Good Will Huntin’

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Good will.
It has an organisational currency.
I understand it as the thing that means folk will stay a little longer, put a little more in, keep the place a little tidier, a sense of pride, of liking being here,  of choosing to put our time and energy in to something collective…. that stuff that is put under the heading “intangible”.
It’s a bit tricky to measure (although, if you’re an accountant, I believe there is a methodology of sorts) yet you can often sense it, feel it in an organisational context. If you work in a place that is operating with a fat dose of good will – you know it.

I’ve been in two conversations of late with people grappling with a sense of having “lost something”. In both instances, there was still a sense of wanting to do the job well (showing up in conversation as: a kind of longing to be free to create, craft and contribute well to what they love and know; a sense that they are good at the job: the Doing What I Do stuff) but somehow, somewhere they felt…unappreciated… disallowed from being able to do what they could…slightly naffed off… like they were being taken for a ride by the organisation… as if the context they currently found themselves in seemed to require them to Give more than was being Given. Little or no reciprocity. A sense of being Had.


During the conversations, Big Words were coming to mind: Trust. Motivation. Empowerment. Engagement. Culture.
Wearing my Consultancy Hat, there is always a temptation to name the issue quickly (see how clever I can be?).
When I take it off and listen as a human – I often hear the complexity of what is being experienced. The love/hate/like/apathy that gets experienced in an organisational setting. It’s kind of frustrating to hear folk grappling; part of me will always want to fix, to salve, to soothe, to sort (Hell, part of what I get brought in to do sometimes is just that.)
So it was in one conversation, I was gearing up to diagnose the issue as I saw it….when the words “good will” were spoken. Then said again – with more conviction. What had been lost was suddenly found – or rather it had now been located… somewhere…because it was still resolutely not being carried about by the Person… the Speaker was still very very much separated from the lost “good will” – but now at least they seemed to have a sense of what it was that needed finding.
And so I have been thinking about good will. What happens when we lose it? Where does it go? Is it replicable like a passport, or something that, once lost, simply cannot be replaced?
I guess what I notice is that organisationally, we can be curiously disinterested in good will – we get very interested in “engagement” and the like :“We Must Enagage You”
Yet in doing so, we seem to forget that being generous (and I don’t mean with wages, though sure – go ahead and do that too) compassionate, considerate and… well just kind of basically polite to the people we work with actually goes a long way to making folk want to take part in organisational life.
If goodwill were an actual currency – would we squander it so freely, I wonder?
I am lucky enough to be continuing the conversations – I am listening, learning, cheering and encouraging the pursuit of good will.
Happy hunting.

9 thoughts on “Good Will Huntin’

  1. Interesting – you may have found a better term than engagement!

    I am a real fan of helping organisations improve what is currently called ‘engagement’ by many and has in the past been ‘Employee Participation’ or involvement or something else, maybe just good old fashioned motivation! At a recent engagement focused event I was facilitating, several people said it would be good if people were more polite to each other, that manners were the key to engagement, so I think your post captures that thinking beautifully. What if we did just see more politeness and respect and manners and well, goodwill! The ‘goodwill account’ concept (Steven R Covey) attempts to encourage people to see this in a more tangible way but I like the idea that this is how we should be because it’s the right thing to do – not because we are measuring it and putting a value on it.

    Look forward to reading others’ comments …

    • Would you believe me if I said I didn’t know Covey talked about a good will account… But that it makes perfect sense to me…
      My capacity to reference stuff is dreadful.
      I’m not anti “employee engagement” as such… Unless it is cynically, tactlessly, soullessly done…
      Yet I understand the need to simplify and quantify & make lists to make it (engagement) seem doable / possible in an over simplified fashion.
      I just wish we were more honest.
      It’s complex. It will take work.
      You can’t buy my goodwill. You can’t make me give it.
      But you can be decent enough to earn it – then it is bountifully yours.

      Deliciously difficult.

  2. Pingback: Good will, politeness & credibility | e3ctc

  3. I agree completely.

    I talk about building and nurturing a bank of goodwill when working with people new to training or learning and development. It is so easy to make products that are self indulgent time wasters. It makes you look busy and important. That’s not ok. It is vital to look for ways to deliver training/job aids/toolkits etc that are immediately useful for the learner in ways that address the business need. You build goodwill by being empathetic to the other person’s role and their time. Goodwill is developed when we treat others with compassion and approach every situation with generosity and curiosity. It leads to feeling valued and respected. It’s like trust, hard to build and REALLY easy to break.

    When goodwill is in place, it feels so good. It creates a safe place to be creative and productive.

    I think goodwill is easier to understand for most people than engagement or values or culture. It is however every bit as complex to ‘fix’ once it’s broken.

    • I hate to keep nodding and saying yes…. but *nodding a lot* Yes.

      and it is the “hard to build” element of it that I suspect we get lazy with… easier perhaps to look away & pretend it’s all OK?

      also – there is something forgiving about goodwill – if folk have good will toward their organisation, they’ll forgive some of the muck-ups.

      Is there also goodwill toward customers?

      Not sure….

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