Effective organizations represent what we might call an ecology of talent that is then, in turn, assigned to or appointed to a diversity of roles and responsibilities. And the assumption is that it takes a diversity of talent, acting in concert, to achieve the organization’s purpose or objective. Each role or responsibility leverages its position against or in tandem with others towards this common goal – all “rowing in the same direction”, though the image of rowing misses that, actually, we are all contributing in a different way.
And what is assumed in all of this is that for you to be effective, each of us needs to be doing our task. It is a shared responsibility and we seek a shared outcome. If we succeed it is because we each did our jobs.
But, we do not function in silos; our work is always and constantly bringing us into intersection with others. All with this conviction: that for the other to be effective I need to not only do my job but do it in a way that fosters the capacity of the other – my colleague – to be effective.
And so I need to ask: what does this person, in her role, need from me? As a president to ask: what does this particular vice president need from me to be effective? As the chair of the board to ask the president: What do you need from me to be effective in your role? For the CFO to ask the president and each vice-president what is needed so that each is effective? And as president and CFO we are always asking: what does the board need from us so that the board can be effective as a board?
Thinking of an immediate colleague, the other does not need me to do his or her job. That is not what is needed. And while everyone requires information and encouragement – the knowledge that I can perhaps offer and the encouragement that we all need along the way – in different situations our response to the other might be different. A vice president might say to the president: I need you to have my back in the midst of a difficult personnel decision, so that an angry or disgruntled employee cannot bypass management and go straight to the CEO or the board. A president might respond to a CFO and say: just give me the facts, without overstating either way the state of our finances . . . just tell me what you see and what it means.
We all want trust and we can perhaps ask the others to “trust me.” But trust is earned over time and while we need it and we need to give it, it might not work to actually ask for it.
But the question still remains – to ask of a colleague: what do you need from me so that you are able to do your work to your satisfaction?