Thursday, July 26, 2012

the delusions of senior management (...and why it harms all of us)

At a recent seminar I attended, I noticed that the more senior a persons role is, the more likely they are not to have brought a notepad/pen, etc. with them - yet they know they're coming to an event where theyll be exposed to learning, and so be wanting to keep notes for their reference later. 
Perhaps this is because that due to the seniority of their role, they assume that others will have taken care of such basic administrative needs for them (a self-delusion of how important they think they are)?

And this concerns me - this obvious erosion of a person not taking responsibility for themselves is surely at odds with their responsibility for the performance and well-being of others under them? If they cant be trusted to make sure theyve a notepad and pen when going to an event where they know theyll need them, then how can we have faith in their competency to manage significant budgets or large numbers of other people?

There are, thankfully, exceptions Ive seen to this - people whove been on leadership programmes with the likes of Common Purpose, people in co-operatives (where one of the defining values is self-responsibility), and people in faith-based organisations, where there is a commonality of theological teaching around proving you can be trusted in the small things before being allowed to take on the larger responsibilities

So perhaps we need to challenge people in authority more; not over the public failings that cost peoples livelihoods, but before they can get to that stage - check that your boss carries a notepad and pen with them when out and about

Friday, July 13, 2012

On being a 'Guru'...

People often refer to me on occasion as being a ‘Guru’ in different contexts - seeking to express their appreciation for my knowledge and skills in relation to social franchising, social and co-operative enterprise, governance, social impact reporting,… - and I’m always nervous if they do so publicly.

Not because I don’t think I’m ‘worthy’ of recognition, but because of the risk that I might start to believe my own hype - which leads to complacency and arrogance. Which leads to people I work with not getting the standard of support they need, and so not benefiting as they should do.

I find myself having to manage a difficult tension - presenting this hype as part of my expert abilities in order to win commissions of work, but at the same time needing to make sure that I remain humble enough to work alongside clients in ways that they’re comfortable with and that are appropriate, recognising where I might need to change my approach or invest in new skills.

There’s also a risk to my professional relationships within networks and with my peers - there are plenty of self-proclaimed ’Gurus’ out there, who through ignorance end up offering a poor quality of service and support that leaves clients in a worse position that when they started. As a result, people are often sceptical of ‘Gurus’, and I’m concerned that I’ll be tarred with the same brush.

The key lesson in all this is not to take a persons’ word for how great they are in their field of expertise - ask for examples and testimonials. If you’re not able to ask for such things (for whatever reason), then you can do things like look at their websites, or recommendations on their LinkedIn profile.
Don’t believe what you’re told at face value - you’re relying on the ‘expert’ to support you to resolve an issue or problem you don’t feel able to yourself, and its you who’ll be left to live with whatever they introduce or implement on your behalf - they can walk away afterwards, but you can’t.