Change is hard. We’ve all heard that and I suspect we’ve all endured the truth in the statement. But consider it objectively; dissect it, starting with change. What is change? A deviation from routine – a variation of something done routinely or regularly. But is that so bad? For example, there is massive construction taking place on the road on which I take to work every day. No way around it; we’re on a peninsula so only one road in or out. Currently 4 lanes down to 2; serpentine lanes at that. With 4500 people a day funneling through. But we manage. No one likes it, but it’s not all that hard. So that change is not hard. Uncomfortable perhaps, but not hard.
Yet another friend of mine is leaving work after 43 years. Our paths have intermittently crossed multiple times; sometimes placing us together for years, only to move away to different areas, and sometimes only a passing in the hallway. But for the last 5 or 6 years, daily interaction. Most mornings he’d stop into my office around 4:30 or 5AM and chat for 15 minutes: work, family, news, whatever….. But Monday will be his last stop in with me. That change is hard.
I have a new boss; almost diametrically opposed from my last one. Expectations, goals, wants & needs, desired level of information and feedback is completely unknown; hot buttons will be found the hard way. I’m feeling the need to “prove myself” although there should be no need; I’ve been very successful through my career and have accomplished much and that should stand on its own. And normally would; but he is brand new to our company, brand new to almost everyone who works there, and is even brand new to the East Coast! And this change is hard.
Which got me to thinking about being a boss, a leader. I think of it often, especially since I moved into a leadership role 10 or 15 years ago. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously and wrestle with daily. Most people who leave their job do so because they do not like their boss. Let’s face it – work is hard – that’s why they pay us to do it! There is no need for me to make it harder. But how to make so many people content? The diverse personalities, the vast spectrum of backgrounds, and certainly the endless different perspectives. At one point this year, I had over 260 people in my organization; there is no way to please them all! And of course, I am there to achieve company goals and objectives; to ensure quality and to drive cost and performance – not to please everyone who works for me.
So as so much else in life, it becomes about balance. Trying to balance my obligation to the company as a manager with the needs and well-being of all my people; drives me crazy sometimes. Being consistent yet not so rigid that there’s no room for compassion or mercy; recognizing people have lives outside of work and those lives can be filled with problems and loss and despair while still trying to drive cost and schedule – all daily challenges. Understanding what people need form their leader versus what they expect: because if you try to give everyone what they expect, you’ll appear fickle, indecisive, and inconsistent and you’ll break your mind.
People come to work to earn a paycheck and provide for their families, but they also come to work to contribute, to be a part of something bigger, to express their skill and talent in a constructive way. The worst thing a boss can do is stifle that, yet unfortunately that is the easiest thing in the world to do to them. It is just too easy to micromanage, to discourage, to not train them and not lift them up in a million different ways. I am very good at tactical problem solving and it is too easy to just direct one thing or another; that’s not leading, that’s dictating and no one wants that.
People need to be praised, uplifted, recognized for their efforts; not reminded that we’ve slipped on our cost or schedule. But of course, attaining corporate goals are an integral part of managing; it’s what I am paid to do. So how to drive performance and still fulfill the needs of your folks? Simply let them do what they do best. Allow them to grow, to reach out, to try, to develop their skills. Encourage, shelter, coach, and let them be. They are there to achieve, not be mindless minions; let them do it. And that change for me, dear reader, is not hard!