One experience I had with a leader many years ago sticks out in my memory as a vivid example of what I call, ‘Yes-itis’, the deadly ailment running rampant in many of our organizations.

I was facilitating a team building meeting for a senior executive and his new team, when the executive was asked how he was able to adjust his style and adapt to new organizations and change so adeptly.

He told the group that the secret to his success was his consistent ability to:
“Just get in the boat, start rowing, not ask questions, and go wherever I am told to go. I don’t rock the boat or try to steer it…”.

No, I’m not kidding.

Obviously, not only did this message and what it said about him as a leader disappoint and demoralize his new team, it also minimized his credibility and standing as a leader they wanted to follow.

Although the behavior seems surprising when I describe that story, this type of ‘playing it safe’ is a strategy many leaders adapt in organizations to avoid the risk of falling from favor.

I call this ailment ‘Yes-itis’. It appears when you are afraid to take risks, and manifests as blind execution without questioning.

Some symptoms of the ailment you may recognize:
-Over-eagerness to please
-Total agreement with whatever one is told or asked to do
-Lack of courage to tell the emperor/empress that he/she has no clothes on
-Fear of expressing an opinion contrary to the perceived prevailing thinking
-Over-emphasis on the management of impression
-Lack of innovative thinking, idea sharing, and thought leadership
-“Tell me what to do and I’ll do it” attitude and behaviors

When the ramifications of presenting an alternate point of view or suggesting an alternate path are deemed permanently career destroying, Yes-itis begins to take root. You may be the one afflicted with it, as a leader, or the one fostering Yes-itis in your team.

Some questions to ask yourself:

Do you get in and ‘just row the boat,’ as you are told, regardless of the glacier you clearly see ahead?

What is the root cause of this behavior choice?

What is the ultimate impact?

Are you unintentionally fostering blind obedience without thinking or creativity in your organization ?

What behaviors must you model as a leader to eliminate the manifestation of Yes-itis in your own organization?

(In my new book, “The Cure’, I offer the cause, remedy, and a very simple treatment plan for this deadly ailment ravaging your organization.