My last blog pertained to being thrown under the bus and how to deal with that. (You Got Thrown Under The Bus?) This time I want to address another issue that continues to rear its’ head in business organizations. What happens when you are diligently doing your job as related to an announced goal for the company, department or team and suddenly the goal has been changed without you being told? As buses go, you find yourself on a bus … however it is suddenly the wrong bus headed in the wrong direction. Have you ever experienced or witnessed this? Chances are you have and it’s a complaint that I have heard often coaching in various organizations.
There are 3 key sources of the changed goals.
- The ones sitting at the helm of the company … often referred to as those in the ivory tower. Too often they appear to make decisions based on their perception of
things at any given moment. Although their intentions are for the good of the organization, they tend to alter the plan without consulting with those involved in more of a front-line role. If they did do so … and listened … their ultimate decision would reflect the reality of a situation and avoid what otherwise seems to be an arbitrary change.
- A manager who just wants to keep you on your toes. As self-centered and wasteful as this may sound, it is real. This manager considers it to be a way to keep reports alert and flexible. It is also a way of wasting money and resources.
- A person who just didn’t see a big difference. As such, they don’t communicate any changes to the plan or goal because in the big picture sense, it hasn’t changed that much. However, because they aren’t dealing with the detailed elements related to the goal they’ve made an assumption that undoubtedly causes frustration and wasted time/money.
- A person who is constantly changing his/her mind. This person just can’t seem to make up their mind as to how or when to do something. As one trying to carry out their contribution to the project it is simply infuriating. This is not necessarily the intent of the mind changer … rather just the way they operate having to do with their own inabilities.
Altering the direction and goal of any effort brings with it reactions that are anything but positive. Here are some of them:
- Extreme frustration – All of us ideally want to leave a day’s work feeling that we have accomplished what was expected as well as what we intended to do. To find out that we are suddenly traveling on the bus headed in a wrong or altered direction is exasperating for most people caught in this situation
- A desire to leave the job – This is especially the case when this has happened previously and is just the way that the one in charge operates. People are less inclined to excuse this happening especially when there is a pattern of this being some sort of ‘norm.
- Developing an ‘I don’t care’ attitude. And of course, this loss of positive energy and effort is a virus that can bring about the undoing of most any effort.
Before you would give into any of the above reactions I believe there are some things we can do that just might alter the situations you encounter and return calm, enthusiasm and productivity to your work. They are …
- Get detailed clarity about the announced goal. Rather than think you understand, verify your understanding by asking detailed questions. Truly aim to understand the big picture of where you are headed, the long-term goal and your specific role in achieving that. Do NOT presume that you understand and avoid questioning.
- Put your understanding of the goal in writing. Reiterate where you believe it is headed and your role in achieving it. Ask for definitions of terms used to describe the goal (what does ‘step it up’ mean?) and make sure you understand how this fits into the overall aim of the company, team or department
- Help the one in charge understand how you intend to work to do your part. Often times onebelieves that if I can see you I know you’re working. If I can’t I get concerned that you are wasting time. However, if the nature of your part in achieving the goal requires that you move around in some form, the boss needs to understand that and the reasoning behind it. In that he/she has not done your specific job, it is safe that they don’t really understand how it is best achieved.
- Let the ‘leader’ in on how you intend to approach your job as related to the goal. Frustrating to many overseers is not understanding the details of how you will accomplish your goal related tasks. Don’t presume that they don’t want to know. Ask them to listen to your approach and invite their questions and comments if they exist. In doing so you are getting their buy-in to how you intend to do the job. This tends to raise their sensitivity to making arbitrary changes that could throw you off base.
The message here is that we do NOT have to tolerate or accept the lack of clarity and understanding that can having us riding on a bus going somewhere other than where we should be headed. If we expect our leader to make changes that suit us we may have a very long wait when left up to them. However, by refusing to settle for situations that create frustration and dampen our enthusiasm and energy toward the job, we may have found the way to create a winning situation for all. Now that’s leadership!