A power packed combination that can transform people and organisations. Are craft, character, and community outdated concepts or is it time for us to focus on them more?
Last week it seemed everywhere I turned, there was an email, Facebook post or tweet about ‘how to increase blog traffic’ or ‘how to grow your on- line audience’ or ‘how to develop your on line profile’.
Some very blunt questions came to my mind. What’s the point of drawing traffic to your blog if you are so busy chasing numbers that you forget to write posts that add value and have substance? And what is the point of having an impressive on-line profile if in real life you are an unreliable jerk who has lapses in integrity? And let’s hope Facebook is not teaching us how to relate to others. Would you in real life actually go up to someone and ask them to ‘like’ you so you can be surrounded by more of a crowd? Are we really content with shallow contacts rather than true followers and supporters? Three words come to mind when I think about this, craft, character and community.
This is not meant to criticise the social media platforms. They are great vehicles for getting in touch with people, helping them, sharing with them and learning from them. And I am ‘queen’ of early adopters for sure. But my experience last week also reminded me of what I’m seeing in many organisations. Three key ingredients can make an organisation a place where people are engaged, productive and happy or disengaged, on the verge of resignation and apathetic: craft, character and community.
Have you ever seen your job as a ‘craft’? Something to be carefully finished with the finest attention to detail. Undertaken with constant eye for creative refinements. A sense of pride when the task is completed. It is not about perfection as it is about you giving your whole self to it, doing the best you can with your abilities, resources and time constraints at the moment. It doesn’t matter what your job is. I have seen cleaners come in to work at 5:00 with a long night of cleaning ahead, going about their job as though it was the finest work of art, not leaving any task undone or done half heartedly. And they have a deep sense of pride and engagement in what they do. What can you do to further develop the ‘craft’ that is your job?
I have regular contact with two executives in two very different organisations who act with the utmost integrity in the midst of the organisational equivalent of crocodile infested waters. Both have been undermined, over looked, betrayed and told ‘this can’t be done’. Both have influenced and managed their challenges with integrity and skill which has resulted in decisions and outcomes in their favour. The world is crying out for people with character. Leaders, colleagues and friends who practice what they espouse, say what they mean and follow through on commitments made. They speak highly and respectfully of others regardless of who is and isn’t in the room. They make decisions based on principle and fairness, even if it means becoming unpopular by some power brokers or out of favour with others. They are driven by integrity, productivity, results and what is best for the organisation rather than feeding their self interest or undermining others. We need more people like this. They are ‘what you see is what you get’. Their positive public persona is exactly what you get behind closed doors and when the vice of pressure is squeezing them. Who are your character role models?
One of the elements of wellbeing as cited by Martin Seligman’s positive psychology model is ‘belonging to something bigger than yourself’. It matches the premise that most people need validation, acceptance and a sense of belonging. Many psychologists tell us those basic needs are hardwired into us. A few years ago, I worked with a client organisation that had grown rapidly. The brief was to work on re-engaging people. When I ran focus groups and asked people what would make the difference for them, the most common response was ‘go back to the days that you knew everyone here, now I go into the lunch room and I don’t know half of the people there.’ What the group was really saying was that they missed the sense of community. A place where you felt known by many (not necessarily all) and they knew enough about you and cared enough about you to ask you how you were and engage in meaningful conversations.
For a long time, I have run programs with a Community of Practice Model and have introduced Community of Practice in many organisations. Small groups of people with common roles, projects or backgrounds meet reguarly to discuss issues, solutions, challenges. Other benefits of the group are the exchange of tacit knowledge (the stuff you keep in your head) that often leaves the organisaiton when a person leaves and the opportunity for the group to combine their experiences to create innovative new ‘best practice’ strategies. Most people leave a Community of Practice saying ‘it is such a relief to know that I am not alone in the challenges I face’ and ‘Now I have another way of looking at a problem that I thought was unsolvable’. The group usually becomes a close knit community that takes a genuine interest in each other. Want to know more? Download our Introduction Guide to Communities of Practice
All three topics are linked. A Community of Practice can help you further refine your craft while mandating that you continue to build your character.
What do you find easiest to ‘practice’: craft, character, or community?