Taking Chances With Success

Hi all…please join me out here on this branch..careful, I don’t want you to fall as you consider just how much you’re willing to ante up at work.

There was a fascinating article in the New York Times this past Sunday about Dov Seidman, CEO of the company LRN.  The mission of LRN is intriguing to HR nerds like me – helping companies “inspire principled performance in their operations”.  Pretty cool, don’t you think?   He has written a book (which I have not yet read) titled, “How:  Why How We Do Anything Means Everything”.  In short, he has taken his company in a surprising and challenging direction – developing a form of self-governance that boldly eliminates many of the sacred cows that few have ever dared to sacrifice.  He threw out the org chart, eliminating titles (but for his).  The structure is as flat as possible, with authority and decision-making viewed as part of their shared, collaborative mission.   There are no titles; performance reviews for each employee are completed by a personally selected group of reviewers and a mentor. Self-evaluations include perspective on performance as well as a score.  Employees are “trust[ed] to weigh the feedback they collect into their own ratings”.  All of these scores are published internally.  Vacation time is unlimited – presuming that people will be candid and plan their time off with an appreciation for their colleagues and the good of the organization.  Management committees do exist, though my sense is that there are a very discreet few.  In an effort to reflect his commitment to transparency, Seidman opened his own review for comments from anyone who wanted to offer his/her views, and published his own assessment along with all the others.

He feels that empowering employees is a hierarchical phenomenon, and fuels supervisory power rather than individual initiative and commitment.  His approach is to give each employee as much ownership over their career as possible.  After completing a study of companies world-wide, he acknowledges that few companies are practicing self-governance.  And, he admits that the process within his own organization is far from complete, and has been “enlightening, frustrating, nerve-racking, authentic and urgent”.

There are many companies that give lip service to such ideology, and place questionable value on walking the walk defined by their mission statements.  Whether you are a department head, chief officer, vice-president, king…doesn’t matter.  What do you think about the pros and cons of such a daring premise?  Could you do it?  Would you do it?  What would it take for you to step out on a limb and try something totally new to see if it flies?  I am most  impressed by Seidman’s efforts to be authentic in the workplace, to ensure that his personal philosophy is in sync with his professional environment and do more than shake the tree, but actually climb.

 

Was It Right Or Wrong? Yes.

“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities – integrity, intelligence and energy.  And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you” — Warren Buffet

When I was at the firm, I facilitated a program about Situational Ethics.   Various hypotheticals were offered up for discussion – all work-related obviously, but ranging in subject from employer/employee dynamics to issues of client confidentiality.  The realities of workplace demographics were a primary driver for the creation of the program.  The firm had grown exponentially and people were not staying ‘from cradle to grave’,  challenging the cultivation of loyalty and a deep understanding of the commitment to work reflective of unparalleled integrity.  Certainly dedication and tenure along with personal and professional accountability are very strong motivators for people to do the right thing.   We all know when something doesn’t pass our ‘sniff test’ – but what we then choose to do is another issue entirely.

As people become more and more anonymous within companies as a result of technology, higher turnover and generational perceptions, the risk of fraudulent and/or dishonest behavior escalates.  Even with the most sophisticated processes in place, someone will still knowingly enter their time incorrectly, submit inappropriate expenses for reimbursement,  falsely assert that something did or didn’t get done, etc.. Are any of these ‘wrong’ enough?  Where does the responsibility rest?  Is it the individual’s responsibility to maintain his/her integrity in the face of an ‘every-man-for-himself’ workplace?  Is it the employer’s responsibility to underscore its absolute conviction to such a principle?  And if the answer involves the latter, how does one respond when some misdeeds are overlooked?

I write this with no answers.  On the one hand, I believe in the very basics of right and wrong – do the right thing by the people who work with and for you, don’t take what isn’t yours, tell the truth…On the other hand, have there been times when what I thought was the right thing, wasn’t?  Have I always told the truth to my boss?  Yes, there have been times when my actions probably were ill-considered, and knowing some of the bosses I have had in my career, there have certainly been occasions where his/her lack of receptivity, defensiveness or demeanor led me to couch my words or obfuscate them to the point of being completely opaque.  Does it matter if my intentions were good even if the outcome reflected otherwise?

I suppose that is why the elements of a given situation often drive the answer to these questions.  Rights and wrongs can often be variants of black and white, not absolute in any way.  Certainly, I still hold that if one’s actions are guided by a belief that first and foremost  we are here to offer the best of who we are to others, we’re on the right track.  But beyond that, I’m not sure there are too many other absolutes.  What do you think?

 

 

“If everyone were clothed in integrity, if every heart were just, frank, kindly, the other virtues would be well nigh useless” — Moliere