Friday, October 30, 2009

To Tell or Be Told: THAT is the Question

Tertiary studies have not only been enlightening, personally, they’ve also opened my world up to the vastly, yet subtly, different methods that are used to help us demonstrate our knowledge, and therefore competence.

In secular university (“College” for the Americans) I found there was always a huge emphasis placed on referencing everything—no findings or conclusions were to be based from my own perceptions. (Mind you, I did study science.) This method, as I reflect, is the BE-TOLD method.

In seminary I found different emphases—enter the world of the more abstract. Referencing was critical, but the subtle shift came in the need to draw my own conclusions—to not do this meant lower marks. This is the TELL method. It really took me some time to get my head around asserting my own opinion, drawn of course and based on, the referenced material.

(A hairpin turn, sorry.) There is a point of concern here regarding how we best influence those people in our midsts—those we’re charged with leading.

From their viewpoint, do they tell or be told? Do we facilitate or instruct? Do we coach or lead?

Culturally, we’re rewarded for either or both methods of engaging with people, depending on the context we’re working from. Certainly Australian culture is shaped more toward the TELL method whereby constructs of ‘functioning’ management are loose and we achieve the best results with open communication and consultation—real authentic features of both. Workers otherwise resist ‘being told.’ Influence is the key.

Yet, it is my impression that it’s not like this in the US or in other places; say particularly Asia, India etc where people seek leadership to manage (and thereby, influence) via the BE-TOLD method. It’s okay for a workplace leader to assertively direct people in what to do and how to do it—it’s the default drive.

I suppose there’s not much more to it than simply understanding what style is appropriate—neither is inherently more right—but, given the situation and the people at hand it is for the person leading/influencing and the prevailing organisational culture to determine.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

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