conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

The Boss Problem: When Does Your Purpose Become Mine?

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Tell Me About It.

tumblr_lqqqy5hBwW1r1en7uo1_r1_250-04152013One of my bosses gently chided me for my language: I kept saying “they” in reference to her boss and the leadership structure and the stated purposes of the medical device company we both worked for. She was exactly right: I did not use “we” because I felt separate from the decisions being made and the direction chosen. It was not a conscious choice on my part; I was just reacting to all the pre-conscious activity that happened outside my engagement. My language, which seemed to choose itself, was the telltale.

The boss problem is how to engage employees (or a team) with the problems and purposes at hand.

“What’s the problem?” you might say. “We pay these people so they should do with that boss says.”

That’s true, they should. And they likely will perform at some level, though giving an employee a reason for doing something is a step toward improving performance. Better yet: if the employee feels ownership, that they are personally involved in this task, that they have something at stake, perhaps that condition generates the best performance.

But getting someone to feel ownership for a task is something of an art. There is also an inherent compassion to it: a boss must understand that transferring ownership starts with a shared purpose that sits prior to her command. Sharing ownership begins with the relational approaches in the team long before the purposes and problems come in view. Sharing ownership brings risk for the boss—his reputation is at stake as well. Words by themselves—though always the beginning point—cannot accomplish the transfer if the boss does not believe it. Employees and teammates come equipped with highly-attuned BS indicators and can spot a fake before a word is spoken.

But isn’t sharing ownership the only reasonable solution when fully-grown humans are involved together in a work process?


Image credit: thorelimo via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

April 15, 2013 at 9:13 am

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  1. […] truly an engine for some particular outcome. I’ve noted the product place of conversation in many business settings. I’ve wondered about the role of conversation in connecting any/all of us to God. And now here is […]

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