You Can't Cover Your Butt with a Flagpole

If you ask my wife, I have two emotional speeds... On. And off.

Now keep in mind that emotions are much different than passions - If you've ever been buttonholed by me talking about the exciting things going on in technology leadership you will know I'm pretty passionate.

But in the emotional arena, I would have to agree with my wife. For the most part, there isn't much that fazes me. I can generally overlook a number of things to focus on the objective.

On rare occasion I do get irked.

I know I shouldn't, but I do.

There is one type of behavior that finds, then "pushes my button" repeatedly.

If you are deliberate about innovation (and even if you are not) things will not always work out as they were planned.  On other occasions, things beyond your control create a question about your department's ability to deliver.  Sometimes, you or your team makes a mistake.

This dear readers, is called "life". Stuff happens.

It's the reaction of others in the organization that gets me, particularly if they are your peers.

Rather than come directly to you, they send you an email (not necessarily a bad thing), but in the CC: box is the who's who of the organization. Your boss. Other executives. Your team. Their team. Heck, sometimes even the custodian gets CC'd for good measure.

I call this "running the message up the flagpole".

While it is done in the name of "keeping people in the loop", it really is about "covering your anatomy".  It's about distancing yourself so far from the situation that you will never be blamed if something bad happens.

The message that is really sent is "I don't trust you or your team enough to discuss it with you first".

This tends to put a strong damper on the morale, the camaraderie, and any momentum that may have been gained in developing a high performance team.

Sometimes you need to call an alarm.

But not for everything.

And especially if you haven't tried to resolve the issue with the individual or department first.

So what do you do when you've been "flag poled"?

The worst thing to do is hit "Reply All".

The second worst thing to do is ignore it.

Your only real option is what can be called a "Crucial Confrontation".  As a matter of fact, there's an excellent, pragmatic book from VitalSmarts out there about how to develop the skills to have these kinds of confrontations, that end in better outcomes.  I would strongly encourage you to get this book and read it.  You can find the book here.

Have you ever been "flag poled"?

How did you deal with it?

Related Posts:
How to Fail
Your Team Messed Up. Now What?


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