If you make a lot of personnel decisions, or give advice to a wide range of people, then you are bound to run into a few that don’t agree with your viewpoint and I’m OK with that. It comes with the territory. What really frosts my bacon, though, is when you get feedback that is so out of context of what you are trying to communicate it has to make you wonder. Now, it is good at the end of the day to get this feedback even if you totally disagree with that other person’s viewpoint… it’s as American as it gets to give and get advice regardless of how contrary it is.
I am no exception that I am thankful at least somebody is listening and thinks strongly enough to send a note or call you up to say they think you are a moron. But, you would have to be a moron if you take these sometimes “left field” criticisms lying down. Which is what this week’s blog is about. How can some people totally misunderstand your message when the plethora seems to get it but yet, where did these others come from. More importantly, should the real question be “did they not get it, or is there something run amok here?” I am going to file it under the “hidden agenda” department.
Ah, hidden agendas. How many times has someone’s personal intent sucked the true potential out of a business deal, a merger heck even a marriage I guess you could say? We all have personal agendas, but what I don’t like are the ones that run contrary to the overall success of the mission. The vision. And the values of your company or your organization. The kind of personal agendas that are so contrarily strong and so focused that they cripple an effort. I don’t care how many strategic planning sessions you have or how many action plans you update still seems to cripple the goodness that these plans meant to deliver.
Thank heavens I had none of that in my company or where I was the leader of a department. Right, who would I be kidding if I did not admit this kind of thing goes on everyday and everywhere to some degree .BUT I do think that I was able to manage the “hidden personal agendas” and even manage to get them to the surface so that they were hidden no more and I could deal with them. To keep personal agendas, hidden or not, from running contrary to the mission, vision and values is what leaders and managers need to dedicate time and energy to. When I go in to conduct training workshops and especially when I take on a consulting assignment, it is the second thing I focus on because if I don’t, it could lead to a less than stellar result. The first thing I focus on is what leadership is asking me to do what is the ROI they expect from me? This brings to mind a few previous consulting assignment stories, and I share them so that you can reduce the amount of hidden agendas that can destroy what you are trying to accomplish:
1. There was the client who called me up and said “Farrell, we have a cutting edge, world class sales organization. We want you to come in and not take them to the next level, but we want you to take us 20 years into the future with our selling efforts because we think we are ready for that”. Now who wouldn’t want to take on that kind of a challenge…especially me. So I ask the woman who called “what makes you think that your salespeople are ready for that kind of adventure?” She went into explaining how many weeks of intense training each of her salespeople had undergone and how they spend months in the real world with expert sales people learning their trade and honing their skills before they were finally ready to be cut loose and sent out to conquer the world.
It was quite impressive and I had never heard of an organization spending as much time, money and resources to train their people as she had described. Long story short, I do what I always do I shopped these sales people to get a reality trip look at how they really performed. You guessed it, they didn’t exactly fail, but they sure did not sound a whole lot better than most of the thousands of sales presentations I had heard over the years. So, where was the disconnect here? Why did this sales leader think her people were ready for skill sets that were so much more advanced than they were ready for? One word E G O. An ego run amok I like to say. Her personal not-so-hidden agenda was to be able to say to her peers, her drinking buddies, her bosses, maybe even her clients that she had the best bar none sales force that one could find.
I’m good with that mission, but to be blind to the fact that her people still had fundamental selling issues that would have turned this “futuristic sales force” into a huge futuristic sales farce. Her agenda, although a good one needed to be tempered with a dose of reality, better planning and better executing. Lesson to be learned here is that it is good to want to be the best, but walking it and talking it are two different things. Leaders, egos are very good things when they are managed properly.
2. Not really a story here, more like my commentary on how employees (from leaders and all through the ranks) are not working hard enough understand that I am speaking very generally here. With technology as readily available as it is to most of us, how hard is it for you to send someone an e-mail and say “…hey, I know you called today and I’m sorry I did not get back to you. Can I call you after hours or sometime Saturday morning, because I’ve got one crazy week here”. Instead, we don’t call someone back, or we send them an e-mail saying “I’m traveling this week and will need to get back to you next week”. Now how stupid is that note?
Why don’t you just come out and say “…hey, you are not worthy of a phone call back so wait until the world does not need my services for awhile and I’ll squeeze you in sometime next week ” With companies struggling, with people being laid off, with wages being rolled back .people we all need to understand how valuable it is to take care of our current clientele and how important and hard it is to grow one’s business today. That’s why we have to all work harder and smarter. And leaders if you don’t do it then neither will the people that work for you.
So the hidden agenda here for me is that people that work for you, heck maybe even you have personal agendas that are getting in the way of sending that extra e-mail, making that extra phone call that extra effort to say to someone “you are important and so important I will take your call from my home or from my hotel room at night”. Now more than ever everyone needs to put in this extra effort. How impressed would a client of yours be to know that you were at your son’s soccer game and you made a call to them to follow up. I know I know work/life balance issues. If we all don’t make these extra efforts you may not have to worry about the work part of that equation.
3. Things we can do to root out hidden agendas:
a. Every department head meets with a direct report once a month: you are discussing action plans and scoreboarding (measuring results to plans); you are talking about strategy and making sure you are on target or better; you are prying out little issues that could jeopardize the mission and you are asking for HONEST input no matter how it may hurt your feelings. Lastly, you want to spend some time talking about those things that are most important to that employee.
Career plans, needed professional tools and yes even unavoidable personal issues that may affect their job even though they and you don’t want them to. Care leaders. Care managers. Help them when and where you can. Sometimes there is little you can do to help them with certain personal issues, but at least afford them the courtesy of showing them you care for them. If you have to fake it, go getter a different job because your hidden agenda of not caring is a cancer that will spread. I believe that employees take on the personality of their boss. True caring is what some of the best corporate and social cultures are made of, and that’s what will reduce your turn-over, and that’s what will help you to maximize in a recession and come out of it a much stronger company or organization.
b. Share the truth about your company/organization’s health: If you are experiencing drops in revenues and quality issues are hurting the company then let your employees know. Lead by example in asking each and every one of them that you need their help and their EXTRA effort in order to be able to continue to provide for them and their families. Show them how they can do their part to improve. They need to know that you and your company does not have a hidden agenda. Too many companies have left their employees in the lurch and they need to know you are not one of those companies and you as a leader will lead the way to a stronger company .but you can’t do it without them.
c. Be daring: One of my other beliefs is that employees want to work for a dynamic leader, a cool boss. Your employees are starving to go home at night and over dinner tell their husbands, wives and their children what crazy thing (in a good way) their boss did today. They want to laugh about it, want to share how they are a part of something very cool even though it is serious fun. Jobs are at stake, a company’s future viability is at stake but the company can still laugh, have fun and put people first. No hidden agendas here.
So back to finishing the story about this e-mail I received late last week that said her sales employees would not be attending any more of my webinars because they felt that some of my tactics were not ethical and I was too self promoting. Let’s tackle the easy one here first If you don’t promote yourself, who will? And as for webinars and even this blog .if I don’t get business as a result of writing them, then how long will I be able to write them? Of course I am self promoting but I don’t think I do it enough quite frankly. Now for the “not ethical enough for them” part read 3b and 3 c here.
These are tough times and for my clients to win, and their employees to win, and for these employees family members to win .then someone has to lose. There is only so much business out there today. I think I saw a statistic the other day that said hotel occupancy in America will finish at around 53%. That means someone will finish at a respectable 70% but that also means that others will have to finish at 25% occupancy. I want my clients to finish at 80%. They deserve it because they are spending good money on me that they could be spending on employee wages instead. If I can help my clients to steal business from undeserving competition, then so be it. I don’t fight fair and I don’t apologize for it.
Neither did our grossly outnumbered founding forefathers when they would hide in the woods and shoot at the properly aligned British troops who wanted to fight by the rules they wanted to fight fair. I don’t break the law, but I also know that I subscribe and promote what some would say going too far in the ethics department to secure business. Somebody better do it or else every client will finish at 53% occupancy which means they all fail. My advice to this corporate person who sent me the e-mail find out what their hidden agenda items are. Shop them to hear and see how good they are or are not. I am betting they need to listen to someone, maybe not me but someone who needs to make them better at what they need to be doing. That is the bigger issue here.