HiPPO versus HiPo or why hierarchy can be bad for performance.

A knock at the door of a hotel in Amsterdam.  Mick Jagger opens the door and bamm Charlie Watts punches him in the face.

Journalist Bill German says during a meeting where the Stones were discussing splitting up Mick Jagger said to Charlie Watts: “None of this should matter to you because you’re only my drummer”.  Watts’ point of view was that in fact Jagger was only his singer.  Watts went back to his hotel room. He then walked down the hall and knocked on Mick’s door. When the lead singer of the Rolling Stones opened it, his drummer hit him.  If there’s a hierarchy in the Rolling Stones then Jagger isn’t on top of it.

The other day someone mentioned to me that they thought that they should really improve their relationship with a more senior Person X (not his real name) because one day X might be their immediate boss.

I was a bit confused.  I said : “Shouldn’t you improve your relationship with X because you have to work with him now, and therefore you’ll work better together if you have a good relationship?”  “Hmm,” this person replied “yeah, and X might be my boss one day.”

I’m with Watts on this.  I base what I do on the idea that the person with the best ideas is the most important person in the room.  Not everyone does – I accept that – though I am horrified by the idea that someone would want to get to know anyone or want anybody’s good will purely because of a title.  I hope it is because that person can help their performance and help to make things happen.

Don’t back the HiPPO, back the HiPo (High Performer).  The HiPPO is the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.  DeRose and Tichy writing in Forbes say: “HiPPOs are leaders who are so self-assured that they need neither other’s ideas nor data to affirm the correctness of their instinctual beliefs. They are quick to shoot down contradictory positions and dismissive of underling’s input.” Great companies override arrogant HiPPOs and instead foster a culture of experimentation in which leaders at all levels are encouraged to test ideas in the marketplace and then let outcomes guide implementation.

Hierarchy matters to our egos but the most important person is the one that makes a difference to results.




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