Monday, January 22, 2007

Aspects of folly

I still remember my surprise when I started working in Jordan after having worked abroad for quite some time. The first aspect that got to me was the “sidi” and “sitti” culture. I had come from a corporate culture that goes by first names. I must admit that during my days overseas I often wished I could call my superiors by “Mr” or “Ms”, simply to show deference and respect. Eventually I got over it.

It took me a while to get used to seeing people being glorified by the “sidi” and “sitti” titles. What really bugged me was that those who were (tacitly) basking in being addressed with such a glorious title, neither earned nor possessed it. They just assumed it.

This brings me to the other aspects of working, those of work ethic and the level of professionalism prevailing in both the public and the private sectors alike. As Ghawwar said many want to be and genuinely believe that they are “mukhtaar” (mayor). But very few are willing to work hard and go through the discipline required for it. My observation over the past few years is that unfortunately many of the young (and not the so young) assume a sense of entitlement that is stifling and extremely dangerous to personal and eventually collective growth. There is very little sense of ownership of one’s work, and delivering work of mediocre quality is just OK.

I recently read an article on “What it takes to be great”. A paragraph in that article stuck in my head. It did so because as far as having the proper initiative at work, we still have a long way to go. The paragraph reads:

“….it's all about how you do what you're already doing - you create the practice in your work, which requires a few critical changes. The first is going at any task with a new goal: Instead of merely trying to get it done, you aim to get better at it.
Report writing involves finding information, analyzing it and presenting it - each an improvable skill. Chairing a board meeting requires understanding the company's strategy in the deepest way, forming a coherent view of coming market changes and setting a tone for the discussion. Anything that anyone does at work, from the most basic task to the most exalted, is an improvable skill.”

Granted that excelling at work is predominantly an individual initiative. However, it is also a matter of culture. Corporate culture. A culture that treats its employees with respect, and that delivers the vehicles necessary for career growth and professional development. Investing in one’s employees is not an option but a must. It nurtures hope. Hope is by far the engine for success. Lack of it could be the culprit that is keeping us away from seeking greatness.

As long as we qualify to fit in one of these three attitudes highlighted by Barbara Tuchman, our likelihood of getting ahead is highly unlikely: “Three outstanding attitudes – obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, [and the] illusion of invulnerable status – are persistent aspects of folly”

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