Here’s a sample snippet of a coaching conversation I have often had with executives. To set the scene for you, it usually happens after we’ve discussed a project or strategic initiative and its value alignment for their organization.
Exec: “This is terrific; I can see how it will make a big difference for us. I’m anxious to get started; we could probably introduce the plan at our next staff meeting.”
Me: “I agree, it is a terrific plan. However let me ask you something before you move on to how you’ll communicate it, and the campaign you’ll subsequently run with it. What are you assuming this additional project will replace in your existing operation?”
Exec: “What will it replace? Well, the old way we’ve been approaching things; we all agree that our present tactics aren’t all that effective.”
Me: “When you say ‘present tactics,’ how much are you referring to? Are you completely confident that everyone will make the same assumptions you are, and not continue trying to handle both the old and the new? What are the reasons they might want to hold on to the comfortable, tried and true way they’ve always approached this?”
Exec: “Listen, I don’t want to micromanage the thing. I’m sure they can figure it out.”
Another potential stress factor lobbed into the organization. Unless… we continue the conversation to figure out how without micromanaging, the Exec can articulate some suggestions whereby he gives them the gift of reasonableness, not adding to their sense of overwhelm.
The reality of most organizations, is that pleasing the boss, in handling directives both old and new, contributes to the significant, and rampant proliferation of auto-pilot, sacred cows, stressful overload, and productivity slowdowns. Like it or not, and whether you want to admit it or not, when you are the boss, people are very selective about the questions they’ll ask you, fearing they are exposing their own shortcomings or lack of self-confidence. If they perceive “the old way” was one of your once-favored pet projects, they’ll hold on to their practice of it, even when they might think better of it otherwise.
When you are about to add to someone’s workload, you should own the 100%. What I mean by that, is that the responsible thing to do, is to own the productivity equilibrium in the operation when you contribute to it.
The one assumption you should make, giving them the benefit of the doubt, is that everyone is already at 100%. If you add another 10%, you can’t expect them to be equally productive now at 110%. Thus, 10% somewhere else has got to go, and suggestions from you on what that old stuff you are expecting to (or willing to) replace, can really help.
This doesn’t just apply to executives, but to leaders and managers at every level of an organization. Adding versus replacing is contributing to workplace overwhelm every day, and in small ways that add up to BIG drags on overall productivity.
When I coach clients to do audits for process duplication within their organizations, it is amazing how much they find, and how much “Listen, I don’t want to micromanage the thing” turns into “I can’t believe we still do this!”
Even with unanimous agreement on its breakthrough merits, no matter how extraordinary your new idea or captivating project might be, it will add to workload. Excitement dims quickly when the pep rally is over, and reality sets in. You’ve got to reckon with the domino effect any new project or strategic initiative can create, by always seeking to replace, and not just add. Own the 100% and help your organization realize the full benefit of your breakthrough ideas.
- ‘Ōpala ‘ole: More on de-cluttering work processes.
- Where’s the Boss? is about the boogeyman of micromanaging.
- A Reinvention Revolution talks about 3 Sacred Cows you can start with.
- When you’re ready for the great unveiling, check out Learn to Love Projects, or Run a WOW Campaign.
Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. For more of her ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com
Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: Your Final, Essential Hiring Question.
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