Changing Another Person LO19879

Fred Nickols (
Mon, 16 Nov 1998 18:32:42 -0500

Responding to Bruce Jones in LO19858 --

Bruce was responding to Rick Karash so I'll pick it up with
part of Bruce's response...

>Since we are in the business of changing peoples thoughts, behaviors and
>belief systems through education about systems change, I think this final
>statement is slightly incorrect. When an organization decides to change
>their current system to another we are dictating their (the employee) new
>belief system.

I don't want to single out Bruce and he is not the target but his posting
offers a convenient example of the slippery use of language and thinking
that is prevalent in the workplace.

In the example above, Bruce says, "When an organization decides..." To be
precise, an organization never decides anything; people do. The CEO
decides, the VP decides, you decide and I decide, but the organization
never, never, NEVER decides.

Now I am picky about this anthropomorphizing because I see it covering so
much individual irresponsibility. This particular use of language makes
it almost impossible to hold anyone accountable for their actions. The
CEO didn't make a bad call; the company did. Fred didn't screw up; the
planning unit did.

So, now to the basic issue of our rights, duties and obligations with
respect to changing other people.

So far as I know there are no definitive answers. All we have to go on
are values, preferences and opinions. I'll state mine right up front.

I don't believe I have the right, the duty or the obligation to change
anyone. Drill right down the "practice of management" as the good
Professor Drucker termed it and that means I don't have a responsibility
to develop my subordinates/direct reports/team members or whatever you
prefer calling them. Their development is their responsibility, not mine.
My responsibility is to help them when and if they seek my assistance or
counsel. Nor do I believe my responsibility is to correct their
deficiencies (and Lord knows how those are to be determined). Instead, I
side with the good Professor; my job is to identify their strengths and
put those to use in the service of the company and its mission.

In short, as a professional manager and executive, I am not in the
business of "fixing" people; I am instead in the business of deploying and
employing them (i.e., arranging or organizing and making use of them).
And, frankly, that's the least of it. Of far greater significance are my
responsbilities in relation to the definition and design of the work to be
accomplished and the identification, selection and even creation of the
means of accomplishing it. We live in an age of configured work, not
prefigured routines. My challenge is to enlist the commitment and obtain
the creative contributions of people who are every bit as smart (and some
who are much smarter) than I in pursuit of important social, operational,
financial and political goals and objectives. In short, my job is to make
things happen through people. That won't happen if I become their judge
and take on the task of remedying what I perceive to be their faults.

To put all this another way, and perhaps much more simply, I'm in the
business of leading people and managing work. I am NOT in the business of
managing people.



Fred Nickols Distance Consulting (609) 490-0095

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