Right People, Doing the Right Things, Right.
Is the wine or the wine glass more important to you when enjoying wine? Before you answer that, consider this scenario.
Say you are going out for dinner to celebrate an achievement in life, a promotion, a birthday or an anniversary! It’s an important one! To celebrate such a significant achievement you order the most expensive bottle on the menu. The wine arrives and with great fanfare the server pours a little into the glass for you to sample. You are about to taste the wine and before you bring the glass to your lips you notice the glass is dirty. Not just dirty but filthy!
Question: What would you expect the server and the restaurant to do next? Is it ok to replace the glass with a clean one and pour you another sample from the same bottle? When I pose this question, most people answer that the restaurant should not only replace the glass but also replace the ENTIRE BOTTLE of the very expensive wine. AND offer some other form of consideration (think dessert on the house).
So while the wine was fabulous, because the glass was dirty, the quality of the wine was irrelevant. This is the essence of the context vs. content struggle that often occurs when there is disagreement in our relationships. The metaphor of whether the wine or the wineglass is more important in appreciating wine is like asking whether context vs. content is more important in communications. We might be arguing over content when context has not yet been established.
Let me give you another example.
Imagine yourself on a quiet subway ride home. Everyone is quiet there are several people sleeping while others are reading. At the next stop a man gets on with some children. The children are very disruptive throwing things running into people, just kids behaving badly. You turn and say to the man ‘your children are being disruptive maybe you could do something to control them.’ Then the man turns and says “we just came from the hospital their mother just died and I guess they don’t know how to handle it and for that matter neither do I.” Can you see that by understanding the context the same content (in this case the children’s’ behaviour) how your perspective would change from one of being annoyed to that of being considerate and sympathetic?
We’re in Canada, I get it, and perhaps a hockey example is better.
It would be like asking a person who has great skills as a skater, stick handler, passer and shooter to be great hockey player. How could that hockey player with all those skills do well in playing the game of hockey without knowing the rules of hockey? In other words, how can that person you just hired with all the necessary skills, knowledge and experience do a great job and deliver results that meet your expectations if you haven’t explained the rules of the game to them?
And here’s why all of this matters in your business!
Everyone in your company wants to know what it means to have: the right people, doing the right things, right. In the workplace context or rules of the game would look like job descriptions, organizational charts, performance appraisals, written systems and procedures. Most important of all: written vision, mission and culture statements that everyone lives by. That way you can focus on whether or not you and your team have lived or played the game by the rules, rather than wondering what the rules themselves are. That way everyone would know what doing a good job would look like!
How well have you established the rules of the game? How well does your team know those rules? The next time you are in a disagreement it might be useful to sort out if you are arguing over content when you might be better off to establish context.
It would make it so much easier to manage your team that way, don’t you agree?
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