Archive for the ‘butch boss’ Tag

I didn’t sign up to be a traffic cop

Well, with this post, I fulfill my #NaNoWriMo slash #NaBloPoMo goal of posting once a week in November. I even squeezed in a couple of bonus posts. So I’m happy with my achievement, even if it wasn’t 30 straight days of posts. 

Recently I talked about having had a really good day after doing some deeply hard-core executive lawyering. That’s happened quite a few times and I’ve tried to celebrate those wins so as not to lose sight of the good, substantive work I do. That’s important, because it seems far too many of my work days lately consist of frustratingly wasteful, non-substantive busy work. And way too much gate-guarding/re-directing of tasks and obligations away from my team. I feel like I’m mostly a traffic cop, hence the title of this post. 

That’s not what I want to be and not how I want to spend my time. But it’s a necessary evil, if I’m to protect my scarce resources from inefficient and productivity-eroding time-sinks. That is part of my job as the boss. But it seems such a low-value activity and a very expensive waste of time and talent. 

So, instead of whining about it, I’m trying to think of strategies to resolve the symptoms and, hopefully, the root cause. It’s challenging, because no problem is one-sided and lots of people and variables come into play. The priorities I have for my team, which make these inefficiencies so problematic, aren’t the same priorities that other teams have. Indeed, these inefficiencies are tools or methods that other teams are using to pursue their competing priorities. 

A good example is when the sales teams try to end-run the approval process and ask my legal team to draft contracts in absence of approvals “to save time”. My team is put into the position of having to create complex, nuanced contracts on the basis of little or no specific information about the deal, while also having to play approval-police to be sure the contract doesn’t get signed before all the business approvals are given. That parallel processing always includes more calls/emails/special handling, with the associated increased time to get work product out, than we ever need when we get a fully approved contract request before drafting. So I spend time talking to sales reps and sales managers to identify needs and clarify requests and push back against the stupid and unreasonable, while my team struggles to provide top quality service amidst the chaos. 

That’s what I mean by inefficiencies making me a traffic cop. 

I haven’t answered all (any) of the questions about how to remedy this condition. But I have been working on it. With the help of cross-functional leaders I’ve raised awareness and received some short-term relief for my team on parts of the issue. And just yesterday I proposed a refinement to the contracting process to the sales leadership team that could resolve the lion’s share of the frustration for both sales and legal. It will require commitment on both sides and a significant behavior modification for the sales teams. But it also could mean removing more than 80% of the procedural friction from the process and increase sales (and the pace of sales) into the bargain. 

It’s a project for next year and I have high hopes. It’s not the substantive legal and executive work I enjoy most, but it’s good work and could bring a lot of tangible and intangible benefits to my team and my company. If the price is my being a traffic cop…where’s my whistle?

Finding the positive in the unpleasant is a win and one very good thing. I hope you’re finding something positive to celebrate today. 

This is the Hard Part

So this is where it gets hard being the boss. For the most part, I have a productive, highly respected, engaged and contented staff. Even though there are a few rough interpersonal communication spots among some of the team on occasion, engagement scores are high and productivity is meeting or beating every KPI metric. Yet there’s that one bad apple who screws up the curve.  

Despite nearly two years of coaching and counseling, even rewarding good behaviors despite the risk of reinforcing the bad, this one person refuses to meet the very basic expectations for their role. They are clear, measurable, achievable, and reasonable expectations for their experience level and role, basic competencies that every person in this role is expected to master. Yet this person defiantly has refused to do the basic things required. Even their local HR is exhausted with this person’s insubordination.  

But I’m not allowed to terminate their employment.  

This is the hard part. Acquiescing to the directive from higher up, being the good team player, subrogating my managerial prerogative for “the greater good of the organization”. Dealing with the continuing problem and swallowing any indignation about it is part and parcel of being the executive leader of this team. Or so I’m lead to believe. And I can deal with it for now. But it’s still hard.   

I’m concerned about the effect that this person continuing with the team will have on other members of the organization. By this person appearing to get away with repeated failure to meet expectations, I’m afraid the rest of the team will be demotivated. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that being rendered powerless in this respect is demotivating for me. And, not for nothing, this person won’t learn or grow if there is no practical consequences for their failure.   

What’s hard, also, is that I was made to hire this person against my wishes for similar “greater good” reasons. So I feel like this is a double punch to the gut: to be proven right about a bad decision and then prevented from getting rid of the problem. Yet, because I’m a good corporate soldier and an excellent team player, I’ll endure. For now. 

But I make no promises that I won’t be insufferably, jubilantly smug and say “I told you so” a bunch of times when I do finally get to fire this festering blister of recalcitrant disrespect. I can wait for that, I guess. 

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