Charlotte Roberts

FRAMINGHAM (05/01/2000) - As president of Blue Fire Partners, in Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, Charlotte Roberts counsels executives on living with and growing with change. Together with The Fifth Discipline author Peter Senge, Roberts writes and speaks about how to create learning organizations that draw strength from the values and vision of employees. She tells CIO why and how leaders should align corporate goals with those of the workforce. (Visit CIO Radio at www.cio.com/radio to hear more from Roberts.) CIO: YOU WRITE ABOUT THE WORKPLACE AS A COMMUNITY. DO YOU THINK PEOPLE CAN REALLY FEEL THE SAME WAY ABOUT WHERE THEY WORK AS THEY DO ABOUT THE TOWNS THEY LIVE IN, OR THEIR SCHOOLS OR PLACES OF WORSHIP? ROBERTS: Each and every one of us wants to be seen as a unique human being. If you can build a sense of community that lets each person feel like he or she can grow and evolve, then you've got an organization that will have lower turnover and will probably be more adaptive. If I feel that I can be a whole person at work, I am more likely to give those extra hours, come up with new ideas or take action in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity.

WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD A LEADER HAVE IN ORDER TO INSTILL COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL VALUES INTO A COMPANY? ROBERTS: First, the ability to engage people in a meaningful conversation. Second, the ability to sense the direction of the organization. The third characteristic of a leader is self-awareness. They've really got to understand their own values, their strengths, what they bring to an organization. Another competency is the ability to build a sustained relationship. And let's put the word sustained in 10-foot-high letters that blink. As we redesign our organizations to be more responsive to the marketplace, our relationships with employees and other businesses and strategic partners change all the time. If I outsource your job and you're now a contractor to my company, what you do is still critical to my performance. I have to sustain my connection and relationship with you.

HOW HAVE YOU APPLIED THESE PRINCIPLES TO YOUR OWN COMPANY? ROBERTS: I have consultant colleagues whom I call and say, "Help me discover what I am thinking and feeling." Especially when I get stuck. I continue to go to workshops and get coaching from my mentors. I stay networked. Many of my clients end up being friends. I think sustaining relationships is the most important thing. So when they move on to other organizations, oftentimes my clients will take me with them because we know how to work together.

Does your company feel like home to you? Tell Senior Writer Elana Varon at evaron@cio.com.

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