A fairly constant finding in political science experimentation (and this is a rich field completely neglected by traditional HR/OD in organizations) is the fact that the (value of) personal contact, for example activist to other person, has the highest impact – above other forms of exposure or broadcasting. It is simply hard to beat. This has not stopped the TV ads and the TV debates. But when it comes to engaging other people, perhaps recruiting activists, the personal contact, including the ‘non-face-to-face-personal’ like a personal SMS, is simply ahead of the game.
There is always a bit of a trend in the organization to ‘make things not personal’. A criticism may be called ‘not persona’l; or the ‘don’t take it personally’ statement comes before the real thing. However, there are hardly non-personal things in the life of the organization. It’s just hard to accept, and we de-personalise it to gain some comfort.
The call from the CEO to engage the activists in Viral Change™ is nothing but personal. In fact, one of the first things that the pre-community of activists hears is the fact that ‘there is no hierarchy in the room’. They represent themselves. It’s personal.
The peer-to-peer engagement of champions or activists, motivating and recruiting other colleagues to do things, fix problems, talk about the behavioural DNA, shape the culture, etc., is completely personal. Peer-to-peer networks are…personal!
The commitment, work, accountability, action and shaping of the person involved in a social movement, including the one inside the organization with the goal of shaping a culture, as we do in our Viral Change™ programmes, is personal.
Yes, there will be group effects, network effects, creation of critical masses and scale, but the engagement is completely personal, individual. The initiator is personal, the effect is collective.
These lines of quasi self-evidence are important. We have lost a bit of this personalization in the journey to the collective. Personal appeal and appeal to personal relationships, we have been told, are not very business-like. It’s, well, nothing personal, after all. Robots then? It’s about time we say, it is, actually.
A trait of good leaders is precisely that magic appeal to ‘the personal’. ‘He/She made me feel as if I was the only person in the room’, we often hear about a charismatic leader.
I really think that we’ve gone a bit to the other side. The side of the clinical, aseptic, ‘it’s not me, it’s the system’. We need to recalibrate. It is human, and it’s personal, most of the time, or we are kidding ourselves.
Unless your manager is an algorithm, that is.