I’d like you to meet my most important stakeholder. His name is Harold. Okay, mainly this is just an opportunity to show off how awesome he is, but there’s a point in here, I promise. (Also, you can click any image to enter slideshow mode. All images courtesy of Bark).
Earlier this week, I had the unfathomable joy of eating a poppy seed bagel, biting down, and having a single, tiny poppy seed shatter a rear molar. To say I was in, um, excruciating agony would be an understatement, especially as the shards of the tooth still remaining were shredding the inside of my mouth like a Japanese shuriken. It was kind of awful.
But that was my problem.
I managed to get an emergency dental appointment the following morning at 9:15. So when the alarm didn’t go off, and I opened my eyes to see the clock read 9:05, poor Harold didn’t get his usual routine. I hastily threw food down for him, dragged him outside and he had time for a “number one”…unfortunately I didn’t have time to wait for His Pickiness to do a “number two”.
I ran for the car and the dentist appointment I was late for, to find out I’d have to come back at 4:00 for the actual work.
That was also my problem.
Poor Harold’s problem was that his whole morning was thrown upside down, not having a clue what his raving owner was freaking out about. That, and he still had to go to the bathroom. He knows he’s not supposed to, but, the floor was as handy a place as any.
I came home, flustered, still in a lot of pain (more so now that I’d had my sore mouth picked at with a utensil I’m certain had its origins in the Spanish Inquisition), to find a present waiting for me. After my day so far it was just the last straw. I lost it and yelled at Harold. I ranted and raved as I cleaned up the mess; I brandished the bag at him as I took it outside, slamming the door. And I left him alone again, completely freaked out, as I tore away in the car to find some food that wouldn’t hurt my mouth more.
I’d made my problems Harold’s problems. It was wrong.
It’s true, he knows better, but I also set him up to fail. The mess was my doing just as much as it was his–I completely threw off his routine, and abandoned him after a few minutes of total chaos to be alone with the need to relieve himself. What did I expect? To make it worse, I punished him when he failed to wait until I got home.
To recap: I set him up to fail, he did fail, and so I punished him.
How often do we behave that way with people on our projects? As project managers, we must interact with all kinds of people every day. All those people are executing our plans. When we’re faced with personal problems, how often do we take them out on those around us by setting the very people we depend on up to fail?
As project managers, we wield a lot of power that we don’t always realize. A lot of people are marching to the beat we establish with our project plans. Every so often, one of them is going to slip. Many times that slippage is a direct result of events we set in motion: if we fail to communicate, if we fail to make a correction, if we fail to confirm someone’s understanding…those are our failures. If we leave it to others to see through our failures and “overachieve” (I hate that word), we’re basically leaving them a trap and hoping they don’t fall into it. When they do (fall into it), how often do we punish them?
I’m not saying that as project managers the entire universe is our personal responsibility. That’s not realistic. But within the scope of our mandates, we do need to take extra care to remember that we establish the expectations of all the people with whom we work. It just takes one bad response on our part to derail them.
The next time you find yourself cutting corners in communication with your people, take a moment and remember the face of the loving little monster pictured here. He always tries his best, and deserves more than to be set up for failure and punishment, no matter how harried his “manager” happens to be. So do the people around you.
Stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and make things right before moving on. Your people will thank you for it in the long run.
Incidentally, after finding some chicken soup and a cool drink, I felt better, and realized what I’d done. I went home and poor Harold was beside himself. He was all over me crying and whimpering asking for forgiveness…I felt absolutely AWFUL and completely made it up to him with lots of pets and a car ride. He’s currently lying on the sofa staring through my chair into the back of my skull–it’s apparently dinner time.
I still feel like the worst dog owner ever this week. I’m lucky though. He seems to have forgiven me.
This post was inspired by @cybertactix from an e-mail he wrote to me months ago. Thanks, dude!
Related articles by Zemanta
- Do You Set Your People Up to Fail? (edge.papercutpm.com)
- Nine Destructive Project Manager Behaviours: Part 8 of 9 (edge.papercutpm.com)
- Nine Destructive Project Manager Behaviours: Part 6 of 9 (edge.papercutpm.com)