Recently I was brought into an organization for one of my least favorite types of engagements: helping to defend the parking company against a claim of unfair labor practices. One of the first steps with these types of issues is to review lots of employee documentation and when we got about it, I quickly learned that the employee records, amongst other things, weren’t separated by status (i.e., active vs. terminated) or alphabetized. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but when you have to review dozens upon dozens of files and the first step is this mini-scavenger hunt, your head can start to hurt early into it. When I asked the HR Director the “logic” behind this little organizational nightmare, she responded, “This is how the CEO wants it.”
Once again I was reminded of two common pitfalls many managers can fall prey to within their leadership practice; each seems to have the best of intentions at face value, yet, ironically can actually adversely impact the daily operations of their own organization.
Giving Direction Beyond the Area of Expertise. Sometimes executives feel compelled to weigh in on an aspect of the business with the belief that it’s their responsibility to know all the answers and make things better. The reality though, is they may lack the actual institutional knowledge to fully appreciate the particulars of any given process and the impact of the changes they implement. Take the above filing scenario, in speaking with the CEO he really believed it would be easier for HR to have all the files in one physical space and organized by hire date.
This is where I like to play the “Why Game”. If you are a leader of others and are about to make a change to an existing practice, ask yourself why; not just why the change but more importantly, why do you want to get involved with something you may not know much about? Keep asking that question until you identify your honest intent and if the answer doesn’t match up to what’s best for the department and individuals involved, trust that they are the experts and resist the temptation to make changes just because you can.
Examine Your Decision In Action. When I asked the CEO when was the last time he visited the employee file room, he asked, “Why would I go in there?”
Ahem. Clearly the connection between setting a directive and its impact on the daily task of recordkeeping wasn’t in the forefront of this executive’s mind. There lies within a great lesson of leadership: let those closest to it own it. Just because the job title may contain manager, director, vice president, etc., doesn’t mean one has to get involved with the “doing” of any particular work process; the reality is the higher you go up the ladder the more you have to rely on influencing others to get stuff done. Put your directives to the test by literally seeing for yourself the subsequent results and asking those who are responsible for carrying it out if they believe it’s the best way to go.