What were you thinking?

Not long ago I was having drinks with a friend and she was discussing an issue at work.

Seems her boss had asked her to do something and my friend didn’t think the idea was too sound. Listen, my buddy is sharp and experienced and I normally am pretty supportive so when she broached the difference with her boss I just assumed she was right. Prolly just another instance of a boss making an irrational request.

But my friend wasn’t finished. Turns out after what she described as a long and somewhat testy meeting in which she told her boss the change wouldn’t work she was simply told to do so. We see that a lot: at some point after reasoned debate and passioned exchange all of us get told to just go do something. To make it happen.

But here’s where things got a little hinky for me.

My friend told me her followup plan the very next day was to meet with all the stakeholders who would have to play a part in making the change happen and ask them more or less if they liked the idea. Apparently (I mean, I wasn’t in the conversations so how could I know?) she did not tell them she had a directive to do this. It was more of a “is this a good idea, or should we do what we’re doing now?”

Uh, that’s lame. Its not smart, and its bad.

Of course, my friend didn’t really appreciate my reaction and got a little defensive. Over time things will smooth out – one incident doesn’t make a relationship – but my advice to her is the same as I share with you: get very clear on your focus because whatever you think you can or can’t do will probably happen.

In this case let’s examine her boss’ reaction to her update. My friend will report she’s convened all the stakeholders and they don’t think this is feasible. How well do you think that’s going to go over? I’ve spent my entire career in technology or manufacturing companies: let me tell you what any of my bosses would have said to me if I reported this to them. I didn’t ask for another opinion, I told you to get it done.

Now, maybe my friend’s boss is a little less direct but that’s not the point: the point is what is your focus?

When we’re tasked with something that’s a challenge we have a binary question to answer: are we going to focus on how to make something happen and along the way iterate all the things that have to occur to support that? Or, do we conspire to identify all the roadblocks that prevent us from making change?

Ask yourself a different question. Do you want the people reporting to you concentrating on all the things keeping them from making your directives happen, or to focus on getting it done whatever it takes?

Be careful what you focus on because it will probably come true.

And in life, we like to hang around with the do’ers – not the status quo crowd.

What are you thinking?


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