29 Jun #075 – Integriosity – Re-Imagined Purpose – People
ESSENCE: When a leader, armed with a RENEWED understanding of God’s purpose for work and business, begins to RE-IMAGINE the organization they lead, the process must include Re-Imagining People–the role and treatment of the people in the organization. Re-Imagining People requires leaders prayerfully to discern what the organization could look like if flourishing, dignity and community became priorities. It flows from, and relies upon, a Re-Imagined Vision that recognizes people rather than profit as the organization’s WHY. Re-Imagining People is about Humanizing People through instituting policies and practices that recognize people’s value, give people a voice, care about people as “neighbors”, see people beyond their work and help them find “life balance”, and create a cooperative community.
When a leader, armed with a RENEWED understanding of God’s purpose for work and business, begins to RE-IMAGINE their organization, we believe they need to begin with Purpose. We are looking at three aspects of Re-Imagining Purpose–Re-Imagining Vision, Re-Imagining People and Re-Imagining Profit. In the last post, we considered Re-Imagining Vision, and we will now turn to Re-Imagining People.
Re-Imagining Purpose: Re-Imagining People
We don’t mean literally re-imagining people–we think God probably did the best job possible, particularly considering that He made us in His image and He is the only one who has seen His face in a mirror. (And this is not about the very troubling efforts to re-engineer people by messing with DNA). We are talking about a leader re-imagining the role and treatment of people in the organization they lead, in an effort to bring it more into alignment with Biblical principles, values and priorities.
Re-Imagining People in an organization is about re-imagining what the organization would look like if flourishing, dignity and community became priorities. One of our favorite quotes is one from James Hunter, which you have seen in earlier posts:
To manage a business in a way that grows out of a Biblical view of relationships, community and human dignity before God has divine significance, irrespective of what else might be done from this platform.
Remember, Integriosity® is about changing the heart of the organization. When the leaders of a widget manufacturer perceive a bigger WHY for what they do, it will impact WHO they show up as to the various people the organization touches (employees, customers, vendors, owners, communities) and HOW the organization makes the widgets (including HOW it treats those various people). That will change the culture, which will, in turn, impact WHO the employees “show up as” and HOW they “do what they do”.
Re-Imagining People: Some Questions To Consider
As a leader begins to prayerfully Re-Imagine People in their organization, these are some helpful questions with which to get started:
- Good vs. Less Bad. When re-imagining how to treat people, it is important to see the distinction between “doing good” and “doing less bad.” This goes back to having the right WHY (Re-Imagining Vision).
- When Profit as Purpose is the WHY of the organization, treatment of people is about DOING LESS BAD in order to increase profit. If you could work people 100+hours every week and underpay them and people still wanted to work for you (which is what happens on Wall Street and in medical residency programs), you would do it. If employees started quitting or grumbling too loudly, or if recruiting slowed, you figure out how little (i.e., LESS BAD) you need to do to “fix the problem”. My experience on Wall Street was that a special bonus usually did the trick.
- When Flourishing of People is the WHY of the organization, then DOING GOOD for them is actually the goal.
- Us-Them. Are there practices or policies in the organization that create an “us-them” culture between groups of people? Are there practices or policies that could help promote an “us” culture? (In the law firm where I spent my career–long before I became a partner–there were separate restrooms for partners–definitely reinforcing the “us-them” culture that already existed between partners and associates.)
- Recognition. How are people recognized beyond compensation for the value they bring to the organization? How could people be recognized. Seth Godin recently wrote: “Money, cash money, is a blunt instrument used by organizations and individuals to short circuit much of the hierarchy of enrollment. . . . When we default to a simple number, we dehumanize the transaction and fail to see what people really need and want.” Re-Imagining People is about Humanizing! In a devotional titled “Becoming an Extraordinary Leader”, Jenni Catron observes:
Leading from the heart means understanding the power of connection: knowing that one of our greatest human needs is to be known. We want to believe that we matter. And we sincerely long for those who lead us to see us as individuals: to see our unique potential and contribution, to help call it out in us, and to affirm that what we bring and who we are really matter to the greater story.
- Voice. What practices and policies are in place to encourage and facilitate people at all levels of the organization to identify potential areas of improvement in pursuing the organization’s vision or living the values of the organization? What could be done to give people a greater voice and encourage them to use it? In his book Connection Culture, Michael Stallard identified “Voice” as one of the three critical ingredients to creating a healthy culture of connection in an organization. In Mike’s words:
Voice exists when everyone in an organization seeks the ideas and opinions of others, shares their opinions honestly, and safeguards relational connections. In a culture where voice exists, decision makers have the humility to know that they don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, and they need to seek and consider the opinions and ideas of others in order to make the best decisions.
- Caring. What policies and practices are in place to recognize needs of people in the organization and “care” for people and families in their lives outside work? While it is important for an organization to allow people to “bring their whole selves” to work, it is equally important for leaders of an organization to recognize that people’s lives at work are not their “whole selves”. God cares, and because God cares, we are called to care. It is “loving your neighbor”. We like this unfiltered quote from Dr. Skip Moen about the nature of the God of the Bible in whose image we were made (sadly, leaders of organizations engaged in “business as usual” often resemble the “other ancient deities” Skip describes):
The unimaginable, unbelievable, undeniable message of the Bible is that God cares! No other ancient deity gave a rat’s ass about human beings or, for that matter, anything else. God’s rivals were self-absorbed sociopaths incapable of having any concern for the despicable creation.
- Life Balance. If you have been reading our posts, you know we hate the un-Biblical term “Work-Life Balance” (see, in particular, post #48). Work is part of life. In fact, what we learn in Genesis is that work is necessary to live fully and be fully human. Our goal should be “life balance”. “Live to work” and “work to live” are both wrong–we were designed to “live more fully through work”. What policies and practices are in place to encourage and assist people in maintaining “life balance”? What more could be done?
- Community. An organization is a community. In his Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II observed “Thus work bears a particular mark of man and humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons.” But the fact that an organization is a community does not necessarily make it feel like a community.
- A broken workplace can feel more like the Hunger Games! In post #018 we explored the problems that arise from the Scarcity Assumption and the Self-Interest Assumption inherent in “business as usual”. They reinforce manipulative and dehumanizing managerial behavior and work cultures that are not conducive to human flourishing or to an environment of Shalom. The Self-Interest Assumption, in particular, does not prioritize or encourage community–it creates an environment based on competitive behavior and mistrust in which fear and competition are used to motivate and manipulate people to act in line with the organization’s primary purpose of Profit As Purpose.
- What policies and practices are in place to encourage a feeling of community among all people the organization touches? What more could be done?
To manage a business in a way that grows out of a Biblical view of relationships, community and human dignity before God has divine significance, irrespective of what else might be done from this platform. (James Hunter)
Imagine as You Re-Imagine
As you take the tools of RENEW and begin to RE-IMAGINE people, just imagine an organization:
- Where all people the organization touches (including the families of employees and the surrounding communities) feel like the organization and its leaders genuinely “care”.
- Where all people the organization touches (including vendors and customers) feel valued for their unique contribution to the organization and its vision and not just for their productivity.
- Where all people that the organization touches feel that their voice is valued in identifying areas of improvement and customer service.
- Where no “us-them” exists and all employees feel like part of one community in which all members play a vital role and are acting for the common good of the community and its vision.
We believe it is time to have Humanize People–RE-IMAGINING them by pursuing business a better way in alignment with Biblical values and priorities–it is time to begin faithfully “doing right” through Integriosity®.
SPOILER ALERT: In the RE-ALIGN stage of Integriosity, “People” is one of the six Covert-Overt Continuums.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): My career was spent in a “large” Wall Street law firm (not large by global standards, but still several hundred attorneys in the New York office). The traditional “Big Law” model has a long way to go in Re-Imagining People, so I am familiar with the “business as usual” culture. Of course, Re-Imagining People follows (and requires) Re-Imagining Vision, and I can’t think of such a firm that has an inspiring vision statement. It is Profit as Purpose.
- Good vs Less Bad. It is all about figuring out how “less bad” you need to be to keep people from leaving too soon (all are expected to eventually leave unless they became partners or could be valuable as salaried senior lawyers).
- Us-Them. The law firm partner/associate structure is inherently “us-them”. Many firms have added an additional “us-them” dynamic through an equity/non-equity partner structure. Those associates who become partners after several years of over-work are quite happy to finally call the “them” group the “us” group.
- Recognition. There are three basic types of recognition for good work–partnership, money and more work. In most firms, partners are recognized with money (or with equity status). Not many warm fuzzies (but pats on the back and fancy dinners do appear from time to time).
- Voice. This varies greatly by firm. In some, associates serve on firm committees. In others, partners do not even know what other partners are being paid (only a powerful executive committee knows). In general, associates do not feel they have a voice.
- Caring. Caring is captured by the phrase “if you can’t come in on Sunday, don’t bother coming in on Monday”. Wall Street lawyers (and bankers, for that matter) are not particularly known for their caring hearts (at work). That said, it is more about the individual nature of each partner. I encountered a number who really did care about the associates with whom they worked.
- Life Balance. This generally falls in the Good vs Less Bad category–tolerate as much Life Balance as necessary to keep people from leaving the firm too soon.
- Community. The “up or out” partnership model creates a profound sense of competitive behavior in most systems, particularly where associates perceive that there are a limited number of partnership slots (thankfully, I was in a unique culture in which partnership slots were limited only by the number of candidates deemed qualified in any given year).
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Photo Credit: Original photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash (photo cropped).