What ought to be done

Science can tell us how to do many things, but it can not tell us what ought to be done.” – Author Unknown

In most workplaces, everyone knows who the internally motivated people are and most everyone doesn’t like those people.  Why? I’d offer it’s because most of the internally motivated people you meet in a workplace seem to only be internally motivated to gain power over their fellow workers so they can better drive people.  You see, driving people successfully (yes, sometimes it is successful in the short-term) requires power over others and thus the internally motivated people seek the power.

No wonder most people I’ve met have at first been truly suspicious of me whenever I’ve used my internal motivation to break free and try new things.  From the perspective of the coworkers it must have seemed that it was only a matter of time before I dropped the “nice girl” act, stopped driving change and pulled out my whip and started driving people just like all the others had done before me.

No wonder they flinched when I asked what their obstacles were to accepting the change.  They weren’t really responding to me, in that moment, but instead responding to all the other times where they at first trusted and then were driven to change by those they had trusted.

No wonder “flavor of the month” and other awful terms follow around process improvements in most organizations.  It’s the trust and let down of too many of those people driving other people.

Through our past actions and the past actions of so many change agents like us, we’ve killed the willingness to change in many of our coworkers.  In 2012, let’s vow to do better by ourselves and by our coworkers and actively drive change instead of driving people.

We can change the world if we do what we ought to do and drive change.  Who’s with me?

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One thought on “What ought to be done

  • December 25, 2011 at 2:57 am
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    Merry Christmas from Berlin, April. I am reading this post from the East Seven hostel where I am staying with Pam and our son Beau (trip updates on http://www.soulefamily.org).

    In short, I am with you, April. I have a few thoughts you might want to consider since there are many unspoken assumptions in what you have written and I have a different perspective on people’s resistance to change and being “driven.”

    I personally get nervous whenever anyone starts talking about “what ought to be done” since most that transmit this expression have strong ideas about what they think ought to be done and would often seek to compell others (or “drive” to use your term) to support it. I don’t have a big problem with driving or being driven in a work setting since people in the Wesr do have the choice to work elsewhere if they don’t like the direction, destination, or means being used. I am much more wary in social or political contexts since the power of the state to coerce/compell dwarfs any manager’s. For social and political contexts, my view is that those that think they know “what ought to be done” have the burden to enlist support through the ballot box or voluntary associations. If they cannot do so, so be it. The trouble is, many of those with an inside track on the “ought” seek compulsion if they cannot get voluntary support.

    From my experience in military-government civilian organizations, I think the mistrust about change has less to do with fear of being “driven” by someone with power (since most non-anarchists understand and accept the need for leadership, bosses, and organizational power distributed through hierarchy) than the normal human resistance to change and fatigue with half-hearted, inconsistent, hypocritical initiatives that seek to manipulate employees or deny reality. Very few managers understand that the first questions from employees that leaders or peers seeking high performance and change have to address are:

    – Do you care about me (and my needs and what I think)?
    – Are you going to stick with this new thing if I invest the time to do things the new way?
    – Do I get any input?

    I have led big and little change and spent quite a bit of time as one of the smaller cogs in the machine. You always encounter resistance and skepticism of “new things” because it takes a lot of organizational and personal energy to learn new things. Leaders forget (or just don’t care most of the time) that the burden is on *them* to both make the compelling case for what ought to be done *and* create the environment (the hard work most leaders don’t want to do) to support the people making the change.

    Thank you for the interesting post. I am off to explore museums. That so many are open on Christmas day could be a good thing (if you are a tourist) or a bad thing if you are concerned about a society’s values and sources of its morality.

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