What’s in a name?

How do you describe what you do?

A few months ago an incredibly wise guy by the name of Bob Battye delivered a session to our Leadership team.

He challenged us to re-write our Linkedin profiles describing what we were like as people – what we were actually about – rather than what we actually DID.

It’s challenging.

We are so used to hiding behind job titles and career achievements. We use words that provide an easily understandable code to each other but , let’s be honest, mean little to anyone living in the real world.

That’s why plenty of Bromford people now have a profile reading something like this:

Bob reminded us that we engage with people not titles.  We are interested in people who show what they care about , rather than just the function they perform.

Job titles can often lead us to talk about our purpose in the most prosaic terms imaginable.

From Assistant to Officer to Team Leader to Head of Whatever , to Director of You Know What.

It’s too often about structure rather than culture.

Starbucks knew this. It just wouldn’t have worked if they had employed Beverage Attendants. They had to have Baristas instead.

Most modern job titles only exist for two reasons: To differentiate one department from another and to provide a snapshot of the persons position in the hierarchy.

A lot of this was borne out of 20th Century management think. Before the onset of flatter structures , collaborative workspaces, crowdsourcing.

Last week I posted about how we had tried to apply new thinking to Job Descriptions. Aiming for the inspirational rather than the functional.

But we have gone a step further and begun to apply it to Job titles.

  • A Neighbourhood Investment Advisor becomes a Skills Coach.
  • An Economic Inclusion Manager (what?!) becomes an Opportunities Manager.
  • And I’m now an Innovation Coach.

You can’t tell who leads the teams and it’s not clear who line reports to whom.  But does that matter?

This isn’t about us.

It’s not even about the organisation.

It’s about not letting people be limited by their place on a structure chart. Enabling them to be they best they can be.

And to talk about why they got up this morning.


2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. From Mike Stevenson, Bromford Customer for 12 Years plus.

    As someone who started work at the Claims Dept of a large Insurance Company at the age of 16 – in the late 1950’s – and survived for 7 years before the beaurocratic work enviroment was not for me, I feel I am well qualified to comment on Paul’s recent posts regarding job descriptions and titles.

    I have to admit that over the last 8 years of Customer Involvement activities, I have often had a little smile on my face over some of Bromford’s job titles – to me, Head of Advance is much easier to get my geriatric mind around than Innovation Coach, for example. Then again, if the girl (or boy.before I get accused of sexist stereotyping ),at Stabucks feels happier being known as a Barrista, why should I care so long as the coffee is brilliant !

    So, as a Customer , I say , Call yourselves whatever makes you happiest, just as long as it allows you the freedom to to your job to the max. If it doesn’t, tell your line manager – if they still exist !!

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