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October 02, 2006
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 The H.R. Doctor Is In

All of Us is Better than Any of Us

We live in a society increasingly fracturing away from broad-based engagements in groups. Instead, individuals are roaming about often aimless, looking for some connection to forces bigger than they are as individuals. Ironically, computer technology has not been the unifying force we might have hoped it could be.

While technology has given any of us with Internet access a very fast way to speak to others across the globe, read newspapers online, and visit libraries, it often results in individuals spending hours away from other people, sitting in front of a computer screen in the closet, which has been renamed and remodeled as the "computer room."

"An army of one." "The power of one." These are among the slogans that put a focus on the first person singular instead of the plural. Civic groups Ñ such as organizations as wonderful as Rotary International and the American Association of University Women Ñ struggle for membership.

The HR Doctor recently attended a Rotary president’s inauguration. One of the goals set for her year in office was to increase club membership by an overall net of one new member. Hardly a visionary, inspiring goal, but one indicative of the difficulties that are found in trying to encourage, push or otherwise coach people into group contribution and group collaboration. Further testimony to this sad state would be attendance at any parent-teacher night in the public school system. There certainly are teachers present, generally because they are ordered to be there. However, count the number of parents and you will find that the majority seem to be home watching American Idol or professional wrestling instead of becoming involved in the education and development of their children.

The HR Doctor’s family philosophy about that has been that the education of our wonderful children is far too important to be left to the school board.

We don’t want to be alone but we find ourselves increasingly isolated. We don’t want to grow old in a long-term care facility, seemingly abandoned by any friends or family we have. We don’t want to be cared for by people we won’t know who work in low wage, high turnover jobs. Despite that, many people don’t socialize very much with neighbors. We build walls separating ourselves from others in the neighborhood. We seem too busy to spend much time socializing, except for the occasional Friday night "go to a bar" or party.

Ironically, again, when we go to a bar or have a party very often one of the features is music turned up so loud that even though we are in a group of 20 people, we can’t hear ourselves think, let alone hear anyone else. We have created a conundrum for ourselves in that what we need and want is retarded by what we do and how we behave.

Since we spend so much time in the workplace and in the company or at least the presence of coworkers, the time and the opportunity to focus on group or team accomplishments, as well as individual accomplishments, seems all the more important.

The work group can become a second family. It can be a place of joy and development of others in celebration. My wonderful British HR Colleague Alwyn Rea reminded me of that by saying "All of Us is Better than Any of Us!" What we can accomplish together, as a family or as a team, exceeds what any of us can achieve individually, even if we are a superstar in our profession or in a hobby. Even sports superstars or rock stars may stand alone on the concert stage or at the Olympic race starting blocks, however, they are part of a team of trainers, coaches, mentors, etc. who will together celebrate a victory.

Imagine what our agencies could achieve if the silos we consciously and unconsciously build up were to be chiseled away and replaced with a sense that HR or purchasing or the city manager’s or county executive’s office had no reason whatsoever to exist except to support and enable the success of others? Imagine how procedures could improve if the ancient papyrus scrolls of Civil Service rules or purchasing rules or any other book of rules gathering dusk in a bureaucracy were to be replaced by flexible, nimble rules aimed at organizational success instead of protection against unseen and rarely appearing "enemies of the state?"

Alwyn is right, the more time we invest in working with others productively and in cultivating a network or friends and the support of colleagues, the better off we will be personally and the better off our families, communities, country and the planet will be.

Think about this, how many truly close personal friendships do you have? I don’t mean people you may go to lunch with occasionally or even regularly. I mean people who would sacrifice their personal well-being for yours. I mean people who might sacrifice their health or their money to help you. Sadly, we don’t have very many!

We may have many fair-weather friends, but what the world needs is more true friendship and true commitment between people. I know that earlier in my own career when I was appointed as a county chief administrative officer, I suddenly found myself surrounded by people I had not heard from in a long time assuring me of their undying friendship and support. I don’t count any of these among that very small circle of very strong friendships.

If you find yourself in the same situation that I just described, join me in doing something about it. Keep in your mind that concept of the "All of Us" as opposed to focusing only on the "me." See what a difference it could make in your life.

All the best,
Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor •


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