I spoke at an organization earlier this year – and depending on who you asked, I TOTALLY BOMBED or was BEYOND AMAZING.
Mixed or less than entirely consistent results suck and are challenging learning experiences. And yeah, yeah, we grow and learn from them after agonizing for hours or days or weeks but the fact remains after recovering from the disappointment: it still sucks. Sorry, newer professionals this older professional is telling you the truth. Disappointing people sucks. Failing to resonate sucks. Getting a bad performance review or “failing” or “mixed” reaction sucks – and it doesn’t suck less with age and experience.
But that’s not the point of this story.
I’ve been mulling over the particular organization’s growth challenge AND that is where I got the message wrong. SO very wrong. What I needed to deliver was a direct, hard message – and yes, some large percentage of those assembled still could have hated me (and probably would have) but I would have said what REALLY needed to be said.
And I would have been OK with that “you sucked” outcome.
Here’s the deal. A fair number of individuals employed by this organization wanted to understand how they could, well, do less – in my mind, firmly on the “Me! Me! Me!” end of the work-life balance spectrum. Now, the organization as a WHOLE had a bigger goal. It was trying to reach the next financial success milestone. However, to get to the next level, it was obvious to me that everyone needed to do their part, chip in an extra effort…you know, equally distribute the weight…teamwork makes the dream work…but the “Me Me Need My Time” segment of the group gave no indication they were willing to pick up any damn part of the new goal load. Verbally supportive of reaching the ultimate goal, they cheered and remained firmly parked in the “why should I have to lift a finger more if so and so is already doing that” zone.
The not-my-job or not-taking-anymore-on mindset is so old economy folks. Ambitious goals require a collective effort.
AND here’s the SELF INTEREST part: to achieve individual goals within an organization everyone needs to regularly add a little something into the stockpile of collective efforts. Because the only way to lighten your individual workload is to help someone carry theirs.
Stop for a moment.
Take a look at the broader horizon of human dynamics in your place of work (how work comes in and how it gets accomplished). It should go without saying that when you reflect on this, you’ll very quickly realize that nothing gets accomplished in complete isolation.
BACK in the day when I had a J.O.B. in management, I was tasked with drafting and implementing a flex-work policy for the firm. It was a two-page document for those requesting a work accommodation to fill out. Approximately 10 questions long (from the proposed start date of the arrangement to whether the proposal was for a temporary or permanent arrangement as well as questions on promotion, bonuses and salary). There was no space for a requester to write WHY they wanted a flex-work arrangement. Nope. Not a line. Rather there was a lot of space to describe HOW they envisioned the work would get done when they weren’t there or were working remotely. What would the effect of the arrangement have on responsiveness to clients? What about the effect on co-workers and/or other project team members?
In my mind, if you weren’t thinking about and talking to and working through the dynamics of work with those colleagues you rely on to actually get STUFF DONE on a daily basis there was no way to get a flex-work arrangement approved (or darn near impossible).
So back to my presentation that sort of, kind of, depending on who you talked to, sucked.
I’m skeptical the organization will reach its desired year-end financial goal. If they do, it will be dumb luck or an absolute fluke and ultimately (IMHO) will be unsustainable (without a radical change in attitude towards teamwork by a large percentage of the organization). Reaching organizational goals requires everyone pushing the numbers up the balance sheet. It’s burdensome (and recipe for dissatisfaction) for a small group of people to drag a company forward, regardless of their talent and rainmaking skills.
If you’re part of team or department or functional unit, the reality is this: some days or weeks it may be your turn to carry a heavier burden – ‘cause you’re the one with the expertise or insights or client connection or whatever – and then guess what! next day or week or month it will be someone else’s turn. Imagine for an entirely self-focused moment that you have a regularly scheduled appointment that requires you to dash from work at a specific time – and one day, at the very exact moment you are about to walk out the door there is something THAT JUST has to happen to keep an account or client happy…are you going to be the jerk who casually and callously plunks it on someone else’s desk without a thought (other than “not my problem, I have to go”) or will you be the one others willingly, gladly, enthusiastically take up the slack for?