Sunday, October 17, 2004

Colin Powell on pissing people off

Reading this article the very first point made me stop and think:

"Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off"

As someone who eschews conflict and likes everyone to be happy, it made me think about the standards I use to judge organisations.

Not being numbers-inclined, I've only recently really paid serious attention to the details of a balance sheet. Besides, we live in an era that recognises that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Balance sheets don't always tell the whole story.

Instead, I was big on judging an organisation by the culture I perceived. But I did wonder why every organisation I've worked with or for seemed to have someone with a complaint against the way things are.

I used to take these complaints very seriously, figuring, oh well, there's another organisation that doesn't live up to its stated standards. But recently (say, the last few years) I've realised that, while sometimes complainers are vitally-needed prophets in an organisation showing up issues that need change, other times they are just people who can't get on with others.

How do you deal with them? Directly. We tend (or at least I tend) to assume everyone else is motivated the same way as me. That's definitely not the case. I think we would all make a lot more progress - personally and in whatever business enterprises - if we learnt more about people entirely different from us. Different in beliefs and background, yes, but more than that - different in motivation, reaction and thinking.

3 Comments:

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Borscht said...

Sadly, I don't think this is always the case -- I mean, if I understand the nature of this post correctly.

In many instances, doing much to understand the nature of someone's motivations depends very much on which side of the fence you sit - it's one thing if you're speaking of your co-workers. They are in the so-termed trenches with you -- so, as a result, you better get along with them -- or you can expect some very acrimonious days coming up ahead.

Bosses?

I don't know Simon. I've worked with bosses whom I've tried to comprehend on a certain level -- to work within their manner of thinking about the work, and the industry we worked in -- and I've come dangerously close to making the relationship a sycophantic one -- which is anathema in certain organisations.

Speaking of Colin Powell -- I am of the firm belief that certain fast-paced organisations run better as military disciplined camps -- in the sense of hierarchical chains of command - ideally with <20 staff.

Understanding someone else's motivations must ideally be kept to yourself in the context of a job -- I don't think the workplace can handle it yet -- there are few companies that can tolerate that sort of crisp comprehension as yet. At least it's been my experience that despite your noble attempt S, it's more of a pipe dream.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger Simon said...

I wasn't really thinking of bosses Adam, and you're right, if that kind of 'seeking to understand' was applied to bosses it could come across as sycophantic. (As an aside, who had heard of that phrase before it was used in Friends?)

What I meant was people in general - whether coworkers, customers and suppliers, etc. - getting to understand each other on a more than superficial level.

I think it's particularly important in a pluralistic society.

I think this blog (or Reflective Learning Journal) is a great example of that kind of understanding in action - we all come from different parts of the world, we have varying belief systems, and therefore there's potential for disagreement.

But there's also great potential for synergy - a greater result than all of us could have come up with. Do you get a bit more what I was on about before?

 
At 5:32 AM, Blogger Borscht said...

Simon - yes - I see where you're going with this -- I took one angle and ran.

I would certainly say that this is perhaps a vital means of exchanging information - I mean -- I don't know of any other form of social interaction between multinationals of a different type that can really be as effective -- think about it -- okay, for all intents and purposes -- save for Jesper -- we all speak English as a lingua franca -- but, if you imagine it -- even if we didn't -- we'd have some of the most authentic cross-cultural interactions -- especially since the pressure to communicate in different languages would be removed. Sitting in front of the computer in a relaxed frame of mind would result in some of the most real and biting social commentaries -- w/o the pressure to translate everything into another language -- I mean...think about it - what a power this Internet is -- and we don't even think about it like that anymore.

p.s. have I missed any of your other comments -- perhaps you can point me out to some of the threads I may have missed. I don't want to leave anything be...

 

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