Posted by: knightbird | January 10, 2011

In Some Workplaces, It’s All About Me

I read a fascinating post this morning by Peter Bregman titled “The Best Way to Use The Last Five Minutes Of Your Day.” It is a fascinating story about a woman who manages to get what are perceived as great results for her employer through what appear to be herculean efforts on her part. But, she manages to alienate every one of her co-workers. She had to make all of the decisions. She expected every one of her co-workers to work as hard as she did. Mr. Bregman also said that “…things were falling through the cracks.”

Mr. Bregman’s advice is sound: “teach people how to learn. How to look at their past behavior, figure out what worked, and repeat it while admitting honestly what didn’t and change it.” It sounds like some of the principles we try to teach in Lean Management. Defects are treasures so admit they happen. Continuous improvement. However, I did not see that this woman had “Respect for People.” She did not care about her customers. Instead, she was overly concerned about her status, authority and personal condition. She did not care about her co-workers. Instead, she was harsh, critical and demanding. She did not care much about herself. Instead, she denied herself a life of happiness, enjoyment and possible friends from among her co-workers. And although I don’t have any facts from the story on which to base this observation, I do believe that she left little, if any benefit, for the previous employer she had quit. Her work seems to be the type that Dr. Deming talks about as being short term-use of exhortations and threats to produce results. I am sure this woman used quotas as well.

Here is what I think is necessary to help employee’s like this woman succeed. Setting a great moral and ethical foundation for your business is a first step. Use your words, but use them frequently and live them. My words included having “No Blame, No Shame;”  becoming “Fact Based, Non Judgmental;” “Problems are Treasures;”  and “It’s not about you, It’s not about me, It’s all about our customers.” Of course, I had to explain what I meant by each phrase, and I had to live each phrase in my own work life. I also asked our Human Resource staff to incorporate our Employee Values Statement into our recruitment and hire processes so we could inform our newest employees about the culture we were trying to live in. Eventually, we began to live within the boundaries of these phrases. What did this produce for us, when we truly started to work together and respect each other? Happier lives as we worked together towards a common mission.

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