Here’s the scenario in many organizations: Employees blame management for their problems; managers are frustrated and blame employees for not taking initiative; and departments blame each other. “They never listen;” “they spend all the money while we make it;” “they never tell us what’s going on;” “they think they can get away with that?” Grumbling and complaining provide the soundtrack for the daily drama that gets enacted in businesses large and small. And everyone thinks it’s some else’s job to do something!
Things fall between the cracks; orders don’t get processed; deliveries are late; paperwork slows to a crawl; quality suffers; complaints increase but never get addressed; the buck gets passed endlessly from department to department; and the ultimate losers are the organization’s customers.
Do any of those things ever happen in your organization? Hopefully it is not too late to find out just who are “they” anyway? For when we find the answer to that question, we’ll find the answer to our problems.
This entertaining and enlightening video, “Who Are ‘They’ Anyway?” and the accompanying Facilitator’s Guide are designed to help you and your organization make the shift from looking for “them” to blame to realizing that there IS no “them” and beginning to accept personal accountability. The training designs, participant handouts, group’s discussion questions, and individual exercises are all aimed at providing a powerful catalyst to help everyone in the organization understand that personal responsibility is a choice.
A few years ago, Time magazine ran a cover story about America becoming “a nation of whiners and cry-babies.” What the editors were pointing out in their story was the lamentable trend toward widespread “victim-thinking” and a corresponding lack of personal accountability in both personal and public life. Since businesses and organizations are populated by the same people who make up larger society, it is not surprising that we would see similar trends in the work place.
How often have we heard a front-line service provider say helplessly, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do … they won’t let me . . . it’s company policy.”? And how often do we overhear employees complaining bitterly to one another about “them” in some other department? And when was the last time a customer got passed around from person to person to person in an organization-with a chorus of “Oh, you need to talk to ‘them’”? Unfortunately, these things happen far too often in organizations of all types -- even the organizations WE work in!
“Who’s responsible?” The typical answer is “they” are! But just who are “they,” anyway?
It would be all-too-easy to lay responsibility on the desks of senior management-after all, they set the tone for everyone else, right? If an organization’s culture is characterized by chronic whining and victim-thinking, it must be the fault of the leaders, according to this line of thought.
But tempting as it might be to follow this “leadership rationale”-it’s a cop-out. By blaming leaders for everything, we are implying that employees are not adults who can think for themselves and make decisions about how they respond to situations at work. Blaming leaders suggests that employees are just automatons, saying “They made me do it.”
Not that the role of the leader is not important-it is. But asserting that everything that’s wrong with an organization is the fault of its leader(s) is simply another way of blaming “them” without ever stopping to think about who “they” are. And it ignores the fact that employees at all levels in an organization are ADULTS -- adults who are capable of thinking, reasoning, solving problems, taking initiative, getting information, risking making a mistake, being creative and resourceful, communicating, and dealing with difficult situations.
Others might be tempted to lay responsibility on the shoulders of employees -- “What’s wrong with those people, anyway?” we ask each other in frustration. “All they do is whine and complain about how awful things are -- why won’t they take the initiative to make things better?” Implicit in this thinking is the conviction that: Something must be wrong with ‘THEM.’
Organizations who subscribe to this line of thinking are on an endless search for “magic bullets” to “fix them.” New initiatives, new incentives, slogans, buttons, banners, posters, team meetings, pep rallies, and an endless parade of training programs-many of these are the “straws” that organizations grasp at in a futile attempt to “light a fire under their employees” and snap them out of their funk.
No question that these efforts are all launched with the best of intentions-clearly, organizations are trying to do the right thing. The problem is, employees are smart. Employees know that management is trying to “fix” them and human beings resist being fixed! Trying to “fix” anyone else is simply another version of looking for them to blame -- it is the version that says. “THEY are anybody else but me!”
The true answer to the question “Who’s responsible?” is not THEM-but ME! I am responsible for my day-to-day duties on the job. I am responsible for keeping my boss informed. I am responsible for working effectively with others on my team. I am accountable for the results I produce, or fail to produce. I am in charge of my own career and my own future. I am responsible for seeking out the information I need to solve a problem. It is my job to make sure my employees have the tools and resources they need to do what I expect them to do. It is my job to clarify what others expect of me. I am accountable when something goes wrong. I can be counted on to follow through on commitments I make. I make sure that the results I produce are the very best that I can. I let people know when I need support or help from them to do my job effectively. I provide suggestions for improvement whenever I see a problem. I continuously look for ways to do my job better and faster. Quality is my job. I am responsible for being a good role model for others. It is my job to help others at work who might be struggling. I take the initiative to cross functional lines and work with other departments to solve problems. I am responsible for finding meaning and satisfaction in my work and in my life.
In truth, responsibility is a choice. Each day, each hour, each moment, I make a choice about whether I am going to be responsible for my job and my life, or whether I am going to abdicate responsibility and look for “them” to blame instead. No one makes that choice for me -- I do it myself. Consciously or unconsciously, I am the one who does the choosing. No one can make me be responsible -- only I can choose it.
SYNOPSIS OF THE VIDEO
BJ Gallagher is a consultant and author of the book, Who Are “They” Anyway? The idea for her book came from working with organizations of all types-big corporations, non-profit organizations, small businesses, universities, hospitals, manufacturing companies as well as service industries. She heard the same refrain again and again-people complaining about “they” and “them.” She began to wonder, “Just who are they, anyway?”
As the video opens, BJ outlines the problem and describes the consequences for both individuals and organizations. She encourages the viewer to reflect on his or her own work group, team, or department. What kind of language do they hear people around them using? Are they using the language of Whiners or the language of Winners? The quickest way to get a handle on the extent of “victim thinking” in a group of people is to listen to their language.
BJ then asks the viewer to consider the possibility that he or she might be part of the problem as well! Most of us like to think that “they” are the problem people and that there’s nothing wrong with us but if that were true, then how is it that other people think the problem lies with us, not them?! Funny, isn’t it, how everyone thinks that someone else is the problem? The truth is, it is only when I acknowledge that I am part of the problem that I can begin to become part of the solution.
Short clips of animation punctuate the video and illustrate the points made in BJ’s presentation. The viewer takes a short on-screen quiz to build awareness of the critical role that personal accountability plays in our job satisfaction, career success, and personal happiness.
The video concludes by emphasizing what each person can do to re-claim his or her own personal power by becoming accountable … and count-on-able.
HOW TO USE THIS VIDEO
“Who Are ‘They” Anyway?” video can play a powerful part in seminars and workshops on a variety of topics -- leadership and management development, team building, conflict resolution, change management, among others. The issue of personal accountability is critical to the empowerment of individuals in their day-to-day jobs -- it is just as critical for the success of the organization as a whole. “Who Are ‘They’ Anyway?” video can be used as a meeting opener at the beginning of a seminar, to establish an expectation that everyone is responsible for contributing to their department’s or organization’s effectiveness. The video can also be used sometime during the seminar, to provide a foundation for small group discussions and/or experiential exercises. One could also show the video toward the end of a seminar to summarize and reiterate points made by the trainer during the session.
The video is a perfect opener for meetings of all types for people at all levels in an organization: executive meetings; staff meetings; management meetings; shift meetings; board meetings; union meetings; interdepartmental meetings; etc. It emphasizes a critically important point for viewers-that searching for solutions is a good use of time and energy, while searching for them is fruitless and ultimately destructive. As a meeting opener, “Who Are ‘They’ Anyway?” sets the tone for the discussion to follow, reminding everyone that individual as well as shared accountability will go a long way toward helping the group deal with whatever issues are at hand.
“Who Are ‘They’ Anyway?” video is also an excellent meeting opener for groups that come together for the specific purpose of solving problems. It helps keep the group focused on the task of finding solutions, and directs their attention toward a common goal-organizational success. The video reminds the group of the dangers of slipping into the all-too-human tendency of look for “them” to blame in an attempt to escape culpability, or to make oneself look good. The video does an excellent job in setting the right tone for a problem-solving meeting.
Quality Improvement Programs
One of the key messages of the video is that quality improves when departments work together on finding solutions to problems-rather than fighting across turf lines to establish blame and fault. It’s always easy to bad-mouth other departments and to complain about another group of employees, or management. It is a sign of true maturity, integrity, and personal accountability to take the initiative to work collaboratively with another department, in search of a “win/win” solution. This builds strong positive relationships across functional lines, and builds a solid foundation for future cooperation and collaboration. “Who Are ‘They’ Anyway?” video is a valuable addition to discussions of quality improvement, whether it be quality product or quality service.
- Who Are They Anyway? Video
- Facilitator Guide
- Who Are They Anyway Book (116 pgs)
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