I’m one of those people who likes the Max de Pree definition of leadership:
- The first job of a leader is to articulate strategy and vision.
- The second and last is to say thank you.
- In between, a leader should be a servant and a debtor to the led.
De Pree’s definition, which forms the basis for his works on servant leadership, resonate well with my personal spiritual beliefs, leaving me with fewer conflicts in life.
I’m also one of those people who believes in “nurture” far more than “nature”; I truly believe that given the right environment, training, opportunity and motivation, anyone can do almost anything.
Given these values and beliefs, I’ve tended to prefer management styles that use mentoring and coaching methods to train and empower, rather than stentorian or authoritarian approaches, or for that matter spoon-fed prescription. I think it is important to teach people to discover their potential, to be able to live up to that potential and then to extend it.
As a result, I’m always on the lookout for tools and techniques that improve my capacity to mentor and coach people. So I thought it was time to review what something like Facebook could do in this respect, speaking from an enterprise perspective. How could Facebook help?
For many years I’ve been looking for a way to simplify role-driven induction, such that I can
- list all the committees a person should belong to
- list all the “meetings” a person should attend
- list all the people a person should normally interact with, staff as well as customers
- list all the applications a person should use
- list all the “permissions” and authorisation levels a person needs
- list all the intranet web sites a person should visit
Of course, I can do all this now. Yes, but not that accurately. IF I use something like Facebook, I can get so much better at doing this. Today, I have to use formal organisation charts and job descriptions to create an artificial model of what the person should do, and then try and overlay that with real-world mentoring and coaching so as to bridge the gulf between theory and practice. I guess it’s a bit like driving a car (incidentally something I don’t know how to do!). Theory is what you need to pass the test, and practice keeps you alive, even gets you from A to B traffic permitting.
With Facebook, I can capture the real-life interactions of a person in an organisation. Whom he connects with, what groups he joins, what events he goes to, whom he converses with, exchanges communications with, what applications he uses, which ones he doesn’t use, what he reads, to a certain extent even why he reads something. Over time, these real-life interactions allow me to model the role far more effectively than I can today.
Over time, I can create a template for every given role. I can try and construct a baseline structure and look at variations between people, see whether those variations improve performance or not. Learn from those variations and pass that learning to the people performing the roles. Find out, for example, who are the “professional meeting attenders” and genuinely and dispassionately work out whether they’re bane or boon. Who the lone wolfs are. Maybe even get some Gladwellian Tipping-Point classifications for the staff.
You can see how the templates could get richer and richer over time, as we add learning and extend the population and timescale.Â In turn, the templates form a rich basis for role induction, both for grad hires as well as for laterals. It’s almost as if you can create an unmanned cockpit and dashboard and headphones and everything for a given role, then transfer people into it as needed. Provide a really rich context and structure for what a person actually does in a given role.
When we are able to do this, we can spend far more time on the more valuable bits of human and career development, looking at a person’s communications style, approach to teamwork, to performance evaluation, to conflict resolution, even to goal-setting and refining.
[An aside. I am not interested in reducing standard deviation in performance. I am far more interested in exploring ad exploiting the things that make a person different and distinctive, by simplifying the boring things. Assembly line thinking has no role to play in 21st century services. Or education. Or healthcare.]
When we can capture a person’s interactions patterns on an objective and unemotional basis, we are also able to form the basis for something else, something that I will cover in my next post. Let me leave you with a taster, a teaser:
Human interactions have a cost and a value, both within the enterprise as well as beyond the enterprise. If we are able to price and value interactions on an individual basis, even crudely, we are able to create far better feedback loops than we’ve ever had. As the population covered grows, we are able to bring in collaborative filtering processes, ratings and recommendations, really get engaged on a Wisdom Of Crowds and democratised innovation model.
But first we have to be able to capture the population and their interactions. Objectively. Unemotionally.