Let’s start with the value that titles have.
- A title can create clarity for your customer by simplifying your business and declaring what you do and how you can help. “Customer Service Representative” says it all. Others help people categorize you and what you might want from them. “Oh you’re in sales.”
- Titles are also important to employees. They imply that there are levels to achieve and give a tangible thing for people to strive for — titles can reflect a person’s success. Some roles, ones with VP or Manager in the title, give the impression of authority and respect. These earned titles, when earned through results, effort and hard work are no problem.
But some times titles create more confusion then they do clarification. And often times, titles do not guarantee respect. Employees that get things done, are good teammates, or peers that solve problems do. Let me share an example.
Years ago I worked in a regional leadership role for an international staffing firm. During a leadership retreat a core team member pressed the President of the business for a VP title. The argument was a traditional one. During a real time of change, he needed that VP title to “demonstrate” that he had the authority to sell and negotiate in our home markets. The funny thing is that that’s all the title really meant — it helped people take him seriously. He had not earned nor received the authority he craved. So he got a title, all pomp and circumstance with no new authority!
So I’d like to challenge you to think about what a title really means to you. Certain titles are sought after and people shoot to progress “up the ladder” but do we ever think about WHY we have them or WHY we shouldn’t? The world understands linear promotions. Just because people get it, doesn’t mean titles are always right for your business. Are titles good for your company’s growth?
I don’t think so. My premise is simple. Titles limit a business. They make you inflexible. They can and do create unintended circumstances like hierarchy. They isolate and create silos between people and departments. Titles can hurt your company culture.
I’d like to challenge the norm and what people understand or stereotype. Imagine a business where business cards do not include titles. Contemplate a world where job descriptions take on less importance. I come from an HR world and understand the inherent value in listing tasks, skills, experiences and duties. But these lists can create boundaries that limit staff. Putting people in a box can stifle creativity and often discourage risk taking for fear of overstepping boundaries.
I encourage you to think about the titles you’ve had. That the people in your company have. What do they really mean? Please post your thoughts — do you think there is anything wrong with titles?