Suppose you are an employee at a company and your manager wants you to be healthy. So your manager gives you a fitnesscontract at a gym which you can visit after work. But you already exercise after work and you don’t like going to the gym. You want to be healthy, but you rather quit sitting all day long. You want to have a sit/stand-desk to become healthier. So even though, you both have the same goal in mind; “healthier employees”, your manager and you mismatch. This almost made you more collide with your manager than cooperate with him. Support, advice and coaching often feels like someone is forcing their will upon you. A “stop smoking campaign” might not always feel for the smoker as supportive, but more like summoning them to stop. No surprise that threatening campaigns (like the horrific pictures on the packages) evokes defensive responses. No one ever asks the smokers what they want to get out of their cigarette.
I believe there is often a mismatch between two systems who have benefits from interacting. I use the word “systems” because it fits with organisations, people, and it fits with my systems view on things. We see mismatches in systems every day. Dentists want people’s teeth to be healthy, but everyone hates dentists. Mom’s want their kids to be happy, but kids are annoyed when their mother helps them achieving their goal. Governments guide people in proper waste separation, but citizens refuse to comply. These mismatches between systems do often more harm than good in both sides. In this blog from today I will describe, from a systems view, how systems can merge. In other words, how the mismatch dissolves into a total match which is beneficial for both sides.
Different situations of interactions
The picture below describes several situations between a manager and an employee. But keep in mind that this “Manager <-> Employee situation” is just an example. This example fits on every system where interaction is mutual beneficial. If this example does not fit your situation, think of something else, that even keeps you more engaged to the post. From one perspective we have the manager, and on the on the other side, from the other perspective, we have the employee (see the picture below). In situation 1. You have the manager who wants his employee to do something. The manager only sees through his perspective here. But the employee has no perspective at all towards the manager. This situation is worse than a mismatch, there is no match at all. In this situation, it is difficult for the manager to make his employee do the things he want. In situation 2. The manager wants his employee to do something, and the employee wants his manager to do something. Here, there is some balance; the manager summons the employee to do something the manager needs. While the employee does the job for the money he receives from the manager. Both sides have their own perspective and they don’t think about each other’s perspective. With many low-paying jobs this is the case, employees don’t really like the job, but they earn money for it. Because of this external motivation, the relation between them isn’t that connected, and thus fragile. In situation 3. The manager wants his employee to do something, which the employee wants to do for him (the manager). While the employee still does the things the manager wants to do. Here, we have a more compassionate manager. The manager thinks also from the perspective of the employee. The manager thinks about the goals his employee has. Nevertheless, the employee still does his job just for his own benefits. Certain traineeships could represent this situation, manager help their employees to develop, but employees just do it for themselves. In situation 4. The manager and the employee both want to do things for each other. Here both sides are compassionate, the manager thinks from the perspective of the employee, while the employee thinks from the perspective of the manager. They support each others goals and think about personal growth but also about company growth. Start-ups could be an example of this. In a small company, the managers want their business to grow, as do the employees. While they are both sharing the successes and earnings the employees want.
As you can understand, situation 4, is the situation we prefer. Here, both sides benefit through thinking about each other. As you can see in the picture, the arrows start to swirl. Because over time, the manager and employee goals merge together. Because if the employee wants what his manager wants, the manager wants what his employee wants, and his employee wants what his manager wants, and so on. It becomes quite hard to determine who thinks from which perspective because the manager and employee start to think from both perspectives. They start to align each others perspective, and work together. The manager and employee truly merge together in their goals. Through the swirl, the manager and the employee diffuse together becoming one substance. You don’t really have two independent parties anymore where the manager gives orders while the employee awaits for this money, they both have the same goals.
That’s fun at all, but how do you create something like this? The first thing you should start to do, is thinking from the others perspective and thus think about their goals within this relationship. What do they want? What do they want to achieve? You can think about this all on your own, but then there is a chance that you will end in a mismatch just like the ones in the introduction. The best thing you can do is to get information from your employee. Only through information exchange you can get truly inside of the perspective of the other party. I don’t mean information on his job performance. I mean information about his view on his position, his goals. So you could ask your employees what they want to achieve (within the company). But information shouldn’t go one way (like in situation 3). Information exchange should go both ways. So an employee should know as well what a manager wants to achieve. Employees should know their managers’ goals and reasons. In that way, the employee can think of what he can do to support the manager in his quest. Of course you can say the manager is still the lead and overall guide of the company. But a manager couldn’t exist without employees, as well for the employees without a manager. There is an interdependency that works very well if both parties realize this.
Adaptation from both sides
Information exchange is one thing; managers could listen for hours to the goals of their employee and then move own with their own goals. But it is better for the employee, and for the growth of the company, if managers adapt upon the goals of their employee (if the goals fit a little with the company). A manager should adapt (the structure of) his company to support the goals of his employees. He should try to find a way to make the goals of his employee come true. Nevertheless, the manager could also influence the goals of employees to a certain degree. Because on the other side, employees should also be able to adapt to get a meaningful role within the company. It hardly occurs that a job fits perfectly with employees’ their personal goals. So mutual adaptation is necessary of both sides to reach situation 4. Through information exchange you can learn and adapt your course towards a mutual direction. The chances are higher that your partner show intrinsic growth within the interaction when you adapt and give him a chance to shine. If someone gets autonomy and intrinsic motivation to do something, because you give them the opportunity (through adaptation) you give them a room to fill, a chance to proof themselves. The’ll start to work effortlessly. Nevertheless, when the interaction just doesn’t fit, when adaptation is impossible, it is no problem to let each other go. Then, you were unable to support each other with your own personal goals, you were just to far apart. Then, the system doesn’t merge and just needs to split.
The self in adaptation
We think about how we are individuals that set our own course through our lives. But this is not true. Over our lives we have been continuously adapting to our environment through learning from our parents, teachers, friends, and colleagues. There is hardly no one who ever sets a direct course to something and reached it without some external influence. Adaptation has been a key trait through evolution, and growth. We constantly need to adapt to a (rapid) changing environment where rules, people, technology and organizations change all the time. Being completely yourself is just an illusion because you always take parts from someone else. The things you think about, are largely coming from books and from your peers. But that is no shame at all, it made you exist today. Because things that don’t adapt; die (read more about it in my health blog). Changing and developing with your environment is very beneficial for yourself and for your environment. You can better think that you are a part of the bigger system (your environment) than being apart from it, because that is just not true. But that doesn’t make you less important. You contribute to every change in the larger system, even though your influence is just a tiny bit. Nevertheless, we can talk about the “self” a bit more, but that doesn’t fit in this blog for today. Maybe next time!