As leaders, what assumptions do we hold about people? Do we believe people are lazy? That they lack integrity and don’t care?
Or, do we believe people have potential? That they are capable of greatness?
Traditional organizations tend to lean toward the first type of thinking. Of course, these assumptions aren’t explicit. No one (hopefully!) goes around saying this is the case.
But, if we examine traditional human resource policies, the assumption is people need to be watched and monitored.
“Chronic absence, tardiness, or leaving work early is cause for disciplinary action up to and including discharge.”
“Employees who are absent for three or more days must submit a physician’s statement to their supervisor before being allowed to return to work.”
You could add the phrase, “you idiot,” to the end of each sentence. And yet, statements likes these above comprise most organization’s policies and procedures. The assumption is we need a policy so people will show up for work on time. Or, at all.
And, part of a manager’s responsibility is to be on the lookout for people doing bad things and to stop it from happening. Which creates and perpetuates an adversarial relationship between leadership and the front line.
At PCI, we call this “big company” thinking.
Which we contrast with our “notthebigcompany” philosophy and approach.
So what exactly is “notthebigcompany.”
1: It’s a philosophy. A way of doing business. Perhaps even a way of living our lives.
2: It is certainly not a statement about growth. At PCI, we are committed to growing as an organization. We have big dreams. With growth comes opportunity! Anyone who’s ever worked for a company that wasn’t growing knows the fear which results when an organization is shrinking.
3: Finally, we are a work-in-progress. We are evolving. Our goal is: Getting better at getting better. We certainly don’t pretend to have it all figured out. We are “building the bridge while we are walking on it” (thank you Robert Quinn). Our philosophy is “try a lot of stuff and keep what works” (thank you, Jim Collins).
In 2021, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Rockwell F. Clancy Company, PCI’s predecessor company started by my grandfather, Rocky. We’ve been at this for 100 years and we are just getting started. We hope and intend to be at it for 100 years more.
In this spirit, earlier this year we adopted a new associate handbook.
“We trust you to do the right thing for yourself, PCI, and our clients. Now do it!”
That’s all of it.
Our new handbook starts with two assumptions:
1: High expectations.
Traditional HR policies focus on compliance. At PCI, we are aiming for the highest level of performance possible. We pursue excellence purposefully.
We believe people have potential. We believe people have the capacity for greatness. Our goal is to unlock all of this potential and do great things. We dream big dreams. Our vision is to earn a spot on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for. We aspire to become the world’s preeminent storytelling organization. We’ve got places to go and people to see.
2: Positive assumptions.
95% of people do the right thing. We show up for work. We work hard. We bring our very best each and every day. We are good people with normal challenges.
Then, there are “the 5-percenters.” Their modus operandi is: what can I get away with? The goal is to do the minimum required to keep my job. 5-percenters are not team players and often are not trustworthy.
In traditional organizations, the handbook is written for the “5-percenters.” Managers are expected to hunt around for bad behavior, almost hoping to find someone doing something wrong which then justifies our existence. When one of the 5-percenters finds a new way of getting away with something, we add a new policy and have a team meeting to announce it, during which everyone else rolls their eyes and wonders why we don’t address the issue directly with the offending party.
With our new two-sentence handbook, we aim to send a different message and create a different environment. At notthebigcompany, our focus is on living our five values and building trust by being trustworthy. We extend trust and expect trust in return.
Reflection: Examine my assumptions about people. What do I believe? Do I believe most people are lazy and don’t care? Or, do I believe people have potential and are capable of greatness?
Action: Spend some time journaling about the question above. See if I can identify where my beliefs come from.