Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Personal Development for the Confused

Do you think that personal development is an integral part of being a leader?

Hmmm ...

Well, it probably depends on what personal development means. Personally, :-) I think there's some confusion about this.

Would you, for example, expect that your boss should be more personally developed than you because he is further up the company ladder? What would that mean in terms of his behaviour?

How about the CEO? Or even the President / Prime Minister of your country? From a personal development perspective, how comfortable do you feel about them being your leaders? What would it mean for the company or the country if they were more personally developed?

If Bill Gates is the richest person in the world, is he also the most personally developed?

Perhaps we could ask Anthony Robbins or Steve Pavlina for their opinons? Lots of people do. There's a whole industry around personal development.

It can be difficult to talk properly about some things in these politically correct and sensitive times, but how do we decide if someone is personally developed or not? In comparison to ... what or whom?

That's part of the confusion, I think. What's often called personal development might be better termed personal accomplishment, or even expert accomplishment.

A balance of both is good. Be accomplished and be a person.

What about your employees?
How's their personal development?

'Who cares!
', some might answer, 'as long as they do their jobs!'.

Which attitude probably part explains any problems you might be having in that regard...
in the opinion of someone who has quite a way to go with his own personal development.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Corporations don't have Values, People do!

As part of a culture change process with a company I'm working with, I've asked the participants to design a new induction procedure. Part of the induction will be an attempt to explain the corporate values and instead of presenting the usual values/mission statement here's the question I put to the group:

"How does working here allow me to express my personal values?"

The idea was to get individuals to relate some true stories about what they had done, what had happened and so give new employees (and perhaps old ones, too), some introduction to the culture of the place.

A couple of points I want to make:

Firstly,it was really hard for some people to stop with the corporate-speak; you know, the 'employees are our greatest asset, blah, blah, blah'. I'm not doubting that these people believe stuff like that (or that they should believe it), but I wonder if they actually felt it? I certainly didn't feel any connection between the head and the heart from the people who spoke that way, and using corporate-speak doesn't tell anyone how this company is any different from another company - only the unique stories of what has happened here can do that.

Secondly, I deliberately asked for personal values, not corporate values. I seriously doubt that corporations really have values and maybe it's time we stopped kidding ourselves that they do, and take personal responsibility for what we do in the name of the corporation. Sure, some committee may get together and formulate a nice sounding list but are those really the values of the whole corporation? Remember, the fact that a corporation has legal standing as a person is simply a fiction, something that's been enacted in law, but it doesn't make a company a flesh-and-blood, living, breathing and feeling person.

(BTW, I've just downloaded 'The Corporation' via Democracy. I haven't seen it yet.)

We could say that a company's values are evidenced by the actions of the company, but it is still individuals or groups of individuals who are really taking the actions. To say that the company is taking the action simply allows the individuals to legally, if not morally, shift responsibility, thanks again to that legal fiction.

That's why I think it makes a lot more sense to ask people how working at a company allows them to express their personal values. Now, if one person tells a story about that, then I can listen to him or her and judge whether I wholeheartedly support those values, or I can just live with them, or at the other extreme, find them unacceptable.

Of course, if I find them unacceptable something's got to give.

If lots of people share their stories, then we have a pretty good idea of the company's actual culture as expressed by actual behaviour. And we remember it.