The Responsible Resource: The Ethics and Practice of Helping
August 6th, 2012 · 1 Comment
We all need help sometimes. We need ideas and help clarifying them. We need help straightening out ideas about ourselves and the world and help living up to our potential as full human beings. So do organizations.
Many of us do more than our job at work, seeking to improve the ability and outcomes of all that surrounds us. Some of us decide to take on life roles that are specifically focused on supporting others in change and growth. About four decades ago, I learned from a great “helper” in my life that the help we give is not neutral and that in fact it can have outcomes that work against independent humanness and responsibility in work life.
Charles Krone, who was the major leader of Procter and Gamble’s foray into innovation management practices, never called himself an agent of change, a consultant, a trainer, or a coach. He doesn’t like the notion of teacher—and certainly not guru. Although he was an architect of the most studied systems in the past forty years (until Google and Apple took over that honor a few years ago), he has never acknowledged being anything but part of the team. As he says, most people who take on the helper roles do more harm than good. Even worse, they do so with such good intentions.
Charlie and I prefer the title, Resource. Re-Source. We use the term in a unique way but one consistent with its etymology. We define resourcing as returning (the “re” part) people back to themselves as the sources of their own understanding and knowledge. This process more nearly resembles the way the philosopher Socrates engaged his acolytes in dialogues than it does the way the Sophists of his time lectured and sought to be paid to inspire and coach others to become excellent. Socrates believed excellence was already in people, waiting to be brought out rather than needing to be put into them by someone else. The Socratic method was much more than clever questions.
In any role we take on in society, we can operate from the philosophy and practices of resourcing. Resources ask more questions than they give answers, and they are not attached to the answers they offer for consideration by those they serve. They ask people to accept nothing—and to reject nothing—until they have tested it against their own personal experience. Resources model ways to think about subjects. They don’t offer static thoughts to be repeated as lessons and replicated in future situations. There is no “training the trainer.” Resources do not strive to create best practices; they help others develop the capabilities and experience necessary to work at their best, relevant to each new subject and situation.
At Procter and Gamble and in each business I have worked with, we built the capability of everyone to resource themselves and others. Personal agency and self-accountability were raised to levels that few people imagined were possible. Stelios Tsesos, the general manager who led the change process for Colgate, South Africa at the time of the creation of the New Republic, said that with resourcing, “Management, as traditionally conceived, is not needed because everyone takes responsibility for the whole.”
I was blessed and honored to work with Charlie Krone and other leaders of those Procter and Gamble systems early in my path. It changed me and my ability to “make a difference.” I have decided that it’s time to pass on that legacy. I am seeking 20-30 committed and open people with successful practices who want to be more deeply Resourceful to change. We will work in community—albeit mostly virtual community because that is what is possible—in order to grow and manifest big promises in the world.
I am introducing the Legacy Resource program on two occasions in August for both internal and external resources. The first level of the program allows people to see if it is a fit for them and whether they want to continue. Much will be gained even in the short program, but if you stay, your life and ability to contribute to creating a better world may be redirected, by your own hand and mind.
To learn more, sign up for a free teleseminar on either Aug 7th at 1 pm PT or August 26th 4 pm PT. Find out “How a Resource Works with Change” and whether you want to explore a deeper community of learning. It’s free—but you must register to participate and have access to the recording. Click on the date that works best for you.