How do you carry out, and encourage, instructions that you really, really disagree with?
posted by Melismata to Human Relations (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I realized recently that one of the reasons why I was a mediocre supervisor at my last job was because I totally didn't believe in the way the higher ups were running things. (I wasn't the only one; there were lots of problems there.) For example, I would say that we needed a dedicated assistant to do administrative tasks, but the HUs would say, no, you all need to spread that work amongst yourselves, and it's your job as the supervisor to make it happen. Then, when people got aggravated and quit because the work wasn't challenging, HUs would yell at me for not encouraging people to stay. But the fact is, I couldn't do that because I completely agreed with them! They would complain and I could only reply, "yeah, it sucks, doesn't it, but the HUs won't give us any help." (I had the numbers to prove we needed administrative help, but HUs only reply was that I should get people to work faster, and then they'd have time for everything.)
Another example: I head a national committee on some guidelines on how to format some stuff, and everyone has decided that we need to add some guidelines that are, IMO, unnecessary and a time-sucker. I know, because I had to follow them informally for a while and I asked some end users what they thought, and they agreed that it was a waste of time. But still, all the national people voted to add them and so I not only had to write the formal guidelines but encourage my committee members to use them. I wound up being very neutral in my emails about the whole thing, but I didn't go around promoting it, which perhaps I should have since I was the leader.
A third example: I direct a church music group, and the new head priest has decided to put us in a new location that everyone hates. He also has placed limits on our repertoire, because he has definite ideas about how the church service should go, something that has never happened before, and all our members are outraged. I wanted to be a good leader and say, "there there, it will all be ok," but the fact is, I'm just as pissed too. (In our denomination, the head priest has the final say on these matters.) I think the priest expects me to sooth the group, though he hasn't explicitly said so.
The president of my old company told me, when I was butting heads with my supervisor, that "it was my job to carry out her instructions, regardless of whether you agree, and that's what makes a good leader." So my question is, how exactly do you do that?
This is not a question of "how can I learn to get along with higher-ups better?" If you're going to answer with "just learn to suck it up and get along and stop nitpicking" or "just figure out a way to agree with them," then please give thoughtful reasons as to why you think so. There must be examples of some head honcho at, say, Microsoft, who thinks that Gates's new idea is crap but he'll have to promote it anyway. How does that happen? Does it require lots of bullshitting, or acting? Or becoming a tyrant to those I'm trying to lead, which is the only thing that might have worked in the first example? Perhaps I'm not cut out to be a leader, but before I throw in the towel I'd like to see if I can work on this issue. Is there some Leadership 101 book that I should read? I'm kind of introverted and don't expect to run a company any time soon, but I'm smart and don't mind taking charge some of the time, and I would like to have a better answer than "yup this sucks" or "don't complain to me, I agree with you!"
Thanks! Sorry for being so long-winded.