July 28; How Does The Staffer Know When The Debating Is Over And The Action Begins?
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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Chapter Seven: Power; 28 July

I say, Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God.

Ecclesiastes 8:2

How Does The Staffer Know When The Debating Is Over And The Action Begins?

Inflection Point

“All I get is push-back; non-stop yammering and foot-dragging, ” the CEO said.

“Foot-dragging…?” I ask. Presenting questions is what consultants do when we can’t figure out what the heck is going on.

“Yes,” said the Big Boss. “They call it ‘analysis’ but all they do is run their mouths and I’m trying to run a company–”

I still don’t know what’s going on. Time for more stupid questions, “You hired those guys for their wisdom and experience – and when you get advice you complain?”

“—I didn’t hire them—I inherited them.” Boss is angry. “I should have cleared out that deadwood when I took the job…”

He has lost me. I was trying to find out what direction he was headed with his three problem-causing senior vice presidents. So I can get in front of him and give him what he wants. (I know where my bread gets buttered.)

I asked, “What are we trying to do? Are we having an employee evaluation for termination or an execution discussion?”

The CEO looks down and considers. He is respected for being known as an enlightened liberal leader (in the traditional definition) who ‘empowers’ his staff. But now he is impatient. He will fire or lose 10 percent of his team this year but he cannot replace all of his SVPs all at once, as appealing as it might be.

“No,” he said. “I just want them to do what I—we have decided.”

I know the three SVPs in question. Maybe not the sharpest tools in the shed, but they are not entirely incompetent. They can follow clear instructions. They could—probably—pour water out of a boot as long as the CEO put the directions on the heel.

I said, “Yes, but we do want their input…” I use the second-person plural sounding officious and smug like a psychiatrist or an academic or maybe a nurse, how are we feeling today?

“No, I don’t.”

“What?” I remain lost.

The CEO was mad at them and was getting mad at me, “No,” he said, “I don’t want a continuing debate after I—we have made a decision. I—the decision has been made—and now I want some work done around here.”

And so I learned a lesson from my client. This happens a lot. A strange business, consulting. I learn something and then submit an invoice and get paid for it. Odd.

I now understand that Getting Things Done comes in two stages: Talk and Action. (Years, yes years, of advanced study is on display here.) Cut bait or fish.

CEO and managers want creativity and discussion and vigorous, direct candor in the recommendation phase. They then want compliance and movement and the doing in phase two.

No boss needs more debate after the decision has been made. Out of phase, it sounds too much like whining. The qualifying question the staffer must ask is, “Boss, have you made the decision?” If not, then debate. If yes, then do.

The bright line between recommendation and execution is when the manager has passed judgment. Debating is over. The Getting It Done has begun.

Because the boss said so.

I say, Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. Ecclesiastes 8:2.

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