Jessica Soroky Guest Post #49: Value the Person Over the Label

look beyond the labelI have become hyper-aware of the inputs around me. Last week I wrote about what I want, and how to make choices instead of decisions.

So I got to thinking about choices and became almost overwhelmed by the number of choices we are presented with every day.

Then I took it a little further and started thinking about how many choices we have that are more of an illusion of choice than something thatis really different from its competitor.

The clever labels we place on things create the illusion. Do you like Coke or Pepsi? Do you use an iPhone or Android? Are you a senior-level employee or a junior employee?

All of these labels only mean something because we all give them meaning.

If you peel off the bright-colored branding wrapper from a soda bottle, they are the same dark, carbonated drink at the core. The iPhone and Android are mobile devices capable of the same functions.

The third example I gave above is the one I find most important to call out. At the core, the senior-level employee and junior employee are the same human being, conditioned by their world around them – conditioned by the label placed on them.

How often do these labels alter the thing, or person, they are labeling? For instance, the labels we place on employees.

I have seen a dozen variations of the same system of placing employees into classes:

  • Senior vs. junior
  • IT1 vs. IT2 vs. IT3
  • Executive vs. Director vs. Middle Manager

Back during my not-for-profit days, every time I set up a team, the first question always was, “Who gets what title?” I didn’t think twice about it then.

I didn’t think twice about it on my first IT team either when a “junior” developer wouldn’t even speak at meetings because he wasn’t the senior developer on the project – it “wasn’t his place.”

I didn’t think twice about it as I pursued my different certifications. Being completely transparent, of course I wanted the knowledge that came with it, but I was after those letters to put after my name.

I sit here now knowing I have a desire to go after more letters.

So what do we get out of all these labels? What do we get out of separating people into classes?

As a leader and a coach, my intention is to see everyone for who they are, not for the labels they wear. A big part of that is allowing the people who believe in those labels to continue to do so without feeling like I need to convince them otherwise.

A wise man once told me that we are all necessary. Take, for instance, the junior and senior developer example.

What if we called them Matt and Dave — labels in their own right?

Matt is extremely excited and passionate about what he does and brings great innovation and creative ideas to the table to enhance their product. Dave is experienced and cares more about the back end of the product instead of the cool factor or front-end design.

Both are necessary, and creating an environment where they can both collaborate and share will ensure that the innovation stays alive and the implementation and execution of that creativity are followed through.

I find it discouraging when I encounter teams that are more focused on labels, which limits the possibilities of their team members, than the person.

In the past I have started work with my teams by being extremely clear to the members that I am not higher nor lower than them. I am not their mother and do not intend to baby them, and expect the same treatment in return.

To be a leader doesn’t mean I hold a different, higher, better, etc., label over those I am trying to lead.

My intention is to ask for an agreement from my teams. Can we all agree to value the person over the label?

IMG_3285Jessica Soroky, CSM

Recently turning 22 years old, Jessica is already a Certified Scrum Master with two years of practice in agile delivery and team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches. After five years of non-profit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.

Attention CXO’s and supporting partners — Do you seek exceptional solutions for leadership development and culture-shaping for ultra-hi performance, engagement, and innovation? See Partnerwerks approach to sustainable change with measurable results enterprise-wide.

Posted in Responsibility on 08/13/2014 07:52 am
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