Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Total transparency

My friend Celeste works in HR and talks about something called Appreciative Inquiry, which as far as I can tell has to do with pinpointing and encouraging an employee's strengths by finding their driving passions and maybe glossing over their weaknesses, I don't know. This is supposed to be useful for supervisors as they can use this knowledge to help coach their employees. She loves this stuff. I listen to her describe it and she gets a little misty in the eyes. It's all about positivity and solutions-oriented outcomes. But the mistier she gets the further I sink into my chair and start grinding my teeth. I don't want to pinpoint anyone's driving passions—not at work anyway. The only inquiry I want to make of an employee is whether they have fulfilled the responsibilities in their job description and if they have I will show my appreciation by paying them whatever agreed-upon wage is in their employment contract. I know, you all want to work with me, don't you?

That said, when she asks me what it is that drives me I immediately know the answer: organizational integrity.

Organizational integrity means that when you take a ball out of your pocket and set it on a slanted board, that ball will roll cleanly down the board to the other end without falling through any holes or hitting any obstacles that will knock it radically off course. And that ball can be anything from a new program to a corporate checking account to an organization's mission.

I don't want to work with clients. I don't want to coach anyone. I don't want to motivate, comfort, sell, cajole, fundraise, lead or follow. I want to come in and look at an organization's infrastructure and find all the cracks in the framework that are keeping it from functioning with integrity and I want to shore up those cracks. And those cracks, people, are almost always people.

Any financial officer worth her salt knows that the key to a system with integrity is total transparency. Secrets never have a chance to flourish because they have nowhere to hide. Processes are out in the open. The right hand knows what the left hand is doing at all times.

Everywhere I go I seem to play the role of the person who comes along and busts open the door on the secret poker game going on in the backroom. Some people love me for this (usually bosses and board members). Others hate me (usually embezzlers and porn-surfers). I've escorted employees out to the parking lot. I've had the police into my office to take reports. I've turned over boxes of files to the state. I've sat in court rooms prepared to present evidence. I've done this enough times in enough agencies that we've had to have trip lights installed on the outside of our house, just as a precaution.

I know, you all want to work with me, don't you?

I don't actually seek out subversive situations. I think they exist everywhere, in fact. It's just that when I catch their scent, and I always seem to, I can't stand to let them be. However there is something in me that is oddly drawn to the potentially illicit like a moth to the flame. And always, my response is the same.

Repeat after me: total transparency.

I'm not the nine-to-five gestapo. I don't patrol the halls with an HR slip in hand, peeking in cubicles looking for the slightest indiscretion. None of us in the nonprofit world have time for that kind of ridiculousness. Besides, even the best employees will find it necessary from time to time to stimulate their creative juices by doing a little blog hopping or Facebook status-updating at work. Fine by me. Even the best employees will mistakenly use the corporate credit card to buy beer and donuts at Walmart. Whoops. I'm not talking about people who are accidentally human. Love them. I'm talking about those who surreptitiously and consistently work to chip away at the very foundation others are working to build. And then lie about it. And smile while they are lying about it. Them.

What does this have to do with anything? Not much, except that my next post will make a lot more sense if you know this about me.

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    And as a former boss (a word that NEVER sits well with me...which explains even more about the topic of your next post) of yours, let me say in writing that I LOVE this about you. But I think you know that.

    Now go back to your training, but follow each day with more wine at night.

    And that butterfly picture is kick ass cool.

  2. I didn't notice you sinking into your chair because my eyes were too misty - you know how sentimental I can be. But...AI is NOT an HR tool for supervisors to use with employees.

    It's a great tool for anyone who wants to learn more about themselves, and then bring that into the world around them, including work. So there.

    I love your own insight - I'm sure it is all attributable to our rambling conversation about AI. And organizational integrity takes some serious courage, so as the Aussies say, good on ya.

  3. Celeste, as you well know my strengths probably don't include listening well past the first sentence. My bad! Yes, we are both known for our sentimentality, are we not? I know I am. That comes up often in witness statements...

  4. And other Kristin, contain your excitement, Jim is still busy putting up the shock wire...

  5. I do hate that word transparency because it is so over-used and under-practiced - but you my girl, have brought it back to life - I HATE non-transparency and back-biting an politics and...ok, you're my hero.

  6. Total transparency.


    Right - you'd best finish the story before I forget what I'm meant to be remembering. ;)

  7. I'd definitely work for you. We think a lot alike.

  8. Yea,well... back to the butterfly. Who made the image? Do you have a web site where I can contact the photographer?

    By the way, If the money stays inside the company, just moved from say, the actual expenditure account to the "reserve for" account? But not flagged in any way....

  9. I dub thee "The Great BallBuster." heehee.

  10. hmmmmmmm... intriguing.

    Your job sounds way more exciting than mine.

  11. ooooh the build up... looking forward to the next post.

  12. I am sure even embezzlers and porn-surfers would like you if they go to know you properly.

  13. Like a moth to the flame? Sounds more like it's the other way around.
    Good on 'ya, mate.
    Love from Oz.

  14. I loved that butterfly picture too and can't wait for your next post!

  15. Badger, embezzler #2 really liked me (in the beginning), porn surfer never did (though he had other issues, this was just the easiest to document). For the love of god people, clear your browser history!

  16. I love how you bring all aspects of your life together. You really remind me of another friend of mine. Will send her the link to your blog.

  17. Hmmm. . . I'm intrigued for your next post!

  18. Hello again. Didn't have much time to write before. Was out motivating people.

    So Kristin, question for you. Do you think if we (as managers in general, maybe not you at your job) did a better job motivating people, that there would be less subversion in the workplace? It's not OUR job to do that, it's THE EMPLOYEE'S job to get motivated, but if our goal as a society and in each workplace is to have motivated, focused and trustworthy employees (and people, even outside of work), maybe the easiest way from point A to point B is to help get them there.

    Interested in what you think, even if you respectfully disagree.

  19. Anne Marie, I think it's a matter of degree. I think motivation can play a large factor in developing employees and channeling their strengths, though it's hard to find supervisors with this particular talent (ie, I don't have it). However, the employees I'm talking about are just a waste of space in my opinion. You can't motivate away someone's basic character. If they are willing to lie, steal and undercut to serve their own needs I think coaching is irrelevent.

  20. I fall a bit more in bloggy love with you, with each post.

  21. Kristin, have to say there's not much room to argue when you put it that way.
    -Anne Marie


Mmmm, comments - nom, nom, nom, nom!


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