I’m sure you have heard it before. The employee who second guesses your decisions, saying something like, “If I were in charge, I would…”
Or, you have to make a tough decision: cut costs, hire one person for an opening ahead of someone with more seniority, discipline someone, or reward someone else. The employee says something like, “Hey, that’s not fair. If I were the boss I would…”
Or you hear about people saying something like, “This guy’s an idiot. The answer is obvious. If I were boss, I would simply…”
Simple is not easy. Leaders have to settle for imperfect solutions. Sometimes, because of limited resources, and limited time, a leader has to learn to accept a problem and live to fight another day.
I like to talk to folks and listen to them and help them understand not only what I am doing, but why I’m doing it. That doesn’t mean that I run a democracy. I take input and ask for opinions, but as George Bush was so derided for saying, “I’m the decider.”
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Someone has to decide. Someone has to take the heat. Sometimes it is impossible to get people to understand your viewpoint. Sometimes it helps to have the other person change their physical perspective so it is easier for them to change their mental and emotional perspective.
A while back I had an employee I needed on my side for a major, upcoming change. I invited her into my office and asked her to sit down in the one of the two chairs sitting in front of my desk. I sat next to her. I never sit across the desk from people. I sit next to them so there is no physical barrier to create a mental barrier to conversation. I Never sit across from people unless I want to get them out of my office.
After I explained my thinking, I asked her to get up, and walk around to sit in my boss chair, behind my boss desk, in my boss office. I ask her to think about all the various competing deadlines and pressures, the limited resources, and the rest we just discussed. Then I said:
“I’m going to take a walk. Put yourself in my shoes. When I come back, I want you tell me what you would do if you really were the boss. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”
I walked around practicing MBWACPDTR . This is an unpronounceable acronym for “Management By Wandering Around Catching People Doing Things Right”
I came back in exactly fifteen minutes. I sat in one of the two chairs on the other side of my boss desk and asked,
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“So, how was it trying to make the decision from my perspective? Have you come to terms with my decision?”
Sometimes when I used this technique, the answer will still be “No, you are wrong. Or no, I don’t understand. Or no, respectfully speaking, your decision is idiotic.”
In these cases, my answer is, “I’m sorry I can’t get your agreement. I expect your support. I have done right by you and the organization. Give me the courtesy of respecting my position and work whole-heartedly to make sure we all succeed.”
Thankfully, many times the answer is, “I get it now, John. I sure am glad I don’t have to make the decisions you have to make.”
Thankfully, this was one of those times.
1. Understand that sometimes a change in physical perspective is necessary to come to a change in mental and emotional perspective.
2. Fill your people in on all the reasons for a decision or lack of a decision.
3. If all else fails, and it’s important to have the person on your side, ask the person to “Sit behind my boss desk, in my boss chair, in my boss office for the next fifteen minutes. Think about all the things I have shared with you about this decision from my perspective. When I come back, tell me if you agree or disagree with what I have done, and your reasoning.”
4. Even if you can’t get agreement, insist on support.
f5. Enjoy being a more successful leader.