Monday, January 24, 2011


Enterprise Architecture: Leadership and Emotional Vampires

The biggest difference between a great organization and a mediocre one is the fact that leadership recognizes the emotional vampires amongst its ranks and slays them...

Emotional vampires come in various shapes and sizes. Despite the several sub-types, one factor that they all have in common is that you feel emotionally drained after spending time with them. Besides feeling drained, they often take up your time and in some cases money as well. Emotional vampires tend to run in families. If you encounter one, you will want to avoid it and their family members as well.

There are people in this world who do everything in their power to boost your spirits and fill your heart with hope and joy, but then there are also people who will do everything in their power to bring you down and drain you of all your hope and joy, and those are the ones who can be considered 'emotional vampires.'

It is not unusual for emotional vampires to be in crisis and have ways of ‘hooking’ you into their crisis. Once hooked a kind of bonding takes place. Since you went through a crisis with them, they expect you to stay with them. Other vampires use coercive tactics to get you to agree with them, even in situations where you know better.

Vampires aren't concerned with your overall well-being and will be the first to cause you to lose work/life balance, often employing tactics that make otherwise simple tasks harder than they should be. Sometimes, vampires hide behind more altruistic sentiments by championing goals larger than themselves but otherwise are solely focused on their internal demons.

Inversion of control is also used by many vampires. Imagine a scenario where you are frequently given tasks that have been known to take say eighty hours yet the vampires place a demand to have them done in forty. One could chalk this up to a form of blissful ignorance but vampires take it much farther.

In today's workplace, whether you work for the largest of employers or the smallest, the increasing importance of getting culture right trumps the best of methodologies. The number one and two companies in industry vertical also tend to excel at having the best cultures while the bottom companies the inverse is true.

While financial metrics tend to be the yardstick, they mirror the culture of an organization. Too many executives are focused on the finances and not enough on the culture. If employees feel drained, then how can productivity and innovation occur? Can we all acknowledge that quality of delivery is increased when morale is rising and that we all feel positive about ourselves and those who surround us?

I remember a conversation with Calvin Hudson, who was EVP of Claims at The Hartford. He talked about how he had to slay a vampire within his organization that was draining the souls of employees in his organization. As a leader, he was fiscally responsible but also kept an eye on how he wanted his organization to feel. He frequently met with employees of all levels and worked constantly to slay vampires.

If your organization isn't hitting its numbers, employees are starting to leave now that the job market is making a turn or otherwise IT delivery continuously lags, then I suspect your leadership hasn't spent sufficient time figuring out who are the vampires in the organization and slaying them...

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