People in organizations spend a lot of time representing somebody else or something else. It feels sometimes that the company does not have employees but ambassadors.
Project team members represent their functions in the team. Project leaders represent the team in Portfolio Management. Functional heads (Engineering, Sales, Marketing, Strategy, Communications, HR…) represent their functions in a Management Team. Business support functions (Finance, IT…) represent their tribes in the whole company.
Issue 1: some arrows point in the wrong direction. The VP of R&D, member of the Leadership Team, thinks that they represents R&D in the (company) Leadership Team. That’s why they switch off (e.g looks at their Blackberry) when there is no R&D topic in conversations. But the arrow is pointing in the wrong direction. The VP of R&D, in fact, should represent the company (and its Leadership Team) in the R&D function (division, staff). If they wanted to be an Ambassador, they had chosen to represent the wrong people. Note, this is not a semantic trick. Representing my tribe in the company is not the same as representing the company in my tribe.
Issue 2: Any company has tribes (subcultures). Being buried in the tribe has its advantages. However, the ultimate goal of engagement is that the employee represents himself or herself. You have been hired as Maria Smith, and as soon as you get the label of ‘Safety Supervisor’, you will cease to be Maria Smith so that you can look like a proper Safety Supervisor. Again, not another semantic trick. ‘Being oneself’ (authenticity) is not the same as ‘representing oneself’(my own human capital).
In my Viral Change ™ programmes, as soon as the champions/activists have been identified (following strict criteria) and are called to help, they cease to represent anything (geographies, functions, cultures, affiliates) other than themselves. Occasionally and symbolically, we give them a business card with their names, no titles. Very frequently we hear: ‘About time that the company is asking me to help on something because of who I am and how I am, not my job description. Believe me, a bunch of Activists representing themselves and united by a common good, is dynamite. A bunch of Ambassadors representing somebody (a function, geography, their bosses) has collective zero power. There is a choice.
Of course we all represent others, one way or another. But if your job is representing, not doing, acting, thinking, engaging, using your own human capital, then you are in the Internal Diplomatic Service, but without the perks.
The journey from a company of ambassadors to a company of agents and activists is a great journey. But you may have to close some internal Embassies.
A series of webinars with Dr Herrero and his team of Organization Architects exploring the future of organizational life. Explaining how the 3 Pillars of The Chalfont Project’s Organizational Architecture – smart organizational design, large scale behavioural and cultural change and collective leadership – work together to create a “Better Way” for organizations to flourish in the post-COVID world.
- On demand webinar from this series now available – Organizational Design
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Build and enhance your collective leadership capabilities
17th June at 1730 BST/1830 CET
At The Chalfont Project, we prefer the use of the term ‘practicing leadership’ to ‘developing’ it to emphasise the real life essence of leadership. So much has been written that the world is full of recipes and techniques, examples and role models. The rich plethora of available answers obscures the need to have good questions. Reflection and introspection seem like logical ingredients for being a good leader, yet our business and organizational life treats them as luxuries that have no place in our ubiquitous ‘time famine’. Busy-ness has taken over business and leadership has been commoditised to a series of ‘how to’. Yet, there is hardly anything more precious in organizational life than the individual and collective leadership capabilities.
Join us on 17th June at 1730 BST/1830 CET