Many organizations still focus the majority of their decision making on one person or one small group of people at the top. This concentration of decision making isn’t just inefficient, it’s degenerative. No organization that maintains such centralized control over decisions will be able to adapt at the speed required by today’s markets.
The other key to promoting autonomy is to ensure individuals and teams have the skills they need to act on the clarity that comes from strategic thinking. Skills are honed through delegation. Managers must practice delegation to successfully develop new skills in their direct reports. And yet, good delegation skill is more rare than it should be.
Teams can then take the clarity they capture from long-term strategic thinking, the capabilities they’ve built by having decisions delegated to them, and combine them into action that is fast, flexible, and responsive.
Why is defensiveness such an obstacle to collaboration? When we get defensive, “we put way more into self-preservation than we do into problem-solving,” Tamm says. “We’re trying to prove that we’re right rather than search for creative solutions.” When this happens in a workplace, it can be a recipe for chaos and failure.
OK, now that we understand the dangers of defensiveness, here’s what we can do about it. You can start by learning to spot the warning signs of defensiveness in yourself. When you feel yourself experiencing them, pay attention and take action. According to Tamm, here are the 10 most common warning signs that you may be getting defensive: A spurt of energy in your body; sudden confusion; flooding your audience with information to prove a point; withdrawing into silence; magnifying or minimizing everything; developing “all or nothing” thinking; feeling like you’re a victim or you’re misunderstood; blaming or shaming others; obsessive thinking; and wanting the last word.
We confuse clarity/coherence and certainty. If clarity/coherence equals certainty, and a strategy is supposed to be clear and coherent, then unless we are certain, we can’t have a strategy. Meanwhile some high percentage of the audience for our strategy wants certainty. If they haven’t heard confident certainty, then they haven’t heard a strategy.
The unlock, I think, is realizing that you can confidently communicate a coherent strategy that also acknowledges uncertainty. You know what you know. You assume what you assume. You believe what you believe.
You could say, then, that by the late 1960s, software development was facing three crises: a crying need for more programmers; an imperative to wrangle development into something more predictable; and, as businesses saw it, a managerial necessity to get developers to stop acting so weird.
A feedback process 100% aimed at professional growth would, I suspect, be totally divorced from promotions and compensation bumps. Not because those things should be unrelated to professional growth but because truly reflecting on how you can do better and being open to feedback from your peers and managers is already tremendously difficult; when you are also worrying about whether or not you’re going to get that promotion or raise you were hoping for, it’s probably impossible.
Lots more in there on feedback, biannual reviews, titles, promotions, and the role of management.
A promotion to a higher job level puts you in a more influential position. You are being given more responsibility. It’s not a reward. Instead, it’s the company granting you more influence.
Of course, increased pay often accompanies a promotion. However, the added responsibility is the reason the company did the promotion, not the compensation.
Those who run the company are always looking for people to take on more responsibility. They’re looking for people who can come up with the next business idea, lead larger spaces, identify opportunities, and fix recurring problems. It is relatively easy to find people who are good at their jobs, and hard to find people capable of doing the next level job.
Circling back, companies promote people into larger responsibilities when that person looks like a leader. Leaders identify their own opportunities.
First, PfP is an extremely blunt instrument. Roy’s machine shop illustrates it well. The incentive doesn’t skew behavior a bit: it skews behavior immensely. Almost half of the total observations are in a narrow band around the rerate line. And it isn’t even a management-defined line. It is the guesstimate of workers as to at what point management might take deleterious action. Management isn’t even in control of the impacts of its own system.
Unless you understand “why” things are the way they are (and there often is a method to every madness, if you’re patient to dig deep enough), any proposal you might have on “how” to improve the situation might end up very much going against the grain, making it that much more of an uphill task for your proposal to be accepted. Furthermore, it’ll make it seem as though you put in no effort to understand the history of the system, which doesn’t exactly breed a lot of confidence into why you should be entrusted with fixing the system.
And to make a long rambling story even longer and more rambling, being a manager or director or VP is kinda like this all the time. You just navigate fucked up policy after policy, deciding which pushback will work or which you have the energy for
And you will reach a limit because it’s fucking exhausting to unwind corporate cognitive dissonance all day every day, and so a bunch of unfair, ridiculous things just persist because you don’t have the mental wherewithal to keep fighting for everything.
(this is not even to account for doing the exact same thing for product and technical stuff on your team). Knowing your limit of this is a good indicator if you would succeed and enjoy management at any given scope of team/size of company
One financial lesson they should teach in school is that most of the things we buy have to be paid for twice.
There’s the first price, usually paid in dollars, just to gain possession of the desired thing, whatever it is: a book, a budgeting app, a unicycle, a bundle of kale.
But then, in order to make use of the thing, you must also pay a second price. This is the effort and initiative required to gain its benefits, and it can be much higher than the first price.
But no matter how many cool things you acquire, you don’t gain any more time or energy with which to pay their second prices—to use the gym membership, to read the unabridged classics, to make the ukulele sound good—and so their rewards remain unredeemed.
“Holding accountable” is code for blame, the attempt to avoid or deflect consequences. Blame is a weak premise from which to work. Blame requires that you spend time and energy protecting yourself. In an environment of blame it is not safe to say what you do and don’t know. Blame leaves everyone worried about who is out to get them. All the energy they spend hiding could be spent interacting and adding value to the project. Work gets done much less efficiently.
Accountability is a powerful premise from which to work. Working well and visibly builds strong relationships. Accepting responsibility sets the stage for satisfaction in a job well done. It’s a pity that the word “accountability” is misused, because the misuse obscures a useful concept.
Accountability can be offered, asked, even demanded, but it cannot be forced. “I hold you accountable,” doesn’t make sense. “I blame you,” or, “I hope you will accept the consequences,” are at least honest, even if they are a toxic basis for a working relationship. Managers can request or demand accountability. For example, a manager could ask that the software be ready to deploy at the end of every week so that the team’s progress is visible. From the other side, accountability can be offered even if it isn’t requested. “I can show you a log of how I spent my time last week,” is an offer of accountability.
The only way to change people is to tell them in the clearest possible terms what they’re doing wrong. And if they don’t want to listen, they don’t belong on the team.
Those turnarounds taught me a fundamental lesson about leadership: You have to be honest with people—brutally honest. You have to tell them the truth about their performance, you have to tell it to them face-to-face, and you have to tell it to them over and over again. Sometimes the truth will be painful, and sometimes saying it will lead to an uncomfortable confrontation. So be it. The only way to change people is to tell them in the clearest possible terms what they’re doing wrong. And if they don’t want to listen, they don’t belong on the team.