What descriptor do you use to describe the people who work in your organisation? Employees, workers, staff, group, team, family? Or do you stick with the literal, neutral term and call them – people?
The term that is most dangerous to use is family, and not because of its alliterative relation, happy. When an organisation talks about its people as a family it thinks its doing the right thing, focusing on being inclusive and supportive through demonstrating a collective set of cultural norms. We think it’s an incorrect metaphor for two reasons:
- Family membership (by blood) is never a choice and family membership by marriage can be fraught with difficulties. You cannot appoint family members, nor can you withdraw family status. Trying saying to a sibling we cannot afford you must leave the family, never to return. Or explaining how the families changing vision means a particular family members’ skills are now ‘non-core’
- The other reason is one of hierarchy. One of the pleasures of being in a functional family is everybody knows their place. Who is in charge, where we all go for Christmas, who makes key decisions etc. That’s why the opposite of a functional family is so awful; when families fight for position, try to usurp someone’s position, not make allowances for a tradition that has become the norm. This kind of ritualised behaviour in organisations can be really dangerous.
Here is a word to try on your organisation. Describe the people as a community. A high-functioning organisation will be effective in delivering the three dimensions of community:
- Place – This is likely to be physical space(s), and certainly will be different virtual spaces (email, phones, web etc)
- Interests – People who engage in similar work with similar skills and expertise. People who work with the same customers and get passionate about the same products and who want to achieve similar standards of excellence.
- Belonging – Shared corporate values a common vision and some close personal relationships.
Membership of this community is highly conditional. There are standards of performance and behaviour that are non- negotiable, people are allowed in but it takes a while for them to become fully accepted. The community will fight to support someone who remains true to the community ethos but will expel people who let the community down.
How credible would you sound in describing (in an organisational-wide session) that we are a community?
Being promoted out of the sales team to a position of management of that same team (a fairly common occurrence) creates a unique set of issues that are worth reflecting on to avoid some common mistakes.
There are three different points of inter-related focus that need to be dealt with;
Purpose Of The Appointment – What is the appointment supposed to achieve? It’s too obvious to say ‘to manage the sales team’, that is only a description of the role, what is the person expected to in the role that hasn’t been done (well enough) before? What significant things will the new incumbent have achieved after their first 12 months in the position?Too often the new appointee takes over and simply begins ‘managing’ the salespeople; instead of clearly setting out to them what s/he is going to do differently and better.
Personal Style – The huge mistake ex salespeople make when they are appointed to manage the team they were part of is to take a position at either end of a continuum that goes from, I’m not your manager treat me as you always have done through to, watch out I’m poacher turned game keeper and I’m on your case. Both of these positions are wrong. The new manager should not want to remain mates, nor become a policeman. What they should focus on is effectiveness. People they are friends with need to know they are going to be different, more objective, slightly separate from the banter more focused on getting the job done. Equally they are going to stay human, not become status conscious or too distant from their team. They will have no favourites simply focus on getting the job done.
The First 100 Days – There is a more detailed view of what this entails in a more thorough article here. Some people make the mistake of thinking they have time; they don’t. The new team is looking to see what you are going to do, and if the person does nothing (as they get their feet under the table) people assume they are supporters of the status quo. The new manager needs to get on with changing things, shaking people from their comfort zones, making things happen improving performance. People need to make an impact in those first 100 days.
Getting these three things right will significantly improve the chances of the person having a successful first year in their new job.