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February 1, 2005

Excerpts: Tell Me How I'm Doing - Part III

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 1:28 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Complete This Statement


The coach began. "Thanks for inviting me here today. Let's begin by having you complete this statement: `The biggest problem with being a manager is to get your people to . . .'"
After a brief pause, a colleague of Scott's replied, "Get them to do what they're
supposed to."
Another added, "Without whining or complaining." Several of the managers in the room nodded their agreement to this comment.
Still another colleague said, "I need my people to do it right the first time."
The coach asked, "Let me guess. For the most part your employees know what they're supposed to do?"
"Pretty much," someone responded.
"So I'm curious. If your people know what they know, why do some of them do what they do?"
There was a long silence in the room while everyone pondered the answer. Scott was thinking that the employees who had given him the most trouble that week pretty much knew what they should do, but they fought him at every step. Scott's face must have given his thoughts away because the coach looked at him and asked, "I can see the wheels turning. Tell us what you're thinking."
Caught off guard, Scott said, "I was thinking that no matter how much my people seem to know, it's hard to get them to do what they need to. I'm not sure if that makes sense."
"Sure it does. It makes so much sense that we're going to spend some time this morning figuring out the answer. I don't like to play games with blame, shame, and guilt, but in a situation where an employee knows what to do, how to do it, and even when to do itbut for some unexplainable reason chooses not to do itwhat is the root cause?"
No one answered, so the coach looked at Scott and asked, "What do you think? Who is responsible?"
Scott shook his head and said, "If my employee knows what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, but then chooses not to do it, it's the employee's problem."
The coach walked to the center of the room and took a drink of water. She looked in the eyes of the dozen people in the room and said, "What do you think: employee or manager?"
Most of the managers in the room smelled a trap, and those who didn't were unsure of the answer. Scott wasn't sure what she meant, but he was sure that there wasn't any way he was responsible for what his employees refused to do. In fact, Scott was becoming frustrated with this discussion, but he didn't want to be disagreeable with his boss in the room.
Sensing frustration in the room, the coach raised an eyebrow and with a slight smile said, "To answer that question, let me tell you why your boss described this presentation as a little `weird.' But before we do that, let's take a short, five-minute break. There is something I need to do."
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About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.