Thursday, July 09, 2009

Do your job!

My last post about ID skills reminded me of this one from Clive Shepherd. He is (as usual) bang on the money as far as I'm concerned.

One of the most liberating things anyone ever said to me in a professional situation happened like this:

I was in a meeting with a few of the organisation's big players. They were talking about a mammoth proposal the organisation was drawing up, which would result (if we won it) in a sizeable contract worth millions and lasting a decade.

Because my boss expected that I would wind up working on the resultant contract, should we win it (we did and I did), he had asked me to join him at the meeting. I assumed I was there as an observer - after all, these players were well out of my league - so I was holding my tongue (no mean feat).

As the discussion progressed, it seemed to me that a key point was being missed. A fundamental issue overlooked.

Before my tongue actually split in two, I dared speak up. My heart was in my mouth. I said my piece and, to my astonishment, they listened. They adjusted their plans to accommodate my observation.

During the next comfort break, I apologised to my boss for overstepping the bounds of my remit. His answer, which permanently lifted a weight off my shoulders, was:

I don't pay you to keep your knowledge to yourself!

Think about it like this - How much are you being paid? If you withhold from the person who is paying you all your hard won experience and perspectives, are you not guilty of fraud or theft? After all, isn't that what they're buying? Isn't that what they pay for? We need to man up and bring our expertise to the table. It's what we're there for, after all!


Stephen Downes said...

> If you withhold from the person who is paying you all your hard won experience and perspectives, are you not guilty of fraud or theft?

Um, no.

A person who pays you pays for a specific service or task, not the sum totality of all you know and think.

Your comment is reflective of a fallacy, perpetuated in some quarters, that earning a salary is tantamount to submission to complete control by an employer.

No such thing is the case, of course. Staff have personal lives, they have personal property, and they have rights. One such right is to keep one's counsel to oneself.

You can have no doubt that your employers, also signatories to the same contract, are keeping knowledge and information to themselves.

The upsycho said...

@Downes Perhaps I should have been more careful with my words (plus ca change!). I meant in specific reference to the task at hand.

I certainly don't see an employment contract as one of indentured servitude. I am pretty sure I have gone on record on that score.

But, ah, perhaps I am an idealist. One of the reasons I am such an anomaly in the corporate world is that I like transparency. I want all the cards on the table. I am rotten at poker! I wouldn't have thought it was possible to value honesty too highly, but it seems I do - something for which I have been (very gently) taken to task this very day.

However, if I go into the store to buy a piece of hardware and the salesman neglects to tell me that it is only compatible with a Mac, when I have told him I have a PC, he has withheld key information from me, which is inexcusable.

V Yonkers said...

I learned at a young age that I just can't keep my thoughts to myself. However, I have learned that there are different approaches for different people. If there is someone that really doesn't want my input, I feel it is important to bring up the topic in a question form? (i.e. How will you address X?) Usually they want their own ideas and don't like others to have better ideas.

On the other hand, sometimes it is better to just give my own experience, especially if there is a deadlock.

Of course, there are just the times when it is better to walk away and not be the target (you heard what I said...because you didn't say anything YOU must have agreed to it).

The upsycho said...

@V_Yonkers I often use the question approach myself. As a consultant, I consider questions to be one of the most important tools in my toolkit. Oddly enough, I employed this technique recently, being very careful to phrase the questions in such a way as to keep the conversation flowing, and I was accused of being overly confrontational. Now I certainly can be confrontational, be in no doubt about that, but on that occasion, I was being as non-confrontational as I have ever been!

Ah well. You win some...

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koutou katoa!

I tend to agree with Stephen on this, but Karen has a point too. 'The Contract' that abounds in the globe is, unfortunately, a capricious human artifact that is so open to interpretation, by both parties, that it ceases to be binding once new interpretations arise.

This is where trust sneaks in and becomes an important element that governs ongoing relationships between who employs and the employable.

A contractor who is trusted will be asked back for other contracts. The corollary follows for contractor's acceptance.

Catchya later