121s: Giving People What They Want?

Most people are looking (consciously or not) for a number of things from their work. These include:

  • self determination – the freedom to decide what they should do, when they should do it
  • control over their own future
  • to be able to plan, act and succeed
  • to improve things – to make them better
  • to expect success
  • to enjoy responsibility – to enjoy it – to seek it
  • to be active rather than passive – to have an orientation towards action – rather than reaction – to the instructions and orders of others
  • to be a person rather than a human resource – a cog in a machine
  • to be creative and autonomous
  • to be acknowledged, recognised and valued by others.

In this situation managers can use 121s to establish dynamic relationships with team members that helps them to look for and find these things in the workplace. People develop, talent flourishes, relationships improve and performance excels. This group of people usually respond very well to the introduction of 121s as they offer a vehicle for accelerating progress.

However some people are not looking for any of this. They do not want freedom, or responsibility. They want instructions, structure and clarity. They want other people to do the thinking and the creativity. They want to be the foot soldiers – doing an honest days work for an honest days pay. They do not see work as a vehicle either for their own self development or creative expression. They are not looking for self-actualisation but security and control. This group can be very resistant to 121s, seeing them as an intrusion. They are likely to resist development in their roles and accept delegation and change grudgingly, if at all.

There are several things to consider here:

  • the first type of response is ‘healthy’ – both for the organisation and the individual. In these circumstances it is likely that the organisation – and the people in it will thrive. The relationship between the individual and the organisation will be synergistic – what is good for the individual is likely to be good for the organisation and vice versa.
  • the second type of response is not ‘healthy’. It is a defensive mechanism. It leads to staleness, frustration and at best mediocrity. It is characterised by a loss of synergy – the perception being that what is good for the organisation will not be good for the individual and vice versa.
  • the type of response that we find in the workplace depends, in large part, on our management style. Some of it may be driven by personality or by experiences from the past or from outside the work context – but in most cases the response we get tells us much about our own management.

Go to the people

Live with them

Learn from them

Love them

Start with what they know

Build with what they have

But with the best leaders

When the work is done

The task accomplished

The people will say

“We have done this ourselves.”

Lao Tsu (700 BC)

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