserved and the position was slotted for. I was then told I would not be fit for any other projects, so basically move on.
My request was never directly answered.
A system that was designed to protect consultants from discrimination was manipulated to do what it was designed to prevent.
Is it About the System or the Leader(s) Implementing the System?
I share this story because as we go through this shift I think it is important to focus on what is at the core here – humanity and if we’re willing to do the work necessary to give up old tricks of manipulation for power and learn to fuel from within (eradicating this need).
Otherwise, we will create more systems inside of the same paradigm of lack and separation, repeating the same issues with different masks.
If the people leading and implementing system(s) are operating on a flawed internal foundation then that will seep into every crack and crevice possible – and that is where the system is damaged.
Not intrinsically by design but built-in by the leaders developing and executing said system.
If there is a system failing underneath your purview the answer may be as close as to where priorities, values, and the original vision may have become lost in power dynamics and an insatiable desire to fill a void that can only be filled from within.
Yes, systems can be improved, redesigned, and rebuilt but they will only be as effective as the leadership is aligned within.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the core of the issue when you strip away the ideologies, latent fears, and triggered emotions? What is really happening?
The clearer you can define a problem the more easily you can find a solution.
- Where may internal biases be at play? Put yourself in the role of any parties you may disagree with and attempt to see their perspective.
Often a win-win is available when we give up being right or needing to win and become committed to a greater outcome. This one may require getting out of the way of the ego or looking good. What is more important?
- What values are you prioritizing? This may be more obvious after answering the previous two questions. It can be difficult to see where you may be prioritizing an egoic need over an authentic value.
Especially if you feel justified in your perspective and it serves your immediate and egoic desires and needs.
If you are a leader who is committed to serving those you lead and have entrusted you with leadership – are the needs of those who make your work possible important to you?
Remember nothing goes unnoticed or without consequence. But you already know this.
There Are Always Consequences
In the story I shared earlier, six months later I received a phone call. The person who sold the project I was needed for left the firm. He was the top salesperson on the team.
He admitted that he saw what happened to me, didn’t say anything, and thought he could make a difference moving forward. On the next project, he became the new target of the person who convinced the founder I was not worth ‘the value’.
About a year later, I heard she was released and it became clear to everyone the cancer that she was. She also may have been a scapegoat – who knows the extent of what was going on. Either way, she was complicit.
Some losses could have been cut on multiple fronts if the stated values (eg, equitable pay) and aligned systems of those in leadership were honored, to begin with.
Not to mention the company would have actually been practicing what they preach. I am sure the trickle-down effect of the lack of integrity seeped into client work as they manipulated practices out of egoic reasons and fear.
I may never know the extent of the impact – however, in this case, I got a small peek into how it played out for them.
And there’s always more.