A Leadership Pet Peeve About The People Doing the Work

I must admit I have a good number of pet peeves in leadership. Leadership is hard. But, there are some principles in leadership, which simply need to be adhered to for good leadership.

Let me share a story as an illustration of one of my pet peeves.

Years ago, I had a boss tell me who to place on my team. He told me how to conduct sales meetings with my department. He told me what each person’s assignments would be. And, he told me how to conduct the meeting – going as far as to write out my agenda.

He wasn’t going to be at the meeting. He didn’t actually know the people on my team. He was holding me accountable for results in sales, but yet he continually gave me the script for how to do my job. I had to turn in reports, which indicated I had followed his agenda.

I hated it. I felt so controlled. My team, with whom I was very open and honest, were frustrated. And, when I could, I secretly altered things and scripted my own way. Maybe it was rebellion – okay, it was rebellion, but, I never thought he was practicing good leadership. And, I experienced direct results in employee morale.

Here’s the pet peeve, which developed from this experience.

If you aren’t going to be doing the actual work, don’t script how it’s done.

As a leader, you can share what you want accomplished. That’s vision-casting.

You can set reasonable boundaries. This actually helps fuel creativity.

You can share your thoughts and ideas. It’s helpful. You probably have good ones.

You can monitor progress. This is your responsibility.

You can even hold people accountable for progress. It ensures completion.

But the people who are actually doing the work

The ones carrying out the plans – Getting their hands dirty –

Should determine how the actual work gets completed.

There, I feel better.

Any questions?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 21 Comments

  • John Miller says:

    Great stuff, as I leader of people who lead people, this is a sound reminder. I script the outcome through vision casting, not telling people where there hands should be. Thanks!

  • M.J. says:

    “If you tell people where to go, but not HOW to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.” GEN Geo. S. Patton

    With that said, with some managers/leaders, it makes me wonder if they are actually busy enough doing their job that they have to micromanage the staff. The cream always rises to the top, so by people’s work, you’ll know who you need to mentor more based upon results….that is, if you’re a good leader/manager.

  • Ron! I feel this is similar to micro-managing / backseat-driving. Such a behaviour exhibits poor delegation skills and poor confidence towards the team mates.

    In the story of "The Go Getter" by 'Peter B. Kyne', at the end, the hero William Peck tells his boss Cappy Ricks " You told me what to do, but you did not insult my intelligence by telling me how to do it. ."

    I think this holds good in any situation.

  • This frustrates me. Each day, I have a meeting with our senior management team at work. They want to hear how I view things and what issues I'm facing. The operations in the manager in the department always tries to pressure me to say what he wants at this meeting. Usually, I notice his intent in coaching me what to say is to cover up his own shortcomings in how he manages and leads.

    It's a difficult situation. I can either bring light to these process flaws and cause an awkward relationship with this man, or just follow his direction and see no improvements in our processes.

  • I do feel that there is one exception, and that is when you have to maintain consistency across personnel. I supervise my church's production team and am not always on-site to provide guidance during the service. However, I am still responsible for ensuring that there is a consistent experience for those in worship regardless of who is working that weekend. As such (and this goes especially for new volunteers), I do provide a "script" like you talk about since I've found that there are definite limits to how far training can go, and we don't have a large enough volunteer base to allow new volunteers to do as much shadowing as I would like. I also find that this provides a level of redundancy so that if we have any last-minute staffing changes (which, of course, happens on occasion), we have a larger pool of personnel to pull from to fill whatever position opens up at 6am on Sunday.

    That said, though, I always do make it my goal to empower the volunteers as much as I can. I know all too well that God tends to ignore whatever script I prepare, so I want the volunteers (and I think this is applicable in just about any situation) to be able to adapt as needed to whatever comes up that isn't planned for in advance.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Good feedback. It is a balance to maintain unity and yet allow individuality. I understand the scripting in training. That's what's made McDonalds and Chick Fil A where they can train thousands of workers to do consistently the same level of customer service.They key is what happens when that person is trained. Are they always under a script or are they invited to the table to offer ideas, make things better, and make individual decisions as needed. Like you said, you aren't always there. Sounds like you are doing that but to attract leaders we have to continually give away real responsibility.One way our tech person does this is to divide out responsibilities of oversight. Someone oversees cameras, someone audio, someone our online presence, etc.Thanks for your comment. It helps the discussion.

  • Rodney says:

    I've found you can tell someone exactly what you want OR you can tell them exactly how to do it. If you tell them exactly what you want, you can then hold them accountable for their results. If you tell them exactly how to do it and it doesn't work, you can only blame yourself.

  • Andrew Toy says:

    Leaders should only “write a script” if the other leaders aren’t presenting desired results. But if the results are high and the energy is quick, then yes, leaders ought to let that team flourish. It’s like the whole leading a horse to a river vs. giving him a drink mentality.

  • You've hit on a big pet peeve of mine, as well. I think it comes down to the idea that people want to delegate work but they don't want to delegate authority.

  • Mindi W. says:

    I concede your point, but as a business owner if you aren't getting results with your (unique) methods, you have two choices: do it the way the boss wants it done or move on to someone else's company. A boss can live with bad results if you are doing it in his preferred way. There is always the possibility that he knows something that you don't. Just sayin'.

    • Shari R says:

      I disagree, Mindi. In my experience, that type of micromanaging boss will not live with bad results but will instead blame you for them even if you are 'doing it his preferred way'. That's not only not leadership – it's not even good management.

    • ronedmondson says:

      I agree to a point. I've been a business owner. I couldn't live with people doing it my way if they weren't getting results. I'm too results-oriented. I may have to find some new ways, or some new people, but things have to be improving or I'm simply not satisfied for long. In my experience though, the people doing the actual work usually have ideas of how to do it well if we give them the room to explore it.

  • Bryankr

    I have had bosses to do me that way; I hated it! I knew that whatever I did was never going to be enough, no idea was going to measure up. I was in a Mgt position, but not allowed to do any! Talk about frustrating! Stress level was off the chart, as well. I still look back and thank God I am no longer there!

  • I think there could be two issues with a boss like that. Either he is insecure or he doesn't trust those he leads. In either case that is not leadership. It is management.

    As a leader, I must be secure enough to know that their is more than one way to skin a cat (or run a meeting).

    As a leader, I need to trust my people until they prove untrustworthy. If I can't trust my people then I have proven myself to be bad at hiring leaders. Again, I need the help.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Good word Dave. Thanks!

    • Ben Steele says:

      Yes, more than one way to skin a cat. I try to have the mindset of "whatever works." If the method gets results and isn't immoral why change it just because it's not how you would do it?

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