If you slept through classes when the teacher was covering Aristotle you might have missed his useful information about managing people. Not only did Aristotle think we should spend some time thinking about how we get things to change – he thought we should spend time trying to determine IF we should change and HOW best to go about making the change.
With an overall feeling on time pressure (much of it imagined) reflection on character, virtue, and goodwill sound like outmoded concepts in today’s workplace. But managers today can shape the development of their employees. Ethical contemplation is critical in today’s professional environment workplace, and it is incredibly useful to ask these kinds of questions and help employees formulate answers.
I often marvel that “common sense” doesn’t actually appear all that common. The study of social phenomena (aka phronetic social science) is the study of common sense and believe it or not it is an actual area of study! There is genuine value to taking the time to think about and discuss what actions are good and bad. Taking the time to discuss, reflect, and get consensus on issues such as:
- Where are we going?
- Is this desirable?
- Who gains, who loses, and by what mechanisms of power?
- Should we do anything about it? Can we do anything about it?
Aristotle noticed that young people lacked the maturation for acquiring phronesis. Managers may not find their younger employees and colleagues sensible or cautious – but there is a good reason for that (and it isn’t because kids today are just so _______ (fill in the blank!)). It’s because good common sense comes with experience, something young (and new) employees get with time and opportunity. While employees can learn about what to do in specific work situations, application in real time with actual work situations contain details that are fully fleshed out that no one could have foreseen. These require real world experience. In short – you can learn a lot from books, the internet, video, lectures, and training, but there is no substitute for real world, actual, hands-on experience (this goes for failure as well as success).
While honesty may be prized, in some situations people can find it offensive. Speed may indicate a sense of urgency, but there is something to be said for caution. Communicating may be the way of the social media world but discretion is a valued (and sometimes scarce) commodity. C-Suite executives, managers and supervisors who are phronetic get this complexity. The wise ones help their employees develop the ability to think first, reflect, and act based on the goals and contexts they discover.
So, if you too wonder why common sense isn’t more common, it might be because no one is developing people for it! If you are in a position to develop talent – this key skill is one that should get your time and attention. If you’d like to talk about facilitating meetings that get to the answers of those questions listed above, let me know.