SUCCESS ISN’T always the best teacher. Consider this fictitious scenario: A young manager, Jim (OK, maybe not so fictitious), is faced with his first big staffing challenge: A high-performing employee approaches him and complains of feeling overwhelmed and overworked by her many duties. Jim thanks the employee for bringing the situation to his attention. He assures the employee he will figure it out.
Together they examine the employee’s responsibilities and identify the tasks that create challenges. They discuss options, such as working more efficiently, additional training and shifting responsibilities. They agree on solutions that maintain quality and ensure the employee can complete tasks and feel good about the job. Jim sets baseline goals and, together, they document progress each month. Problem solved.
NOT QUITE DEJA VU
Sometime later, another employee, Clyde, approaches Jim with what sounds like a similar issue. “The job has become so much more complicated during the past few years,” Clyde says.
“I know exactly how to fix this,” thinks Jim. “It’s as easy as repeating a successful plan.”
Jim meticulously copies the steps he took with the earlier employee. And the results? The proven plan fails.
Clyde seems disinterested in discussing options. It might be that he has not adapted to changing responsibilities, and no amount of planning will help. Or, Jim could have misinterpreted Clyde, who might be seeking a raise or, simply, acknowledgement of a job well done. In any case, Jim has more work to do, starting with communication.
LOOK TO THE PAST, BUT DON’T RELY ON IT
It’s helpful to examine past successes to find solutions for today’s problems. But if that were the only tool necessary for problem solving, then effective leadership would amount to selecting the right plug-and-play solution. It’s rarely that simple. People’s needs, organizational goals and the business environment constantly change. They must be understood and communicated for any business solution to work. Success is a moving target. That’s (another) reason why your practice needs you. OM