How Leaders Frustrate Others
Last week, I frustrated someone, again. I thought I learned my lesson but old habits die hard.
There’s always room for improvement, from my point of view. Nothing’s ever done. I’m tempted to add to or modify projects while in progress. It feels great to me. I’m adding value.
Modifying project outcomes, after jobs begin, doesn’t excite people like it excites me. “Could we?” and, “What about?” are great before projects or tasks begin; frustrating after.
Completion is more important than minor improvement.
Don’t modify current tasks, finish them. Modifications confuse and hinder. People start wondering what they’re doing and what you want. They say, “I thought we were…?”
Checking tasks off is better than stopping to tweak them.
Improve processes, don’t change deliverables. Suggestions that simplify tasks and speed completion are welcomed. Improve oars in the middle of the stream, don’t modify destinations.
Complete tasks. Arrive before changing direction. Completing tasks is more important than tweaking outcomes. Minor corrections do more damage than good.
Know the difference between minor corrections and necessary course adjustment. Jump in quickly to avoid unforeseen rocks or storms, otherwise, hold the course.
Avoid costly mistakes; allow minor imperfections.
Save the day; forget minor adjustments. It’s ticklish to know when to step in. Err on the side of trusting good people.
This post concerns day-to-day projects and tasks, not strategic goals.
How can leaders add value when projects are in process?
How do you decide to step in or stay out?
It is always difficult to know when you are truly adding value or just “guilding the lily.” The best two pieces of advice here I think are:
1. Trust that you have put good people to work, and that they will get their jobs done, and
2. Understand your own motivations. What is the real benefit of what you are planning to do?
Are you really fixing something, saving money, imrpoving the final product or are you just bringing the spotlight back around to yourself.
Good stuff, as always.
Martina, thanks for referencing “the spotlight.” It takes humility to stay out of things and trusting others. Stepping in or staying out is often a battle between pride and humility. KaPow!
Thank you for this post. I’m glad that I’m not alone in this «frustrating others» thing anymore
Thanks and best wishes.
Oh…. I frustrated that same guy last week. ‘Why didn’t you think of that sooner?” It was really fair feedback.
I hear you…:-)
I must have been working under great leaders, as I rarely have someone “add value” once a project has been handed off to me and my team.
It’s evaluation time around my company. This is a good question for me to ask my employees about my own management style.
Ohhh good point and no one talks about that. Because knowing what you’re doing and where you’re going is great for employees at any level. If we mess with that, we risk turning the clear path into a maze with fuzzy obstacles. I will be sure not to stand in the way after reading this. (I will try) — Thank you, Dan
I agree with you. Improvement and modification is the process that never ends but completion ends. So, we need to complete one task so that we can start new. And of course if we need modification, we can incorporate in new task.
Value addition is always there and always will be there. But we need to see the time factor. Time is more important than just value. Value addition at early stage or before it becomes common is more powerful than it has become common.
How leaders frustrate others is the question of understanding and passion. When leaders fail to understand others, they might frustrate other unconsciously. Similarly, when they are very passionate in their activities or goal, they tend to overlook people. And this sometimes termed as arrogance and selfishness which is not necessarily bad option.
Wow, can I relate. I’ve made the mistake of adjusting the train and the tracks while the train is heading down the track. I’ve learned to be patient, to trust, but it’s hard to not tinker with the scope. I think it’s getting harder due to the rapidly changing world we live in where technological change seems to relentlessly change the game. I wonder what you think about agility in this context? How can we ensure agile projects / initiatives are possible while respecting the process and the current commitments?
Thanks for your post.
You’re post brought clarity to frustrations I have felt from leaders I’ve worked with…and unfortunately I’m sure I’ve done this to people who work with me. I try to ask myself, “In the end, will it really matter? Will they feel devalued if I tweak something they’ve put a lot of effort into?”
The best bosses I had let me vent my frustrations with a situation and then asked me what I was going to do about it. The worst ones jumped in to “fix” things for me which always made the situation harder for me. The lesson I learned was to ask “is there anything you need from me?” This allows the people around me to control their work but have a safety net if needed.
Of course, you must step in quickly if there is a major problem that can be avoided and prevent damage to people or the company.
Well intentioned, micro-managing, spotlight-swiping, constantly improving (in whose eyes?) noodlers…please step forward. Oh, hi Dan! 😉
It is good that you made the distinction of task or strategic goal.
Wonder if this makes the case for some advance prep/discussion of role, scope, and processing of the task. Once you have a common, transparent understanding…and agreement, then LET GO! If within that process, there is agreement, post-completion to do a 20/20 hindsight review/congrats on what worked, who worked, and what could be improved in the next cycle of a task, then you have probably completed a full circle approach. PDCA never ends.
On a darker note, if a leader keeps tinkering (from his/her lens- improving) with a set task assigned to someone else, on a number of levels, you are saying, that you don’t trust the person, that they are not competent to do the work, that they are not good enough for you. Yet, you hired and trained them….hmmm. Absolutely it is not the way you do it, so, why did YOU assign it to someone else. Eroding trust in assigned tasks can be cancerous…on many levels.
You last graph is spot-on Doc. In our office, we call bosses like that swoopers. And I try never to be a swooper. We have to always take into account the signal you send to your staffers through your tinkering.
And Dan, most critical point in your blog post was this: Know the difference between minor corrections and necessary course adjustment.
Today you sound like a project manager. All right!
I’ve always found it much more useful to my people and project to carefully think out a project, with the firm understanding of the use and objective of same, and allow the people to come with their ideas to improve the process, product or service as we work to implement. I find my people have always been the richest resource for success I ultimately can count on.
This is so me. And when I get energized about project I still do it – glad to hear I am not the only one. I call it the curse of the ENFP (in Myers Briggs terms). I try to remind my self to just log the idea for the three year review
Hi Dan, great points. There is always room for improvement always, from my point of view. We never should stop growing and therefore we should always be learning. Thanks for all of you daily wisdom. 🙂
That’s not just good advice for leaders – I know many pastors who commit this offence on a regular basis, but even when the only one you lead is yourself.
Otherwise you don’t ship!
So glad I found this blog – mega helpful! 🙂
If you are out on the leading edge working with transformational disruptive technology which morphs as you go, or the external environment shifts often/suddenly, these rules need re-negotiating…I have worked with exec. teams for 30 years…we negotiate what the process will be along with what the task will be…in high-change arenas, no one needs to be offended if changes come, for many things could not have been anticipated…being nimble requires more collaborative rather than traditionally top-down linear, delegate-then-leave-it-alone scenarios. Using strengths- and greatness-based change systems for 30 years, clients and I learned that a positive culture gives much more synergy and flexibility without upsets, name-calling (“swoopers”) etc. Also a great career development boost for all.
Dr. Linne Bourget MA MBA Ph.D.
CEO, Institute for Transformation Leaders & Consultants
Economist, Positive Change Leadership Pioneer
Fortune 10, 50, 100 Consultant, Strategist, Trainer, Speaker
Author, 40+ Positive Leadership Books, etc. in the What You Say Is What You Get(R) Series.
hehehe … this is the tension between visionaries and delivery people. They can easily frustrate each other.
Largely though its a question of how can you effectively work with each other.
Baby steps or Agile delivery is one approach that allows for change in direction throughout the delivery.
An alternative is to let everyone have their day. Give the visionaries time up front to work out the best solution, then get out of the way so the delivery people can get it done.