Have you ever worked for someone that could drive a number but didn’t care what it took to make that happen?
People, processes and rules were not important. Winning AT ALL COSTS was.
When titled leaders are under pressure for results, it can be tempting to focus only on the win and to forget about:
- The lives of the employees
- The loyalty of the customers
- The perception of the public
- Or the future of the company
I was recently visiting with someone about the goals of young professionals in a specific location. She said that everyone wants to be a manager.
So I asked why:
- Was it about the title?
- The perceived power?
- The paycheck?
- The perception that it is an easier job?
She said they want to sit behind a big desk and sign things.
Instantly I visualized a “manager” sitting behind a big desk with their feet resting on the desk reading a newspaper. A clap of his hands and someone comes running with a hot beverage. A loud shout results in several people running into his office – varying ages, heights, and ethnicities – all cowering in fear. “Yes Boss…” (True story!)
In 1999 I read Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the first time. One of the stories in that book that captured my attention was about David Lilienthal, a man that was commissioned to head the new Atomic Energy Commission.
He brought together a very diverse bunch of influential individuals. And although they had a huge agenda and the press was pushing them for results he believed that efficiency was not the first priority – synergy was. So he wisely invested time facilitating relationship building, causing them to deeply understand each other’s history, goals, passions, and perspectives and transforming a group of individuals into a passionate team.
This is how Stephen Covey describes the result: “The respect among the members of the commission was so high that if there was disagreement, instead of opposition and defense, there was a genuine effort to understand. The attitude was, “If a person of your intelligence and competence and commitment disagrees with me, then there must be something to your disagreement that I don’t understand, and I need to understand it. You have a perspective, a frame of reference I need to look at.”
Over the past few months I’ve had several opportunities to visit with groups of people whose lives are being impacted by policies they don’t like or agree with.
Most of them have communicated their concerns with the first level key stakeholder – hoping for a fast change. Now it’s clear that although that person cares, change can’t happen from that level.
So individually some of them have:
- Sent one email to the decision maker.
- Sent more than one email to the decision maker.
- Sent one email and attended one meeting.
Collectively their over-riding belief is that the key-stakeholder can’t be trusted and change just isn’t going to happen.
So most have stopped communicating while others never bothered to communicate directly with the one person that can make change happen.
At the same time, they are still so troubled by the situation that each time the topic comes up, almost all of them continue to express lots of frustration and absorb the not so positive energy of those around them.
So why persist?
Have you ever worked with someone that has a title but:
- Struggles to take a clear stand on heated issues, causing them to flip-flop so often – that no one knows where they really stand?
- Manipulates the truth to control the outcome?
Where there is smoke there is usually fire.
- And yet, far too often people stumble over the truth, and then hurry off as if nothing happened.