As a leader, you have to be ready to learn from others when the opportunity arises…even when that opportunity highlights your unintentional meddling in the work of your team.
“Sir,” began the staff manager, “I want to let you know about something that happened last week.”
“Sure, go ahead. You’ve intrigued me.”
“As you know, I was out of town and I left one of my team members in charge with clearly outlined plan of what to do. When I came in and checked with my team, I found out that they had changed the plan in my absence.”
“Why did that happen?” asked his supervisor, genuinely concerned.
“You, sir, are the reason.”
“What? I hardly recall speaking to your team at all this week except to cheer them on in their work and ask a few questions about what they were doing.”
“Yes,sir, when you asked questions, they changed what they were doing. While it all worked out, it introduced some problems I had to work on when I came back in today.”
How would you solve this situation? In the case of the supervisor and manager above, the solution involved 1) Clarifying the plan between all parties so that the supervisor could affirm the manager’s plan through the questions asked rather accidentally encourage a deviation; 2) Help other team members better understand why they were to follow a plan and help educate others who weren’t aware of the details.
If you haven’t had this happen to you as a leader, or as a follower, it can be quite entertaining. Consider when an assistant superintendent or superintendent level position holder asks a subordinate, “Could you evaluate this vendor’s product for use in our district?” The request promptly turns into, without any mal-intent on the part of the high level position holder, a mandate to adopt the product. It’s the power of authority wielded without intent and carefully considered purpose…and, at it’s best, results in unintentional meddling with established process and procedures.
In the example at the top of this blog entry, the supervisor found himself laughing at the situation. But then he remembered that he’d given the exact same advice about unintentional meddling to his supervisor.
While meddling may work for Scooby-Doo and his friends, it can be a major problem for leaders and their teams.
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