Let me begin by explaining the corporate nod phenomenon.
If you have great respect and loyalty for your boss, when he/she comes to you with a new seemingly great idea and asks you to start a new project, you nod, say yes, take on faith that your boss is right, and begin work toward your boss’ new vision.
Now let’s move this phenomenon from your boss to you. If your staff has great respect and loyalty for you, they’ll nod and march forward when you go to them. While this feels good and allows your department to move quickly and efficiently as business necessity requires, it also has a tendency to reduce your team’s innovation, self-starting nature and decision-making capabilities. Also, if you are wrong, your team will be much less likely to notice it, and if they do, they may assume that you know more than they do and will still blindly follow your lead.
I’m not suggesting that you question every decision and directive given to you by your manager. Neither am I suggesting that your staff should question every decision and directive you give them. My goal here is simply to make you cognizant of this phenomenon.
To help assure that your team is not giving you the corporate nod, consider doing any or all of the following when delegating tasks to your team members.
• Ask them if they have any suggestions on how the task should be completed
• Ask them if they have any thoughts regarding the value of the task and potential alternatives
• Encourage your team to be self-starters so you are not the only one defining new tasks and initiatives
• Create an environment of trust and respect between you and your team that will allow your team to feel comfortable raising concerns, alternate approaches and alternate tasks to the ones you delegate
When looking up, rather than looking down, it can be difficult to not give your manager the corporate nod, because you are not the person in control. To help reduce the corporate nod when you are given assignments from your boss, consider suggesting alternate approaches if you think they are in the best interest of your manager, your department and your company.
I have been very fortunate to have had some great managers over the years. During these times, when asked/told to do a task, I was very susceptible to giving the corporate nod because of the great respect I had for these managers. That said, if appropriate, I would occasionally question their decisions by going into their office and saying that I wanted to plead my case on a decision they had made. I went on to say that if they agreed with me, I would move forward with the revised plan that I had suggested. If my manager did not agree, then I would fully support the original plan and move forward based on my initial instructions.
I found that this process had the following advantages:
• It let my manager know that I was creative, trying to do a good job and wanted the best for our department and our company.
• It showed loyally to my manager that even if I did not totally agree with his/her decision, I would follow through appropriately on the tasks I was given.
• It let me personally feel better about performing a task I didn’t totally agree with because, at least, I had the opportunity to state my case and speak my mind.
Until next time, manage well, manage smart, and continue to grow.
Eric P. Bloom of Ashland is the president and founder of Manager Mechanics LLC, an Ashland-based company specializing in information technology leadership development. Contact him at eric@ManagerMechanics.com, follow him on Twitter at @EricPBloom, or visit www.ManagerMechanics.com.