The labeling doesn’t make it so. When “Makin’ It” debuted in February of 1979, it was the story of a young Italian who was living a charmed life in the disco scene. He would head to the club after work to dance his cares away and be someone that he really wanted to be. The show lasted nine episodes, despite the theme song being a top 10 hit for David Naughton. “Makin’ It” didn’t make it.
It may have been more appropriate to call the show, “We Hope This Makes It.” That may, also, be the title of our last hire. Or maybe the title of that last new vertical or initiative we tried to launch. Or maybe the title of the benefits package given to employees. A hope and a prayer, promoted with a cool logo or slogan, won’t make something be more than it really is.
When we look at these hires or initiatives, it is not usually that we’ve intended to set things up to fail. We actually walk in with the best of intentions. The ideology is grounded, the qualifications firm and the intended results seem clear. We struggle with the follow through and evaluation. The premise of that late 1970’s show was not bad at all. It was a relatable concept that most viewers should have taken to. We like to see people succeed, even in small ways, and we can live vicariously in that brief time. And with a hit song moving up the charts, there should have been momentum to carry interest forward. The show did not plan for long-term success with its mediocre writing and weak acting (not David Naughton!). A hit song towards the end of the disco era was not enough.
In our organizations, we may find ourselves working off old job descriptions, old job processes or an outdated understanding of competitive markets. Those realities will influence our understanding of need and value. When social media took its hold on marketing strategies, companies wound up adding a line item to the job description stating that the individual in the role needed to manage the social media of the company. While that might be a right responsibility, no one had done the work to understand the depth behind such a duty. And those same companies have had a parade of employees labeled as “Marketing Associate” or “Social Media Manager” who did not make it. The label was not enough to ensure success for the true work to be done.
This type of labeling isn’t the discriminatory kind, but rather the kind that gives an appearance of addressing a need. Our organizations need to know why and how that need is to be met in a role, a process and or a new department. The resolution to act has to be met with more than a one-time proclamation, but rather one where plans are defined and outcomes measured. Resources are set aside to support this initiative. Those involved understand clearly where Point B is as they stand on Point A. Calling someone a Manager doesn’t make it so. What are you doing to support his/her success?
In our organizations, titles and project names should have teeth. The whys and hows will allow our teams to know where this is going and how it keeps the company ahead of the competition. Those labels should bring encouragement to all involved, not quick disappointment when it’s realized to just be fluff. Sharpen the teeth of intention by sharpening your pencils and developing full plans. Giving the label is the easy part; the work in getting that person to make it is something much more involved.