Is There a Fourth of July in England?


“Do they have a Fourth of July in England?”

Two of three responders answer, “Yes.”

When I asked a large group in managers in Canada, “Do you have a Fourth of July in Canada?”

Eight of ten said “No.”

We discussed the issue for a while, and a person commented, “I think they do have a Fourth of July in England, but it’s in August sometime.”

This exchange represents a common and frustrating aspect of human communication.  Employees sometimes resist management communications, not necessarily because they disagree; but because they make different assumptions.  For example, do you assume “July 4” to be a calendar day or a national holiday?”

While we commonly assume that words have the same meanings to all, this is often not the case.  For example, we use the simple word “run” to mean very different things.    “Let’s run to the store,” “My watch has run down,” “We scored three runs,” “Nice trout stream run,”  “Running after kids,”  “Run in my stockings,” and many, many more.

When there is apparent disagreement, the first action should be to explore and explain the assumptions of each party.  Rather than assume disagreement, start the conversation with, “What did you interpret my message to mean?”  A reply might be, “Here is what I intended for it to mean?”

Leaders May Sometimes Need to Temporarily “Burn” a Relationship


“I have a good relationship with Fred,” the manager commented.  “He is a good performer and team player, but he continues making excuses for not using our new scheduling system.”

“What are Fred’s reasons for not using the system?”

“I’m not sure Fred’s concerns are legitimate, but he says the new system requires too much documentation and takes too much time.”

“Does Fred’s failure to comply cause problems?”

“Oh yes!  We have to do time-consuming work-arounds.”

“Tell Fred that you will treat failure to comply as insubordination.”

“He would not like that.  It would surely dent our relationship.”

The manager is very conflicted.  Maintaining a good relationship means extra work and sets a bad example for others.  Requiring compliance burns a good relationship with a high performer.

Effective leaders are both demanding and friendly.  But sometimes they must require others (even friends) to do things they resist.  Such actions may cause the relationship needle to point south.

If fractured relationships reach critical mass, staff may in effect “fire” the leader.  Resisting staffers apply so much pressure that higher authorities decide they are better off with the leader being gone.

When leaders consciously sacrifice relationships in service to the mission, it is imperative that these leaders, in the following weeks, make every effort to restore their relationships.

 

When an Employee Gives You a Relationship Assignment, Don’t Take It


Askov, an employee, says to his manager, “I don’t work very well with Renfro.”

“What’s the problem?” the manager replied.

“He’s hard to communicate with.  He doesn’t listen.  Never makes eye contact.  When I ask him about something, he doesn’t give me a good answer.  It makes it hard for me to do my job.”

It appears that Askov is surfacing a problem between him and Renfro and asking the manager for help.  However, Askov is most likely setting a trap for the manager.

Should the manager investigate, he will likely discover that Renfro has a very different take if he has an opinion at all.  The manager may have the detective skills of a Scotland Yard lifer, but he will not likely be able to resolve the issue to Askov’s satisfaction.

However, Askov now has cover and does not have to be accountable for his behavior.  After all, if the manager could not fix Renfro, why should Askov be expected to do so?

When employees try to give you assignments, don’t take them.  The manager could have mirrored Askov’s communication, as in, “So you and Renfro are not working together so well?”   Likely the manager will get from Askov, “That’s right, Renfro can’t communicate.”

Then the manager can refuse Askov’s assignment with a, “How can you deal with that and still get your work done?”

 

 

 

Effective Leaders Try to Avoid “Wimp Wins”


compromise-16“I know this project is important,” admitted Jason, “but I’d like to schedule a week of vacation next month.”

“Jason,” the manager replied, “your contributions are critical to the project’s mission.  There is no way we can meet the deadline if you are gone.”

“I know,” said Jason.  “Five of my close college friends had a gathering planned for November, but a friend called yesterday and said they were rescheduling it for September.  Many of us haven’t seen each other in years.”

After further discussions, the manager and Jason agreed to a compromise.  The manager would approve three days of vacation and explain to the stakeholders that the project would need a little more time and budget.  Jason agreed to work the weekend prior to leaving for vacation and get as much done as he could.

This compromise is a “wimp win.”  Both Jason and the manager can live with the outcome, but both are troubled with the agreement.  For the manager, the project is late and Jason misses part of the reunion.

Before agreeing to compromises, strong leaders exhaust all options for all parties.  Perhaps they can move the reunion to October.  Maybe Jason can put in more time prior to going and be available via technology during the reunion.

Be wary of wimp wins.  Unfortunately, a pattern of compromises increases the likelihood of a growing bitterness among the parties.