I Before We

Putting yourself first to make work better for all of us.

Over the weekend my attention was drawn to a list. Not one of those top 100 most boring people in HR lists which cause so much angst and hand wringing, but a simple list of thoughts and ideas to live by. It was written by Stephen Waddington on the occasion of his 45th birthday, and is made up of a thought or idea for each of those 45 years. I really enjoyed flicking through it, here are a few of my personal favourites, and I encourage you to check the whole thing out too.

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I find myself agreeing with a lot of Stephen’s thinking, and not all of it. One idea in particular is causing me discomfort.

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Banish personal pronouns, we not me, and us not I. At first glance this feels like it makes perfect sense. When I worked in big organisations I spent a lot of time thinking about how I and the people I worked with could be a great team. For example, when I led a sales team I insisted that our targets were aligned so that if any member of my team failed, I failed too. They could cross the finish line separately as individuals, and as their manager, I needed them all to succeed in order for me to, too. This method of setting targets was not the done thing at the time, and I had to work far too hard to make it happen, and happen it did, and succeed we did. All of us.

Since setting up my own business, I have continued to work mostly in large organisations, helping people make work better, together. We not me, and us not I. As time passes, and I think more intentionally about well being, and more deeply about the craft that is my work, It becomes increasingly clear that this aspiration, this hope of making work better together, cannot be achieved until first and foremost, I am in the best place to be of use to you. As my customer, you pay me to facilitate and consult with you – you have every right to expect me to be fully present, at my best, and I believe I should expect the same of each of you. To that extent, for us to do something great together, I, indeed every I in the room and on the project, has to come before we.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

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