Thursday, January 20, 2011

The New Fundamentals

Reading, writing and arithmetic, the traditional three R’s, are considered the foundation of education. Some believe that if we improve these three skill sets, we can transform what is happening in our schools today. The result of which will be to close the achievement gap, ensure more students can graduate, and have more students ready for college and/or the workplace. If mastery of the three R’s takes place, then truly no child will be left behind.

Yet, in the world of business, I wish we could say there are just three skill sets to master and then all will be well. I wish we could focus on three things and assure a greater degree of success in a time period of complexity and economic uncertainty. Since the new year started, I have been thinking about what are the fundamentals to success in business in 2011. Based on a lot of listening and visiting with people, I believe we need to focus on the following four R’s: respect, responsibility, relationships, and reflection.

First, we need to build a work environment where all involved show more respect. Personal trust, i.e. the trust employees have in their own managers, and strategic trust, i.e. the trust employees have in the people running the show to make the right strategic decisions, begins and ends with respect. Be it when we speak or listen, respect is the foundation of trust.

Second, we must take more responsibility for our own words and actions. Having the ability to respond based on thoughtful reflection means more meaningful dialogue. It will help us to remember that we can choose to be the problem or the solution in any given situation. The key is being clear about our choices and making sure we respond from clarity rather than fear or reaction.

Third, we need to develop and maintain our relationships with others. Years ago, Stephen Covey wrote, “No gardener; no garden.” If we want the benefits of the garden, i.e. beauty, flowers, color, etc., then someone needs to be the gardener, the one who cares for the plants and the soil. But every day now, I see more and more people at work frustrated with dysfunctional team relationships. When I ask how they are developing and maintaining them, they report that they “show up to meetings on time with these people.” I often shake my head and reply, “that is like building a marriage based on showing up for dinner on time.” A relationship is more than mere attendance at a meeting. It needs care and feeding, meaningful interaction and thoughtful dialogue, time and energy, so that it can grow and mature over the course of normal organizational change and evolution.

Finally, we need to commit to reflection time. The faster we go (and we are beginning to move at warp speed in some sectors now) the more we need to pause and reflect on all that is happening. Strategic review and reflection are mission critical during the coming weeks and months. Furthermore, it is time for us to think new visions and bigger strategic ideas. It is time for us to commit to a higher level of performance.

For many in the work place right now, there are three questions they ask every day, namely What’s wrong? Who did it? Who’s going to fix it? From my perspective, these questions create a work environment of blame, shame and excuses. And as a result, we end up battling over the minutia and not focused on the strategic direction of the organization. As someone once reminded me back in the 80’s, anyone can climb the corporate ladder of success to the top; the best make sure it is first leaning against the right wall.

For me, there are three new questions we need to be focused on in 2011. They are: Do you care about what you are doing right now? Do you think something better is possible? What kind of person are you going to be? Reflection based on these three questions generates personal clarity and personal commitment which is the foundation for collective clarity and collective commitment.

While I wish we could have three fundamental skill sets like reading, writing and arithmetic in the world of business, I do believe that in 2011 we need to focus on the new fundamentals of respect, responsibility, relationships, and reflection. With time and patience, these key elements can transform our workplace into being more successful and more sustainable given the challenges before us.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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