Do you ever consider that most people at work are doing a second job that no one’s paying them to do? A job that includes preserving their reputations, putting their best selves forward and hiding their inadequacies?
Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, Andy Fleming and Matthew Miller, the authors of this research, believe that this could be the biggest cause of wasted resources in nearly every company today.
Most people expend a lot of energy at work attempting to hide their inadequacies from colleagues. But what if companies instead created a culture in which people could see their mistakes not as vulnerabilities but as prime opportunities for personal growth?
What if a company was set up in such a way that instead of hiding their weaknesses, employees used them as opportunities for both personal and business growth?
Researchers suggest that it’s possible to meld business growth with personal growth in every employee’s day-to-day work. Researchers found only a handful of firms where people see their mistakes not as vulnerabilities but as prime opportunities for growth.
Two stood out: Bridgewater Associates, an East Coast investment firm and the Decurion Corporation, a West Coast real estate manager, cinema operator, and senior living centre owner. Both companies are committed to developing every one of their people by weaving personal growth into daily work and both are highly successful businesses. The authors spent hundreds of hours observing their practices and interviewing employees at all levels.
What they saw was people working together, in meetings, in one-on-one sessions, and in the course of their everyday work, to get at the root causes of problems and devise more productive ways of doing things.
Many companies conduct root cause analysis but stop short of crossing into an employee’s interior world, where so many problems begin; for example, a tendency to avoid confrontation, to act before thinking things through, to be overly aggressive if one’s ideas are criticised, and other counterproductive thinking and behaviour. If you are a leader who wants to build a DDO, you should understand that you can’t want it just for the company.
You must want it for yourself. You must be prepared to participate fully and even go first in making your own limitations public. You must also not just want it to generate extraordinary business results. You must put equal value on leading a company that contributes to the flourishing of its people as an end in itself.
At Decurion and Bridgewater, everyone from the CEOs on down to the teenage ushers works on identifying and overcoming these patterns as part of doing the job well.
Adapted from “Making Business Personal” by Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, Andy Fleming and Matthew Miller – HBR 201404