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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Backing up your people

Scenario: Your boss gives you a job to head up. Maybe the project is a little controversial and some leaders aren't terribly bought in on the idea of what you're doing. Still, your boss gave you the project and you're bound to roll it out.

Then, all of a sudden, there's a ground swell of negative chatter about the project. Regional managers are up in arms. They think it's stupid. They say it won't work. Who came up with such a bone-headed idea? "That person should have his or her head examined." Next thing you know, people are coming after you because your name is listed as the project manager. Some of the naysayers are pretty high up and you're starting to really feel the heat.

You look for support from your boss. You wait for him or her to back you up. After all, they're the one who gave you the project in the first place. What do you end up hearing? You may hear either:

1. The boss trying to downplay the controversy or trying to shift the focus of the attention to something else going on, but no verbal support of acknowledgement that the project came from them.
2. "Bob's over there...go get him" as they step out of the way.
3. Silence...nothing, nyet, nada, nicht...the boss is MIA.

I hope this scenario has never played out in reality for you. It has for me. It's a terrible feeling. So, what should your boss have done? The CORRECT option is:

4. "I put Bob in charge of that project. It was my decision to move forward with that and if you have problems, come talk to me."

I play out this mock scenario, not to tell you about some of my past experiences, but to remind each of us how important it is to back up our people, especially if they're just doing what we task them to do. Even, if our people are screwing up, it's our responsibility to deal with them, not someone else. And, if our people are being attacked for trying to be good followers of ours, we should ensure we take care of them...regardless of the heat.

Our people are counting on us.

Have you ever experienced anything like I detailed? How did it play out for you?

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