Friday, December 4, 2009

Coaching Lessons: How to Contribute to the Greater Good

Coaching as self-management. Following Peter Drucker's lead I have been writing a series of posts about how to manage yourself. Here is a link to the last post, which contains links to the previous posts.

Once you know your superskills and the circumstances under which you perform best, and once you know your values and your value, Drucker advises you to take the next step: figuring out where you belong.

Do you belong in a large company or a boutique firm? Would you do best in a department story or a boutique? Would you be happier as a solo practitioner or as a team member?

If you have no organizational skills you should not join a business that requires them. If you work best alone you should be working in a profession that allows for solo practitioners; if you have strong leadership skills you need to find a place where you can exercise those skills.

I would add that you should also choose to live in a community where you feel like you belong. And, if you are going to get married, you should understand that you are going to be part of a new family. If the marriage is to work you will have to feel that you belong in the new family.

Drucker's next question is: What should you contribute?

He does not ask about what you can contribute, but what you should contribute. Once you become part of a company or community your duty is to contribute. You are obliged to work at tasks that will advance the interests of the group you have just joined.

When you work for a company, your personal stamp will involve contributing to the work of the enterprise in an identifiable way.

I mention these points because I want to emphasize the extent to which Drucker sees human beings as social beings not as self-fulfilling monads.

Drucker is not talking about charitable contributions, but he is trying to show how individuals can make a difference, can give something of themselves, and can establish and achieve goals. And yet, when you contribute to a company you are also exercising the virtue of generosity-- giving yourself selflessly.

Interestingly, Drucker sees individual satisfaction linked inextricably to the value of one's contribution to the group's success.

Whether your contribution involves reorganizing the mail room or leading a new marketing campaign or holding morning staff meetings or setting up a suggestion box... you need to have a way to contribute to the company.

Why don't we think more often about contributing? Drucker believes that we have been infected by the values of the 1960s counterculture.

In the post World War II decades most of the workforce had forged its character in the crucible of military service. Men were used to taking orders; they believed in the values associated with military culture; they had seen it work and had seen it achieve victory. They looked for the same strict social organization and uniformity in their work lives.

Then, in the 1060s, as the culture repudiated the Vietnam War and the values involved in being a good soldier, it made people more self-centered, more self-involved, more at odds with group values.

In Drucker's words: "Then in the late 1960s no one wanted to be told what to do any more. Young men and women began to ask: What do I want to do? And what they heard was that the way to contribute was to 'do your own thing.' But this solution was as wrong as the organization man's was. Very few of the people who believed that doing one's own thing would lead to contribution, self-fulfillment, and success achieved any of the three."

This should almost be self evident. If you do your own thing, you are, almost by definition, refusing to do anyone else's thing. Your personal good becomes irrevocably at odds with the good of the group. If this feels like an invitation to an extended adolescent rebellion, that's because it is.

I would add that asking yourself what you really, really want to do forms the basis for the therapy culture. Fulfilling your heart's desire is not the same as discovering your skills, and contributing to a group.

Besides, if you are doing your own thing you are being induced into acting as though you have been cast out, even rejected by the larger group. Since no human being can ever survive for a long time on his or her own, the chances that you will go from doing your own thing to becoming a cult follower are very high indeed.

Drucker's advice is to see your own personal fulfillment as identical with your ability to contribute meaningfully to the well-being of others.

1 comment:

Unknown said...


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