It was a normal marketing team meeting when someone spoke up about a problem that was constantly experienced within the team.
Workload and deadlines.
A newer member of the team pointed out that 80% of their jobs were made up of work that wasn’t recorded and that wasn’t on their to-do list at the start of the week. Which is why it was so hard to determine suitable deadlines that could actually be met.
She mentioned herself that even when generous deadlines were provided it was always as if in the last two days the work was done in a rush.
Always in a rush.
She couldn’t believe how after more than a couple of months at the job she still wasn’t able to find her feet.
This was something that we all experienced.
The system was a mess. Unexpected work continuously came your way and the approval process was agonising to say the least.
So, how were we going to solve this problem?
I started to get a bit excited.
But I can tell you the excitement got nipped in the bud very quickly with the team manager’s response.
Are you ready for this?
Our “team leader” proposed that we put in place a system of accepting work from other departments that is so tedious that simply starting that process would put them off giving us work and then push them to do it themselves.
The team’s reaction based on facial expressions and body language:
“WHAT??? Did I hear what I think I heard? Aren’t we the marketing team? I’m a bit confused. We want them to do their own marketing work?”
What I couldn’t believe is that he literally explained it in that way and was very confident in his idea as if we were privileged to be exposed to such brilliance.
Two of the managers in the team spoke up, but very softly … “No no, that’s not what we want…” They didn’t even finish the sentence and lost confidence when the team manager started nodding his head implying that it was what we wanted.
The team manager went on to say something along the lines of “We need to push back and that’s how we push back.”
He was adamant that this was the best solution. Our brilliant leader thought that in order to help his team out he needed to make it harder for the other teams to work with us.
This meeting was made up of 11 people. 5 of which were managers. It also went for 2 hours. That was 22 hours of company time (11 people x 2 hours). And if you were to combine all the years of work experience we had amongst us, there was easily 100 years of work experience combined if not more.
What was discussed?
Problems. Workload, deadlines, timelines and other related issues. None of these problems were new problems we all knew about them and talked about them several times before.
What was the solution after 22 hours?
We were going to implement a system that would make other employees within the company squirm at the thought of giving us work.
Out of 11 people, 5 of which were managers, only one manager mentioned culture. And her words were, “There definitely are some culture issues here.” That was it.
If this wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t believe it when our team manager finished the 2-hour meeting by saying, “This has been a very good meeting. Vey good. Thank you all.”
He continued to say these words around us after the meeting.
He even sent us an email to say these words in writing.
He truly thought that he had accomplished something here.
Other than giving me material for an absolutely kick-ass blog post, I’d say he failed as a manager and as a leader big time!
I’d even say that we failed as a team even with the 5 managers.
Maybe we needed more managers? LOL – NOT!
So, why is it that such a senior level position is given to a person that has no idea about work culture? Why is it given to a corporate dinosaur?
Yep, that’s what I call them – corporate dinosaurs. And I can safely say I’ve come across way too many in my time.
3 signs that you’re a corporate dinosaur
Sign No. 1 – In an attempt to fix problems you add to them by introducing systems that make life harder for those in your team and those outside your team.
And you can’t get a better example than the one I’ve told you about above. I was actually involved in setting up that tedious system of which other departments had to undertake when sending us work. It was a joke.
Why were we using it? Because this system was something the company had. So, why spend money on something else if we’ve already got it?
Too bad that it only complicated things even more by adding about another 20 extra steps to an overly agonising approval process. I thank god that I left in the middle of it all. I truly mean this.
A word of advice – if a system makes your employees squirm, especially the ones that it’s supposed to help, don’t use it! Even if it’s free.
Sign No. 2 – You still believe your customers are the most important thing.
It was another marketing meeting but this time the CEO joined us in his attempt to improve work culture.
We gave him an overview of what we were working on and he gave us an overview of what he was working on.
All I heard was “members, members, members. Did I mention members?”
The focus was on the members, we got it.
What about the employees?
The CEO was well aware of work culture issues from recent surveys being completed and almost a whole department reducing to half its size in a matter of weeks and he openly acknowledged that “Yes, we do have work culture issues.” But that was pretty much it.
He mentioned in this meeting the importance of “respectful relationships” and that we needed to be respectful to each other.
Except respect is a feeling that develops over time and not an instruction that we follow. That’s the thing.
Were any relationship building initiatives put in place? None whatsoever.
So what’s going to change? NOTHING!
The most important asset of any company are the employees first and foremost. This is the only way to ensure that customers will get treated how they should.
Sign No. 3 – You use the words “effective and immediately”
Any instruction or information that came to me that involved the words “effective and immediately”, even if it was perfectly reasonable, caused me to have an instant reaction where I’d imagine telling that person to shove it where the sun don’t shine.
Do you speak to your family or friends like that?
Of course not.
They would tell you where to go.
So, why do it with your team members regardless of position?
Simon Sinek, is a firm believer of treating employees like people¹. That’s what we are.
Why would you say the words “effective and immediately” when you could say something along the lines of… “Starting from today we will use…” or “We now have blah blah blah and we no longer need to blah blah blah.”
So unless, you want to sound like a robot from “The Terminator” ditch “effective and immediately”.
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What else would you add to the list? Tell me about the experience you’ve had with corporate dinosaurs in your life.
Next week …why managers should leave the important stuff to their employees.
See you then.
¹Simon Sinek, “Leaders Eat Last”, (2012).