Monday, January 14, 2013

The Monday Fun Day

Subtitle: What They Didn't Say In Leadership School

So, Monday sucks.

I can't even find a quote out there that adequately expresses the level of suckage represented by Monday, and especially not this Monday. 

Ah, well.  Lookit.  Much of the time, leadership is a glorious activity in which to engage.  There's just something really ultimately cool about seeing a team perform at its well-oiled peak level, knowing that you played a part in that.  When things are hoppin', it's quite simply the greatest place in the world to be.  And then....

And then there's the other times that they don't tell you about in leadership school.  The times when no amount of positive supervision seems to bring about good results.  The times when you could swear you said "everybody put this new form in Tab 2" and it ends up spread out through the various files in every tab but the second one. 

Ever played the game of telephone?  You know, that game where one person starts by whispering a sentence to the next, who whispers it to the next, who whispers it to the next, and so on until it gets back to the original whisperer in a form that is usually unrecognizable.  That "game" is an illustration of a real problem.  Communication works through the process in which I pass the original idea through my filter to verbalize it, and then the sound waves pass through whatever physical filters may be between us in order to make it through your filter to be transformed back into an idea.  Frankly, with all the filters in the way, sometimes I wonder how we manage to communicate at all.

The leadership courses tell us the way around the telephone-game problem is to a) write important things down, and b) have people repeat back what you've told them to check understanding.  Both are quite good suggestions, because the first removes the physical filters between us while the second allows the leader to calibrate the message for the mental filters we both use.

Problem is, it's not always possible.  First, a busy leader doesn't have the luxury of transcribing everything that's important.  Second, if you make your subordinates repeat everything back to you all the time they'll think you think that they're idiots.  You have to be careful, then, with what you choose to be careful with.  Selectivity, in other words, is key.  You should only commit to writing and make people repeat the important stuff.  And, as leaders, of course, we always recognize which instructions we're giving are the important ones as we're giving them, right?

Um, yeah.

The correct answer: no, no we don't.  Sometimes it's the simplest stuff that utterly confounds you on a Monday morning.

You know, the other thing they didn't tell us in leadership school is that those two methods are mitigation, not prevention.  In other words, they don't always work.  You can have somebody look you in the eyes and repeat back everything you just told him to do and still screw it up later.  Doesn't matter how intelligent he is.  Doesn't matter how professional, mature, or motivated he is.  It's simply a matter of the perplexing lack of perfection of the human brain function.  Brain farts.  Temporary bouts of senility.  Wires crossed.  Call it what you will, but it happens.  It happens, often. 

All that said, though, there is something very, very good about today.  To wit: in a mere matter of hours, it'll be Tuesday. 


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