How Can I Help You? New Task Enabling Exercise in Beta Phase

December 5, 2012

By: Chris White

Originally posted on Lead Positively

Are you getting the help you need from those around you to get things done? And – equally to the point – are you giving the help that others need for them to get their jobs done?

Yesterday, I attended a workshop by Professor Jane Dutton and Mary Ceccanese to pilot a new tool in development from the Center on “Task Enabling”. The new Task Enabling Exercise, by Jane, Mary, and former Ross student Ali Grasel, is based on Jane’s work on building positive relationships at work. If you want to learn more, her book, Energize Your Workplaceis very practical and accessible.

Task Enabling refers to all the actions – large and small – that help us get things done. It made me think about President Obama’s (oft misquoted) campaign comment about how successful businesses “didn’t do it on their own”. Well, of course they didn’t. They had help – task enabling – by literally thousands of people to get things done – including the government, but I won’t go there!

This applies in our managerial relationships. By being more deliberate and systematic about the help needed, and whom it is needed from, we can form more effective working relationships. We can be better coaches. We can be better managers.

It also works when we look up the reporting channels. In other words, we can be better employees too. It was striking in the debrief comments how few of us actually ask ourselves: “how can we enable our boss to do a better job?” We are busy getting our work done – but not necessarily thinking about how we can help our bosses get their work done.

For me, the big realization from the workshop went beyond task enabling in individual relationships. It got me thinking more systematically about task enabling systems. How can we set up meeting designs, role descriptions, processes, culture and so forth to help each other get our jobs done most effectively and generatively? We have grown rapidly in the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship in the last nine months. To take just the closest connections: I have three staff on my team, two collaborators on my book and class, twelve students working on projects in the Center, and eight faculty researching full time on Positive Organizational Scholarship – all in direct working (albeit not necessarily managerial) relationships with me. A bit nuts, huh?! We are deliberately building systems now – and I want them to be task enabling systems, to help each other get our jobs done.

I am excited to support the release of the Task Enabling Exercise in 2013. I think it will help a lot of people. I think it will help me. If you want to be on the mailing list for updates on the launch, please let me know in the comments section! You can also learn more about our other tools here.