I’ve been on a few flights this week and beyond catching up with my favourite shows on the BBC iPlayer (!), the article penned by Malcolm Henry which I reposted last week, seems to be having a disturbing effect on me!
Malcolm was describing the debate in Scotland as to the establishment of a bill of rights and his proposition that a bill of obligations would be much more powerful. In his example, I have an obligation to you that the area in which you live is safe and that you have somewhere to live. I have an obligation in an example from my wife that the children in my community are fed…as opposed to a right. The concept of a right automatically assumes that someone else is going to provide the solution…the obligation fairly and squarely places the responsibility on my shoulders.
I’d like to explore this idea in the corporate / commercial world. It seems to me that there is an inherent split here which leads to problems….in a nutshell, directors have obligations and employees have rights. No doubt this is far too simplistic an explanation and there are many employees who feel their obligations very keenly but in many cases, it is this split in a sense of responsibility perhaps which lies at the heart of less than fantastic performance and the increasing sense of disillusionment which exists amongst employees. The survey a couple of weeks ago which highlighted the largest fall in 15 years is a symptom of this. The attached link is the recent Gallop study on engagement which demonstrates this beautifully. http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131120145745-14634910-a-failing-global-workplace?trk=tod-home-art-list-large_0
In my experience in running transformation projects, with responsibility comes engagement. Give someone a task and a sense that they have control, influence and the ability to really contribute and no matter what their position, their length of service or grade, their sense of empowerment leads to a degree of engagement which is considerably greater than when they first walked into the room.
On the other hand, spoon feed them information, micro manage them and give them little or no responsibility and the opposite occurs.
Human beings in my experience naturally respond to a sense of responsibility and obligation to their fellow workers, friends and family.
There is no doubt that in companies where this sense of responsibility exists, innovation thrives, productivity is stronger, I suspect (although have no evidence for it) that medical leave is smaller and employee turnover is less.
A simple way of putting it would be that like Guinness, engagement is good for you and at the heart of that engagement lies a personal sense of responsibility, ownership and obligation to your fellow colleagues.