Sunday, 11 March 2012 00:00

Pushing String: Leadership And Attitude

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Image of 'I think, therefore I am dangerous'

The other day, someone said, once again, that an issue we were discussing was like pushing string. She said it with the sigh of resignation in her voice. I understand the metaphor, but the people saying it are stuck looking at the problem wrong. Immediately, two solutions to their dilemma come to mind. First, add a little water, freeze the string. Voilà! Push that string wherever your little heart desires. If that is too hard, then roll it into a ball or put it on a spindle. Now, we can push, roll, carry, and even throw it. The problem is the predisposition to the inevitability of the issue—there is no reason to look for a solution because it is out of our control. Worse than that, we are so defeated that we rarely ask the question "Why are we trying to push that string?"

The C-Suite's Offhand Request

This is never more evident than when orders come down from senior executives. Someone in the executive team mentions to his or her direct reports that a new report would be nice and, within minutes, the entire organization is realigned to complete the new report to please Ms. or Mr. C-Suite. Middle management overlooks the alternative of asking some simple validating questions to confirm priorities. Rather than probing and explaining the impact of implementing the new request, all other tasks become subordinate and everyone's schedules are re-planned to the new precedence.

Want to read more?

Strategy, alignment, communication of goals is not easy. Our Vision To Value white paper talks about focusing your team on the key strategic corporate goals and ensuring everyone in your organization knows the direction.

What Would Leaders Do?

Leaders, real leaders, not the ones described above, clearly communicate their wants and desired priorities. They do this in two ways:

  1. Simply asking what the effect will be.
  2. Surrounding themselves with people who routinely ask these questions or supply the required information.

I cheat. Since I am never an employee, I am, rightfully or not, immune to hopping over three or four levels of management and asking the question, "Is this new assignment really more important than what we are doing right now?" More often than not, the answer is "no," and the theatrics of trying to meet the executive's off-hand request quickly subside.

The source of this problem lies at the feet of the executives. They are the ones that set the tone and create a culture that is reactionary to their requests and stifle the subordinate's ability to question and set priorities. In these cultures, middle managers spend an inordinate amount of time guessing how to please their bosses at the price of getting the company's work done.

Leading Your Leaders

At this point, many would resign to throwing their hands up in despair, surrendering to the notion that management is all fouled up. My approach is to "push a little string." Executives do not have an exclusive on leadership. Leadership is a trait that all of us should be honing—regardless of our organization's culture. All these situations need is a little upward leading. Here are some rules to follow:

  1. Be passionately dispassionate. Objectivity is paramount. Passion is what everyone says they want, but when you are solving a problem, where emotions flare, stick to the facts. Make sure the pros and cons are objectively laid out in a logical manner to make a decision.
  2. Explain the problem. As so elegantly said by NASA's Mr. Wayne Hale, "remember that your leaders are not very smart." Assuming your leaders know the detail, or even the subject, of the issue you are addressing is a fatal mistake. You know every intimate detail of what you and your team are working on; your leaders do not, nor should they. They need the problem explained in concise, high-level, decision-making terms so they can give informed direction.
  3. Tell your leaders how to solve the problem. Always have two or three viable solutions to problems you escalate. Their job is to make decisions rather than figuring out all the workable solutions. They hired you to come up with the options.
  4. Ask your leaders for clarification and mentoring. If you and your team are having trouble establishing a set of practical solutions, ask for guidance. Although your leaders are often far from the technical aspects of your job, they once were doing what you are now, maybe with a typewriter, but they were there. They have a wealth of experience. Remember the adage, "Old age and treachery will out maneuver youth and skill."

The Right Problem Gets The Right Solution

The challenge is not pushing string. The challenge is looking past the obstacles and our biases and creating new methods to address them. What may seem impossible is only that way since we framed it incorrectly. Change the frame of reference and we can create new innovative solutions. In the case in point, deliberately taking steps to adopt the traits of a good leader, rather than sticking with those of a follower, will calm the seemingly knee-jerk reactions of lame leadership.

...And You?

How have you circumvented problems by changing the problem definition? Everyone would like to hear your technique.

Read 9284 times

Related items

  • Filling Execution Gaps

    Executives define vision, strategy, and goals to advance the business. Projects enable companies to meet those goals. Between strategy and projects, there is a lot of work to be done—work that lays the foundation for the projects’ success. Through experience and research, six common gaps exist in organizations that inhibit project success—absence of common understanding, disengaged executive sponsors, misalignment with goals, poor change management, ineffective governance, and lackluster leadership.

  • Get Recognized as a Leader: Four Core Leadership Actions

    Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if they do not necessarily agree with the decision. This session covers the four core leadership actions (listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and elimination of blame) that are critical in your journey as a leader. We discuss and practice these actions in small role-playing groups.

  • Build Your Leadership Style: Six Leadership Strategies

    As project managers, you need to change your leadership style based on the situation. The need for a situational style is more important in project management than in nearly any other business position. Commanding the six core strategies—directive, expert, consensus, engaging, coaching, and affiliative—allows you to build the style most appropriate for the conditions surrounding project.

  • Extreme Leadership: A Matter of Life and Death

    Leadership at any level of the company can save your business. It also saves lives. It could be your own life; it could be a stranger’s life. This opening or lunch keynote takes project management and leadership out of the mundane and safe work environment, inspiring your audience by seeing how leadership and good analysis shape and change lives.

  • Develop Your Inner Leader: Nine Leadership Traits

    One cornerstone of leadership is our personality traits. Project managers need to develop and hone nine core traits—accountability, ethics, inspiration, decisiveness, awareness, empathy, confidence, focus, and humility—to ensure they can lead our diverse work forces. This track session is a deep dive into these traits using a roundtable discussion format—the audience voices there opinion of what the trait is and the presenter moderates the discussion and gives guidance on what that means in a business setting.

Leave a comment

Filling Execution Gaps

Available Worldwide

Filling Exectution Gaps cover

Filling Execution Gaps is available worldwide. Below are some options.

 

PG DirectLogo
Limited Time Price $20.99
Amazon logo
Book or Kindle
Flag of the United States Canadian Flag Flag of the United Kingdom Irish Flag Deutsche Flagge
Drapeau Français Bandiera Italiana PRC flag
Japanese flag
Bandera de España
Flag of India
Bandera de México
Bandeira do Brasil
Flag of Australia
Vlag van Nederland
DeG Press Logo
Barnes and Noble Logo
Books a Million Logo
Booktopia Logo
Worldwide: Many other
book sellers worldwide.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Upcoming Events

Other's References

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.

Sitemap