Tuesday, 23 September 2008

'That's Not My Job!'

A lot of myths persist in business. And some of those are about the parameters to our roles, where workers and executives get entrenched in a fixed job title or job spec with no flexibility. The reality of course - especially for us Jugglers - is that success is about being fluid.

In small businesses, people tend to be good at juggling lots of different roles. In some start-ups when there's only the founders to staff the office, the owner of the company answers the phone, assembles her own desk and does sales at the same time as ordering stationery. The best thing about a company I once worked at? That spirit. No grumbles. Everyone got involved in everything, answering the phone, dealing with a client problem, contributing at meetings, taking the mail to the post office, even putting shelves up. That spirit made me proud to work there, it came to define us. Saying ‘that’s not my job’ was not part of our organisational vocabulary. We had our core responsibilities but were small enough a business to mix stuff up. Morale, productivity, success – lots of that was related to the spirit in the office. But alas, things change.

As organisations grow, when people get given A Job Title with job descriptions and then they can get defensive doing stuff that's not on their job spec. You start to hear cries of 'that's not my job!’

But as we re-think work, even big organisations are changing their cultures regarding who does what role. And there are signs that barriers are crumbling as they encourage a juggle spirit where we all do a mix of stuff, we are not above some tasks just because we're the boss. Sometimes that's about being prepared to stay hands on, or perhaps get your hands dirty. After all, it's important for the boss to still be able to do a sell or to deal with a customer on the 'phone – she needs to stay in touch with the business.

Wherever practical, get your company or team happy to embrace everything in that juggle spirit. The CEO answers the ‘phone. Anyone – whoever – who is passing through reception greets a guest and gets them a coffee.

Embrace people of different skill sets and perspectives in decision making. Avoid pigeon holing. Like when I said to the accountant, 'what do you think of the new logo we're looking at' and she said, 'oh no – that's not for me to look at. That's your job'. Wrong.

Make it everyone's business (literally).

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