How we bring people in to our endeavors – no matter what they are – determines, in large part, what we are able to achieve.
When we bring people in—whether we’re hiring a single person, creating a new team, restructuring an entire organization or starting a movement—we’re acting as a kind of host, inviting guests to join us. Like hosts, it’s essential that we invite the right people, that they feel welcome, they’re clear about the purpose of the visit, and they know how they’re going to get their needs met. And it’s the attitude behind these actions that endow their meaning. Anyone can go through the motions of hospitality, but it’s the underlying feeling of caring for others that makes all the difference.
As conveners of any human gathering, whether a team, an organization, or a party at our home, our mission is to create the right combination of humans to achieve the desired result. When we find the right mix, and bring them together in a way that recognizes each individual and his or her role as part of the group, we move toward our collective purpose with greater ease. And we achieve more together than we could separately, whether our aim is simply to enjoy an evening together or to change the world.
At the core of this practice of bringing people in well is the concept of role. Note the use of the word “role” here, rather than “job.” This is intentional. The focus on role has myriad benefits for both the host and the guest.
First, people workat a job, but theyplaya role. What’s the difference?
Fifty years ago, work meant a relationship between companies and their employees, which were often paternalistic, mutually committed, and lifelong. The result of the relationship was a job - which was a kind of resting place, providing both financial security and identity, and bestowed by someone in power.
Today we see work differently. The boundary between work and life is ever more porous with home offices, telecommuting, and 24/7 access. This fluidity means people can do more than one job, can start their own business from home, can work from an ocean away – which is changing what “workplace” and “job” mean. Rather than a resting place for life, people are looking for the places where they can express themselves and grow as human beings, while contributing to something greater. And this means they choose their work environment as much as the employer chooses them.
People are inspired by a role they are well-suited for, much more than by a To Do list. So, ideally, we want to bring people in who can be very good at their role and all that it involves, rather than simply able to accomplish a set of tasks. Unfortunately, too many employers still use job descriptions that are really just a list of duties. People working to a task list constantly need to be given new tasks, which takes time for the supervisor and also diverts that individual from her/his own role. This is both inefficient and tedious.
The urge to bring someone new in does often stem from the realization that we don’t currently have someone to do something. There’s a sense of urgency about it, which is good since that shows its importance. But like most perceived problems, the reaction is to hurry up and fix it. Rushing into a search without the foundation of what the role is, a clear description of the contribution it will make and how it will fit into the team or department or organization as a whole will likely result in an unsuccessful search, or worse, a bad hire.
Describing the role, rather than the list of stuff that isn’t getting done, is a powerful way to counteract the bad hire. As an example, one duty on a job description might read, “Schedule team meetings.” A more effective approach sees past each discrete task to the purpose behind it: “This role’s purpose is to cultivate collaboration and a sense of community as a routine part of how our team operates.” Not only does the purpose enliven how the person will schedule the meetings, but it also enables the team to discover the character—not just qualifications—of the person who will fill the role well.
The best organizations manage to role routinely as a way to empower people not only to get tasks done, but to activate themselves within their role, thereby encouraging new ways to play them that increase efficiency and results. An emphasis on role actually fosters creativity and innovation, which are premium qualities in these changing times.
And that brings up another core benefit of role: it signals impermanence – no one plays the same role forever. Why is this important? Change. People, situations, the world. Within this changing context, it’s helpful to begin from the idea that all roles are evolving, as are the people playing them. In this way, the old employer as King and employee as vassal is replaced by a partnership, the goal of which is the evolving contribution of the worker resulting from his/her own development. The focus on role helps us all embrace the fluidity of our work lives, even to the extent that the guest can become host, and vice versa. This is the new paradigm – that reminds us to emphasize the human part of HR, with hospitality and caring as its core.
Want to know more about Bringing People in Well? Request a copy of our latest free webinar to understand the huge importance of role!