Overcoming the 7 Deadly Results of Meddling
Passion for excellence, demand to meet numbers, slow progress, and fierce competition drive managers to step in and “help.”
Never help without asking, it’s meddling.
Ask first; ask often.
Don’t reserve, “How can I help?” for short-fall situations. It sends a message. They aren’t cutting the mustard.
Build supportive cultures by asking, “How can I help?” first and frequently. Ask when things are great.
Avoid, “Do you need help?”
“Do you need help?” is a yes or no question suggesting failure, distress, or weakness. “How can I help?” implies good will and collaboration.
What if they don’t know?
It’s your fault if they need help and don’t know it? Goals are fuzzy, deliverables are distant and obscure, feedback is rare, or reporting is sporadic. Clarify expectations up front. Ask, “How is your project going?” more often. Meddlers unexpectedly intervene in the middle.
Don’t meddle in the middle; help along the way.
Address a foggy middle with collaborative conversations. Clarify goals and outcomes. Set dates for progress reports. Ask, “How can I help.”
- Suggests disappointment.
- Controls and frustrates.
- Begins with your frustration and creates frustration in others.
- Ends thought. They say, “ OK, what do you want to do?”
- Weakens relationships.
- Instills confidence.
- Releases and frees.
- Ends frustration.
- Invites creativity.
- Strengthens connections.
- Affirms others and equalizes social status.
Today’s challenge: Ask, “How can I help?” twice before lunch and twice after lunch.
Thanks to the former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, Doug Conant, for his passionate, “How can I help?” approach to leadership. It helps me.
Great insights from my Facebook family: Helping becomes meddling when ______.
How does meddling make you or others feel?
What does healthy helping look like from your perspective?
As you have defined them Dan, meddling is not helping.
Helping moves things forward, keeps to the agenda or program, and should leave everyone feeling positively about the interaction. And, if done correctly it should be a learning experience to the person being helped.
Meddling, I think, tends to be more self- or ego-driven. It is more about what we think of ourselves, our skills and our fund of knowledge than about truly being helpful for the benefit of someone else.
How does meddling feel? It feels like interference. It feels like unnecessary micro-management. It is defeating and exasperating. It makes most people want to quit doing their part of a project.
Well, that’s what I think anyway…
Thank you Martina. You added so many powerful ideas. Meddling feels like “interference.” KaChing… you nailed it.
I hadn’t thought about the ego side of meddling…frankly, it makes me squirm because it’s hits the mark.
Meddlers make others hand their part of the job over … I’ll add it paralyzes too.
I agree that meddling with invitation de-motivate. Meddlers generally try to intervene to show their knowledge. Meddling is more of a habit which generates from impatience and arrogance.I also believe that meddling depends upon the relationship with the target or source. When meddler is very familiar and have been doing previously, it is very common for him. But there are situation where I feel, we should meddle irrespective of whether we know the target or source or not. For example, when someone is cheating, wrongdoing and sabotaging the people, place or relations. So, I think, intention plays a great role in meddling. But habitual meddling is dangerous and it is disastrous effect. Habitual meddler minimize their space and everyone try to maintain distance.
I think their may be healthy meddling sometimes. But before that you need to realize your presence and credibility. Both source and target should accept you and believe your credibility. When they accept you, you can be successful meddler.
Love where you took this Ajay. I’ll use the term intervention.
The relationship component is useful. I work with some that I meddle with and they meddle with me. We are okay with it. Our mutual respect is well established. It motivates. I think it’s rare.
Thanks for great insights…
Okay-but what happens when you HAVE to get in and correct the course-due to time/money (same thing)? How can you NOT meddle?
I am making changes in the way my reports operate. Much of this HAS to be done. One of my reports finally came around when that person realized I was not looking to eliminate them but rather strengthen their position and add key responsibilities and eliminate some of the day-to-day minute responsibilities.
The other one is fighting me tooth and nail, in spite of my sharing, over and over, direction from the top and what my expectations are of that person. I have said it to them-the last thing I want to do or you want me to do is micro-manage. I have been clear in my communication and expectation.
Part of the problem is the difficult employee is nearly 20 years my senior and with the company 17 years. I am here 1 year. However I have more experience in the industry and immediately recognized the challenges of the course.
What is my option besides meddling? I’ve tried to help first.
Thanks for jumping in. Perhaps some of the regulars will have something to add.
It’s so true! Things change when we are in the middle. And rightly so.
You already went the path of trying to collaborate. Worked with one but not the other.
Have you asked them what makes them feel resistant?
Regarding the age. What if you ask them for their advice on how to deal with this situation?
What happens if they continue to resist?
Just some thoughts…perhaps others will join in…
Dan is right. Your challenge is for you both to be able to name the resistance you are getting. You’ve made your point clear and you still get resistance. The person understands what you want them to do so don’t focus on explaining. You could feedback what you are hearing from your report and how it makes you feel. You want to understand why they are resisting. They may open up and you can collaborate on a solution. If not, you have to lead those who will follow, and supervise those who won’t. Good luck.
My three cents of armchair leadership…
Within reason, all involved parties need to know the ‘whys’ course correction. If that knowledge and rationale has not been thoroughly shared, there may be less of sense of urgency. Urgency is in the eye of the beholder. How and when we share that view is important. Pace and timing play a role too.
In your first year there, how many course corrections have had to be made? Being the ‘new kid on the block’, it’s always always a challenge to respect the past and keep moving ahead with new initiatives that are urgent. Are you or others perceiving that it is a series of reactive activity rather than proactive? Have you felt that you have had to ‘meddle’ frequently? If so, there is are other flawed processes occurring. Band aids don’t work well on arterial bleeds.
While it may seem very repetitious to you, often things to do not sink in (at any age) unless repeated in different ways and connected. So, it also is a case of WIIFM, find the hook. The second person you identified, with all those steps already taken might benefit from a serious sidecar meeting that focuses just on interpersonal dynamics, not situations, with a view toward improving not dwelling in the past. Otherwise, that’s why there are HR departments and processes.
Hang in there….
Dripping with wisdom and experience. Thanks Doc!
People accept changes/course corrections that they participate in making.
And absolutely there are degrees of participation.
There are times when we have a voice and there are times when we have a vote. They are not the same, although some assume it. What type of decision process it is may be driven by external factors, own that and be clear about it.
Do not mask the decision making process. If a leader creates an ‘illusion of input’ while already having made a decision, that becomes easily apparent.
Excellent post, Dan. Meddling is not the same as helping. Often it is the result of things like 1) Having inadequate reporting and/or metrics to keep the leader/manager up to date without his/her intervention. 2) Insecurity and/or pride on the part of the leader/manager 3) Hiring or promoting weak managers, then trying to do their job instead of developing or replacing them 4) Not enough “managing by walking around” and consistent communication to allow the leader to trust and be trusted, “feel” the needs of the organization and respond appropriately 5) Leaders who manage by firefighting crises rather than planning and ensuring good processes.
YOu wisdom and insights shine through. Thanks Marc.
Number 3 speaks to the core element in success or failure, PEOPLE… One of my favorites. Cheers
You are absolutely right to jump in as required to support the organization’s goals if your subordinates can’t/won’t fix things. It is your responsibility as an organization steward. If it happens often, though, and especially with one person, you need to take action to correct the underlying causes.
Jellison, Jerald (2006). “Overcoming the Dynamics of Change”. New York: McGraw-Hill. provides a lot of good input on how to deal with resistance.
I can’t pretend to have the right solution to deal with the 20-year employee, because I’m not living your situation. There may be a mix of jealousy on their part because you got the job they wanted, some fear of change on their part, some conflict that has not been forgiven, some insecurity on your part, something troubling them at home, a person who is simply in the wrong place and shouldn’t be leading, or something else.
It is important to realize, as you have done, that as a leader and organizational steward it is you who must take the initiative to make this work. At issue is not who has the most experience, but what is good for the organization. The present conflict is not resulting in good things, so maintaining the status quo is not an option. Seek counsel, as you have done, then act humbly and persistently to correct things.
In my first job managing a few hundred people through subordinate managers back in the 1980’s, I also managed a strong-willed person with years of experience who managed his people by fear and manipulation, and did everything he could to make my life miserable and resist the direction the organization needed to go – mostly because he was insecure and self-centered. He fawned upon and people higher up, and was considered practically “untouchable”. I should have tried to correct things by frank conversations and actions, or let him go, but was young and insecure myself, so simply worked around him, ignoring his inacceptable behaviors. I was wrong. My lack of action was not good for the organization.
You honor us with your story. Loved reading and learning from you.
Thank you Marc!
An interesting thing happened this morning-not 30 minutes after I posted…
The person came in for an hour from their vacation time. They worked on something that was on deadline and then came over with some positive news on one of the things they were pushing back on with me. It was like night and day.
I think the time off probably helped put things in perspective for them. It will be a different challenge next week when executive management shares some of our plans on the go forward and some modifications of roles to properly grow the business and correct the issues our customers have been asking about (not end-users).
This shall be our next challenge!
On a side note-they have so much time off that they can’t take it all and do take their job very seriously. I have no issues with work ethic-just direction. The prior manager didn’t push back and that left room for resistance.
thanks for sharing this interaction. Interesting that time off might be helpful to this situation. time away helps us find perspective.
Meddling, in this case, might be too much time WITH…
That side note is an excellent opportunity too define how much you value them, their work, their health, and how important it is to get away and recharge (and have a fresh perspective). However, if people can’t get away and use the time they have earned, sounds like there is a disconnect in the perception of how many/who is needed to keep the work seriously in gear. That needs leadership understanding from the ground/gemba up.
One of your best, Dan!
Thank you Paula.
I was on a 100 mile bike ride with the local club. Near the end, I rode up to a woman whose bike chain had come off the derailleur. She was a good rider but a fairly new one, not too familiar with her bike. I stopped and asked her if she needed help. I could tell she was reluctant to give up on getting the chain back on so I watched a minute and then offered a suggestion that helped her solve the problem. She gave me a smile and rode off. Later she thanked me for the guidance and not solving the problem for her. She wanted to own the whole ride and learn. We both learned something.
Beautiful… thank you Glenn.
Reblogged this on strengthsessions.
Meddling destroys trust. People need to know that you trust them to do their work. An indication of trust, and the power to take action is an immediate boost to a person’s productivity.
I cant begin to count the ways or times over my years how many situations that would normally have been brought swiftly to resolution dragged on and on. Taking a step back at those times asking self “what can we do differently here?” to move forward, only to discover “well meaning” meddlers unwittingly (or even knowingly) sabatoging, or at least undermining, the process.
Don’t assume; Ask.
The most reliable way to overcome the seven deadly results of meddling? . . . Be a prudent, circumspect, reflective and wise enough leader to not do it in the first place.
Great post. Meddling is such an awesome word. I think it stems from situations where caring conflicts with trust. You care about the results and you care about the person but you don’t trust them to do the right thing. Awful combination as it destroys any benefits to be derived from caring.