3 Things I Learned from My Subordinates

Some days I feel like I’m on walking upward on a down escalator — my 25 years of supervising and managing experience isn’t getting me the results I want.   This past few weeks, the managers in my own department have been teaching me a few things:

1)  Know the “style” of the decision-makers in your business

When implementing change in the workplace, key decision makers are critical to have “onside”.  These key players may have different ways of gathering information, processing the facts, coming to conclusions and implementing changes or improvements to the business.

Some styles include:

      – the thinker:  he/she needs information a day or two ahead of meetings so they can mull over and think about the issues and facts at hand

      – the idea driver:  he/she wants the issues articulated but not solutions – they prefer to come up with their own solutions

      – the skeptic:  he/she is very unsure of input from anyone except close, trusted colleagues and advisors.  You will waste your time trying to convince this person of business issues until you spend a considerable length of time building trust and credibility on a personal level.  You may need to demonstrate either loyalty or high technical competence to gain this person’s trust.

     – the bottom liner:  he/she wants the problem and solution summarized quickly and succinctly.  Don’t waste their time (just watch their eyes glaze over) when you go on and on with lots of details and discussion

Adapt your approach to the appropriate style of the business decision-maker who you wish to influence.  Watch for clues as to each person’s style, and if necessary try different techniques until you find approaches that work.

2)  Prioritize your list of issues / initiatives using a mix of business agendas

Consider that your high priorities might not be the same as others in your business, especially leaders in other departments.  Pushing your highest ranking issues at all costs can isolate you and create subtle resistance to everything you are working towards.  Put yourself in the shoes of other departments:  what are their key initiatives?  How can your goals link with their likely goals?   Try finding common goals that you can build as winning initiatives for other stakeholders in the business; this will give you more likelihood of success.

3)  Be patient and work toward success in very small steps  

Executives can be very impatient, wanting results NOW!  (okay, yes, that’s me!)  One of my managers very wisely pointed out to me this week that my timing for pushing an initiative may not be in sync with the timing of others.  Sometimes, others are not “ready” for the changes involved.  Some leaders may need mulling or processing time to consider the risks and alternatives.  Some leaders will want more personal input into ideas or initiatives so they feel they have ownership of the results.  Some leaders will resist all suggestions and help until their own trusted colleagues support the initiative.

The key to success?  Know your customer and your colleagues.  This will help you create win/win opportunities with common goals / solutions, use a pace of change that is relatively comfortable for all parties, and develop approaches that encourage positive acceptance whatever the style of your key decision-makers.

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