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Are you the host or a guest at the office?

This is a favourite topic of mine.   I started thinking about it, some years ago, when we hosted social events for our staff at the office.   There were those, both management and staff, who pitched in, but there were many more who had a wonderful evening, said thank you very politely at the end, and left the execs and senior managers loading dishwashers and generally tidying up.

Then I started extending my thinking to every day at work.   We had a robbery one evening and we found that one of our managers was the last in and out through the front door before the robbery (our +Accsys (Pty) Ltd Time and Attendance system proved very useful), so we asked him if he had noticed anything.   "Oh yes" he told us, "in fact, they let me in the door, there were 5 of them, 3 men and 2 women, but I didn't recognise them, so I thought they must be temps or new staff".    He was definitely a guest.

When we have a dinner party at home, the family all help, most of the real work is done before and after the guests arrive, but everybody has a role, from devising the menu, planning the timing of the various courses, laying tables, cooking, clearing up, making coffee, serving drinks, hanging up coats to managing dogs.   The guests' role is to arrive at the agreed time, dress suitably for the occasion, add sparkling conversation, offer to help, but not really need to and generally just add to a successful evening.

How does this translate to the work environment?   Some employees are always guests ie they arrive promptly, add interesting (sometimes too much) conversation, don't get actively involved in devising the menu (strategy), although they constantly ask what it is, and complain if it doesn't suit them, leave on time and generally are disengaged from how the whole business hangs together.

Then there are the hosts - they greet people who are sitting in Reception, ask if they have been assisted, greet all their colleagues, go out of their way to ensure that the business is working from a process view and are always looking to see who has got drinks (to extend the metaphor a little further).   They are also making notes in their heads about what is working and what isn't and what needs to be tweaked for next time.

Of course, there are always those that alternate between being guests and hosts, and stick very closely to what they perceive are their areas of responsibility.  Whenever you hear "that's not my job", the chances are it is a guest speaking!

So the question is do you think you are seen as a host or a guest at your company?   And, most importantly, which one do you want to be?


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