Competing commitments stand in the way of creating a great organizational culture.
Mary is an assertive dean with a communication style that is strong and influential (high D, High I, as in DISC). Mary likes to charge ahead on projects, often asking for forgiveness rather than permission. She often needs to think a project through, beginning to end, before starting, and many see her decisions as high-risk. However, after the decision is made, she tends to work hard for a successful outcome. Mary’s desire for accomplishment competes with her desire to fit in and work within the University.
Mary’s administrative assistant, Bill, has a style that values compliance (high C). Precision and accuracy are important to Bill. Following procedures is his way of ensuring quality and orderly work. He wants to be seen as a responsible person and will avoid behavior that could be seen by others as irresponsible.
Bill and Mary have competing styles that could get in the way of working well together. In a sense, they have competing commitments between them – Mary’s commitment to create and move projects quickly with Bill’s commitment for organizational compliance. This competition could make their working together both combative and ineffective. But both Mary and Bill recognize and respect their individual differences and, as such, instead of making them less effective, it enables them to be much more effective by cooperating and respecting each other’s roles and importance. Bill recognizes Mary’s value in moving the college ahead more aggressively, and Mary appreciates Bill’s responsible approach to keep her out of trouble.
Individual commitments can be the result of personality, culture, domain, etc. Phil was raised in a Pacific Rim culture where beliefs are strongly held but seldom voiced, and individuality is valued. Joyce was raised in a Middle Eastern culture where beliefs are also strongly held and individuality valued, but she is much more assertive and louder in making her points. Both Phil and Joyce state that they have a commitment to be part of a strong effective college with pride in their joint efforts. However, those individual commitments compete with their method of communicating and desire for independence.
How to reconcile? First, we have to understand our differences. Secondly, we need to understand our communication and behavioral styles – that’s why we have completed and published our individual DISC analysis. Third, we need to practice and adopt the communication methods that are effective across our differing styles. Mary needs to be more complaint where necessary. Bill needs to soften compliance requirements where not needed. Phil needs to vocalize more, Joyce less.
But most importantly, we collectively need to decide what we want our culture to be. And recognize that our individual commitments may compete with that commitment to create a shared culture.
So, do you want to build and be part of a great college?
Jim Hamerly, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Business Administration
California State University San Marcos
333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road
San Marcos, CA 92096-0001