Monthly Archives: September 2012

Truth, Society and Your Organisation

Orwell was clearly talking about Society as our Social Support System when he wrote this: the sociological, economic and cultural fabric that enables our community to function. Or not.

The similarities between our Society and our Organisations is striking and not a surprise to those who study and work within Organisations and find their structures and interactions fascinating. Well run, achieving, functioning Organisations remain grounded in truth and honesty, unafraid to have – or to hear –  difficult conversations, and they foster Trust and Openness. The further an Organisation strays from that ideal, the less it functions and the less it achieves. There is a cost to avoiding honesty, to shooting the messenger, and an arrogant Organisation that forgets these principles or becomes lazy in upholding them risks losing the qualities that maintain success. I wrote a piece recently about Trust and Confidentiality. These are assets in an innovative, achieving, developing organisation. Without them it is all smoke and mirrors.

Some businesses lose their underpinning values as they gain in achievements and their bottom line expands – there is the drive to acquire, to develop and to grow, and the time available to devote to Values and Principles diminishes –  or appears to. In reality that is the very time the Organisation should retain control of those V&Ps – if they slip away too far it will impact the business, will strip away the very tools that can maintain and nourish.

Devote time and energy to your Values and Principles. Hear the truth even if it hurts. Remember what it is that keeps you sailing and keeps you from drowning. Remember: if you stop people talking about the real issues, if you prevent good people from sharing their good ideas, it is the loss of the Organisation. Literally.

Loose Lips and Predator Colleagues

Maintaining confidentiality in relationships with colleagues, students, and allied professionals is crucial to upholding the dignity of any professional relationship, fundamental to the management of relationships. A colleague who is not capable of that is not a colleague but is a predator. Maintaining confidentiality – or even simply respecting a relationship –  builds on the ability to have open and honest communication in the workplace secure in the knowledge that any information will not be shared with those you do not wish it to be shared with.

The Link Between Trust and Confidentiality

When you earn the reputation of someone who can be relied on to respect confidences, you command the respect and trust of people around you and build deeper friendships. In business, trustworthy people are more likely to sell more products, built a larger customer base, receive more benefits, lead stronger teams and enjoy earlier promotions. More importantly, though, to those among us who enjoy a degree of integrity, that reputation means that colleagues trust us and are comfortable with us. For leaders, this trait is vital – without it they will never obtain the relationships that will support their leadership. They will never be effective leaders. The ability to manage oneself, to control ones own behaviours, is an essential tool in the adult managers toolbox – not respecting confidential material exposes the lack of that maturity for the world to see.

Respecting and Keeping Confidences

Are you someone who can be trusted with private and confidential information?

Here are a few tips when it comes to keeping confidences:

  • Never share information that you have been asked to keep confidential.
  • Use your judgment when it comes to matters of implied confidentiality.
  • Keep things confidential that were intended to be confidential even if a relationship breaks down.
  • Do not vent your private marital or relationship issues with your friends. This will cause them to view your spouse or significant other differently, probably negatively.
  • When someone says, “I was asked to keep this in confidence, but I can share it with you,” let them know that you’d rather not be involved.

The next time you consider sharing information, be sure to ask yourself if there is a chance that the person who shared the information with you would like it kept confidential. If that is the case, don’t share it.

When you keep things confidential that should be confidential, you will gain the reputation as a person who can be trusted, and you will grow strong in character and value. Clearly, the lack of that ability has the opposite effect.  Leaders, effective managers, have this knowledge innately; for others it may be more of a struggle to control their impulse to share. For them, they will have to wait until their professional maturity kicks in  and they understand in a meaningful way the profound importance of confidentiality, trust, and relationship management. Until they understand how profoundly important that is they will never achieve the maturity they need to perform effectively.

Your Start-up – know yourself and succeed!

When we started our Company we knew it had to be based on values and principles. We are not Richard Branson and don’t want to be, although we admire him tremendously. We started our organisation because we believed in better: better quality, better services, better lives. The advice below is very pertinent for companies of all sizes, and especially for those grounded in health and social empowerment. This is the approach we took. We made deliberate decisions about the kind of work we would take, the kind of factors that would lead our decision making, and the limits we would self impose so that we could better manage our work and our priorities.

Adapted from “Four Things to Get Right When Starting a Company” by Bruce Gibney and Ken Howery: “As a start-up gets off the ground, it has a short-lived opportunity to decide how it wants to do business. With each new hire company culture becomes more entrenched and somewhere after two dozen employees, it tends to cement. Establish a set of genuine values before your start-up gets too complex. Articulate a coherent philosophy about who you are and how you will work. Also be clear about who you aren’t and what you won’t do. This will make decisions easier and ultimately improve results. Rather than analyzing each new decision afresh, you’ll have a common foundation from which to make them. If you don’t do this deliberately when your organization is young, the culture will (often rigidly) form itself.”

We knew we wanted to be small, in control, and able to choose who to support, and who to challenge. The rest takes care of itself, once you understand your own drivers and the context of your start-up.

Good Luck with your venture. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Your boss, the Idea Stealer.

Your boss, the Idea Stealer, who takes your ideas, passes them off as hers, covers her tracks, leaves no traces of pilfering or a break-in, and does it all without witnesses seeing it happening. With thanks to  Linnda Durre, Ph.D. for the concept. 

SITUATION: Your boss is basically a thief – she steals your ideas and passes them off as her own. You’ll be sitting at a meeting, read it in the monthly report, or you’ll hear something like “XXX had a great idea of combining two departments into one and she told us today in the weekly meeting….” You realize it was your idea that you shared with your boss last week.  Sometimes you and your boss worked on it together, but mostly it’s your idea. She’s clever enough to take your ideas when there are no witnesses who could vouch for you.

You feel betrayed and rightly so. You may be passed over for recognition, promotions, raises, and acknowledgement because your boss passes off your ideas as hers. She’s so clever that she convinces herself that it’s her idea, and tries to convince you of the same. Don’t let her convince you to capitulate, giving her credit, rights, or royalties from your work.  Like a leech she drains others’ brilliant concepts and innovations and sucks the oxygen right out of the room

Since she’s your boss, it’s difficult to confront her. You want her to like you and like your work, and you’d also like to climb the ladder yourself.   However, she will keep you working under her because she needs you and your ideas –you make her look like a genius, so most likely, she will not promote you,  and she will guard you like Ft. Knox because you’re worth a gold mine to her. She feels you’re her possession. She may discourage other bosses from pirating you away by telling them you’re really not that good. She’ll demean you to others to hoard you for her own.

If you demand it, she may give you a salary uplift to keep you happy and to secure your place in her department.  When she gets a promotion, she may take you with her, to keep up the flow of ideas that she can use as her own.  She may ask your opinion and you may inadvertently give her gold nuggets of ideas that she passes off as her own.

If you want to claim credit for your own ideas, you have to send your ideas to HER boss as quickly as you get them in your head so you can protect your innovative solutions as your own without him stealing them. You may want to send yourself the ideas as a certified return receipt requested letter, so you have a date when you created your ideas. If you have more lucrative ideas that need intellectual property protection, then find a lawyer and register them as copyrights, patents, and trademarks.

There are solutions to this, and  Linnda Durre, Ph.D., Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace – Protect Yourself Against Co-workers Bosses and Work Environments That Poison Your Day published by McGraw Hill, February 19, 2010, on whom this blog post was based, has plenty of good ones to offer. My solution, though, is simple. Leave. Go now, leave by the first door you see, pack your stuff, sign the resignation  letter, wave goodbye, and LEAVE!

Life is too short to put up with a boss you do not trust, whose practice you do not respect, with whom a real working relationship is almost impossible because of the lack of trust and respect. You are worth more than that. Perhaps a short period of trial, waiting to see if things improve, might be useful – but my experience is that once an idea-thief, always an idea-thief. So, for goodness sake, leave!

This post is dedicated to a friend of mine, an ex-colleague.

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