I remember very well what my father said forty-six years ago, while I was visiting his workplace as a young boy in the Governor’s Office, Province of Batangas, Philippines. He was the Provincial Administrator-in-charged of socio-political affairs at that time (1976).
He aptly said, “There’s no greater interest than self-interest.”
My dad articulated that the statement is about goals, objectives, missions, and visions. Some are grander, and some are simpler. Instead of saying, “there’s no greater goal than a personal goal,” he chose the word “interest” to sum it up. Of course, as can be expected of most young people, what I heard went from one ear and out the other.
I only began to realize the wisdom of his statement years later.
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The message he conveyed is something philosophical and deep-rooted. Interest drives people to do what they do. Tatay, as I fondly call him, had since passed away in 2006; his simple statement has lived in my memory because I found what he said is true. It is so true that I have not found anything that will disprove its application. It is so far, without exception.
All of us pursue a goal. Nobody does something without a purpose. Businesses have goals. All humans have plans. Even the person who just floats around the city’s sidewalks has a sense. He might not even know his grand design, but he has a goal, even if it is just a short goal at a time. Doing nothing is also an objective. In a business enterprise, the summary objective of all stakeholders becomes the organization’s objectives.
“Quid pro quo,” which means something for something” or “this for that” in Latin. One does something in exchange for goods or services, where one transfer is contingent upon the other. One is suitable for you because he expects something from you. That is his interest! He needs something! When the need is gone, interest disappears, the relationship weakens, and loyalty suffers. He sees others based on his goal, his interest!
Just think about it. If I decide to go out for a walk tomorrow, I must be going somewhere. When you ask me, I am going nowhere, but I will be somewhere at any time. In so doing, I have a purpose. After all, what is the value of doing something for nothing? Ergo, we measure our success by how close we reach our objectives.
The frog, the flies, and the fly swatter exist relative to each other. Each one has a purpose. Maybe, the swatter kills the fly that the frog can’t catch. The flies either avoid the swatter, escape to die according to their lifespan or end up gobbled by the frog (Figure 1). However the story ends, each has a place and a role. They all touch one another.
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Figure 1 – The Frog, the Flies, and the Fly Swatter
We are all part of a great relationship network with no end where each has a purpose. We primarily perceive other people based on our personal goals. A person who supports our individual objectives will most likely receive automatic acceptance from us and vice versa. We may realize that we must work harder to be impartial and appreciative of others, yet we always fall into that trap repeatedly. Our biases become clear now.
Conflict management is critical to creating a better organization and improving productivity. Unfortunately, management can inadvertently or intentionally promote conformity as a strategy. If people see things the same way, they agree to move in the same direction disregarding whether it is the right direction or not. Arguably, the claim was that it saves time.
“Opportunity comes with some threats, we often do not see.
Don’t be in haste to celebrate, what seems like victory!”
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Figure 2 – RISK, What are you? The Risk Management Poem: Children’s Book for all Professionals.ISBN 978-0-9947608-4-5 (Canada)
A grapevine once told me that the human resource department has devised cunning ways to attract and consider only those prospective employees with specific intrinsic characteristics supportive of the accepted in-house organizational norms. Is improving conformity a good approach? You decide…
Most of them, however, are unaware that the hiring manager, down the line, has their own take, ready to hire individuals who belong to his preferred group’s attributes. Favorite attributes can be religion, relation, ethnicity, origin, race, particular group, fraternity, school, gender, or as simple as hobbies, likes, and political affiliation. The closer the affinity of the prospective employee to the hidden criteria of the decision maker, the bigger his chance of getting hired.
It’s an understandable rationale to the hiring manager but totally unfair to the unsuccessful candidate. As you can see, everything is a matter of perception! It was based on his interest. Is it true or not? What do you think? What’s your experience?
The risks or uncertainties brought about by many influencing factors are always associated with our end goals and our interest. What people do or don’t do will affect the results. The fish in the bowl illustration describes the origin of this bias. An engineer with twenty years of experience in a Canadian manufacturing workplace will find it difficult and shocked if suddenly transferred to a Japanese or a Saudi Arabian workplace. This is why a cultural orientation of the new workplace is called for before such deployment takes place.
A senior manager of a big EPC company who suddenly exclaimed that he smelled a dead rat after an Asian engineer heated up his specially prepared smoked, exotic fish in the microwave oven indicates that he lacks exposure. He cannot hold his view before blurting out his judgment as he has not experienced the smell or taste of the dish. So, what does it tell us? First, it tells us that the fish appreciates only the bowl it lives in (Figure 2). People look at things that are not familiar, with fear, suspicion, and disgust, much like the senior manager in the story.
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Figure 2 – The Fish Bowl
A teacher in Business Communication for Internationally Trained Professionals correctly pointed out,-” it is complex indeed! We may not “like” someone whom we feel is thwarting our goals. Still, at the same time, their behavior may help us reflect, re-examine, and maybe even redefine or readjust our goals and objectives, so they are less opportunistic and more holistic. In this case, the person we initially see as our barrier is our benefactor.”
I believe that it is all in the character of the individuals. You might have an extraordinary leader and great motivator. Still, if the employee is not receptive or is not interested, no matter what the manager does, he cannot influence the employee. He will fail in what he is trying to achieve.
There is the opposite case, where a manager might not motivate the employees enough; however, the employee is self-motivated, self-propelled, and will achieve great results, even without motivation from the manager. I know these are extreme examples, but I firmly believe it is all based on personality and how each person perceives the other’s actions. As you have noticed, we are back to the core of our subject matter; i.e., a person perceives another person according to his interest.
Motivation is a two-way process, a two-way street where a silent fundamental rule exists. It is not a theory imprisoned by the printed page of our textbook, but something real observed in our daily lives. Motivation begets motivation, and respect begets respect. It is not just having a good manager or leader. It also develops good direct reports. A law of push and pull in the relationship continuum merits a closer look. The kind of relationship tensions and compressions along the relationship lines depends on both parties. Managers cannot lead all the time. Direct reports have to set the direction sometimes given the cue or without the signal (Frago, R., 2014).” The failure of parents trying to motivate their children to study well and excels is a great example. When parents fail to ignite the children’s interest, performance suffers.
A case in point: A father forced his son to be an engineer, but he has no interest in being one. The son wants to be an IT Specialist, and now he is. He has wasted two years struggling to be an engineer but does not have the drive and the inspiration. Finally, the father financed his college education to be an IT person. He completed it with flying colors. Nobody in his right mind should force success because it will not happen.
For us to be effective in managing other people, the cultural map we should use must be tailored according to those we want to influence. People learned that to get what they want and be successful, they have to focus their strategies on the person who can help them achieve their objectives. To manage and influence them well, we have to appeal to their personal interest. It only works best if it is a two-way street.
As a parting reminder to all: “To influence, one has to be influenced. “
Source: Frago, R. (2015).Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and Opportunities: A Project Controls Perspective.ISBN 978-0-9947608-0-7.Canada. Risk-based Management WisdomSection 17.3
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You will find a more detailed discussion about the subject article in the paperback edition of the book “Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and Opportunities: A Project Controls Perspective.” It is also available in Amazon’s Kindle edition.
The book provides new/additional knowledge to project management practitioners (beginners to experts), risk management specialists, project controls people, estimators, cost managers, planners and schedulers, and students of undergraduate courses in Risk Management. The sectional contents offer a practical and common sense approach to identifying/managing risks. It is a must-have for company managers, directors, supervisors, aspiring industry professionals, and even those students fresh from high school. The material is primarily designed to start with the foundational principles of risk, gradually bringing the reader to deeper topics using a conversational style with simple terminologies.
So, if you are interested, check it out!
About the Author
Rufran C. Frago is the Founder of PM Solution Pro, a Calgary consulting, product, and training services firm focusing on project and business management solutions. He is passionate about providing advice, mentorship, education and training through consultation, collaboration, and what he uniquely calls, student-led training.
BOOKS AUTHORED BY RUFRAN FRAGO
- Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and Opportunities: A Project Controls Perspective.ISBN 978-0-9947608-0-7.Canada
- Plan to Schedule, Schedule to Plan.ISBN 978-0-9947608-2-1.Canada
- How to Create a Good Quality P50 Risk-based Baseline Schedule.ISBN 978-0-9947608-1-4.Canada
- Schedule Quantitative Risk Analysis (Traditional Method).ISBN 978-0-9947608-3-8.Canada
- RISK, What are you? The Risk Management Poem: Children’s Book for all Professionals.ISBN 978-0-9947608-4-5 (Canada)