Wednesday, 4 November 2009

FREEDOM = purposeful responsibility

“People are unique. Combinations are even more unique. The successful companies tend [to] communicate and apply [“the 7 habits”] in unique manners that match their unique dreams and goals and strengths. That's when earth-shattering experiences are created, delivered, experienced.”

Zane Safrit makes this interesting observation in a on Linkedin discussion about David G. Thomson’s Business Week article The Seven Essentials of High Growth Companies.

I add that not only are combinations of people unique but combinations of opportunities are too. The effects of these unique combinations are always more or less unexpected. Organisations that thrive on the unexpected are those that thrive today.

So perhaps it would be useful to consider how communicating the “7 habits” might enable organisations to encounter, recognise, take and profit from unexpected opportunities.

One quality that seems to pervade the “7 habits” is diversity of people at all levels in and around the organisation. Not just having the diversity but recognising it and utilising it within a unifying sense of cohesive purpose and shared vision. Effective interpersonal communication is the key to that.

At a practical level, I find that a major blockage in that communication process is the common sense that a job is a series of tasks. That’s an industrial concept founded in people as machine parts in a process. My role frequently includes helping people to re-conceive their job as a purposeful role in a collaborative project; a role defined by mutually interdependent responsibilities and indicative accountabilities rather than tasks. Almost invariably this is scary and confusing for them.

It’s rather like having been in prison for years then being released to “freedom” and unable to cope with the responsibility. It’s not that people don’t want responsibility or cannot be responsible. Responsibility is something that most people desire. Being given responsibility is an indication of trust, competency, standing, worth, esteem, regard.

Here’s the thing: people can’t re-conceive their jobs as roles by themselves any more that they can pull themselves up by their own boot laces. They need the help of an “outsider’s” perspective to generate the new imagery.

As the “outsider” I walk people through the process of defining their role in 120 words or less beginning with a fresh descriptive title, then the purpose of the role within the greater scheme; a summary responsibility in a sentence and up to five specific responsibilities; their overall accountability in a sentence and up to five specific indicative responsibilities with goals (KPIs).

Once they’ve described their own role with me I encourage them to attempt the process with their reports and so on. It’s got a high probability of being effective, purposeful interpersonal communication between unique individuals.

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