Pete Reilly, in a recent comment to this Around the Corner entry, writes…

Clarifying what our ‘customers’ needs,and expectations, as well as what they value, is one area where most of us could use some work. So, we need to ask what our customer values and if they are unclear, we need to probe and discuss, until we get to what they really value. Value is such a great topic and there is so much more to discuss.

Pete provides some examples…I see this as getting to the heart of an issue, cutting through all the baloney and truly understanding what’s really, bedrock, required for the benefit of the organization. The problem is that folks (including myself) aren’t transparent and open about this, no matter that they want to be.

Often, people are afraid of sharing exactly what they value because they lack trust in the relationship. Simply, they FEAR how they will be perceived, want to maneuver/manipulate the other person to minimize their own exposure while maximizing the other’s, and achieve their aims without the exercise of relationship-building.

I recently found myself in the position of overcoming that fear. In the past, in regards to a specific issue, I would have advocated what I thought was in the best interest of my department. However, at a team meeting, my team helped me realize that I was focused on specific needs of my group. The fact was, we needed to let responsibility for a certain project go, potentially giving up our significant investment in time, effort and funding to another division.

Up until this point, I found myself trying to craft an administrative procedure that would protect our department’s interests–using the “more projects you have, the more surety you have that you’ll be employed” philosophy–while cutting off the department that had the real authority, but none of the expertise to get the job done. In fact, that fear–that they wouldn’t be able to get the job done and all our efforts over the last year would be in vain–was the dominating one.

At the team meeting, with vigorous discussion of my team, I realized that I had a choice–continue to be fearful and try to retain control while seeming to give it up, OR, trust the organization and surrender control. I do not think I would have reached this decision on my own. My team actually helped me “see the light” as we argued back and forth. Robert Quinn (Building the Bridge as We Walk It), whose books I keep in front of me at home and work, shares it in this way:

Being transformational is a function of our ability to constantly engage that which we least want to engage, our own hypocrisy.

As I read those words, I realize that I was being hypocritical. I said I valued the service we provided to the organization so much that I didn’t want to give it up, but I doubted the ability of the organization to acknowledge the value of the service provided. Why? In my past experiences, I had come to not trust the organization to get the job done…so, my department did the job. Engaging my own hypocrisy, my fear, meant setting aside what my department had done for the organization, asking anew what was best for the organization and including others in the conversation. While I found I still had to affirm the “value” of what had been done by my department, I also had to realize that it was yesterday’s work.

Could I have reached this on my own? I’d like to think “Yes,” but a truer response would be that the conversation my team had with me was significant. This is a humbling experience, yet, frees me from my preconceptions, desires, fear to force a particular outcome. Instead, I have ONE simple goal. That is, answer this question as clearly as I can knowing what my department knows: Is the service being provided aligned to what the organization needs and is that need understood by all stakeholders? If not, what can I do to show the organization the truth about itself?

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