The Dangers of Meddling

“I can do whatever I want- I’m the boss!”

Have you heard this before?  This is a true statement for the most part.  If you are the boss you can do whatever you want.  But is it healthy?  Is it the right thing to do?  Will it do more harm than good?

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Meddle: 1. to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted.  

               2.  to change or handle something in a way that is unwanted or harmful

When you think of meddling you probably think of a mother-in-law giving advice on child rearing or your father lecturing you about your personal finances.  Meddling is not a typical way to describe a management and leadership problem, but I believe that meddling is much more common in business than you might think.  And- I believe that it can be very damaging.

When I typically visit one of our construction sites I will call ahead and talk to the Project Superintendent and give him a heads up that I am on my way to the site.  This is a call out of courtesy and respect.  I am not really obligated to call them- I out rank them.  Others like to show up unannounced to do a “stealth” visit.  I really fail to see a good reason to come unannounced.

The reason I call is that I believe that I am going out on their project site.  Yes- I outrank them, but we have put them in charge of the site.  It’s their domain.  Their responsibility.  Even though I am a company executive, out of respect and to align with responsibilities, I feel that I need to notify them and ask to be out on “their site”.

I believe this theory holds true with most areas of management.  If you put someone in charge of a particular area, then you need to respect their authority and stay out of the day-to-day operation.  You hired this person for a reason and you have given them specific duties.  There is a chain of command for a reason.  If you fail to respect the responsibilities and you drift in and out of issues as the wind blows it can be very damaging.  Here are a few of the problems that can develop:

  1. Undermining Authority: By getting involved in the day-to-day activities, you are blurring the lines of authority.  This adds a layer of confusion to who is really in charge.  The employee will be able to take the path of least resistance.  If you are trying to discipline an employee or work out a particular strategy, your efforts can be completely destroyed by a meddler.
  2. Mixed Messages: By getting involved, you will invariably be sending a different message to the employee.  It is extremely unlikely that your message will be identical to the manager who is their direct report.  If you follow the chain of command, the employee will hear only one voice and this will eliminate confusion.
  3. If Dad Says No- Go Ask Mom: We all know this tactic used by children to get what they want.  This also occurs in management.  If you meddle, you are setting yourself or your manager up to be manipulated.  By getting involved, you have added an additional person to the equation and you may be used to wiggle out of a responsibility.
  4. Nice Guy: If you are the big boss and you want everyone to like you, it will be very difficult for your manager to keep the employee focused on areas of improvement.
  5. Turns Down The Volume: If you are meddling and constantly giving direction instead of following the chain of command then the voice of the manager becomes secondary.  Due to your position, the meddler’s message will always drown out the voice of the manager.  Their voice becomes secondary.
  6. Mr/Ms Everything: You have now set yourself up to be involved in everything.  You will now field questions and problems that you really don’t want to deal with.  You can’t get away.  You can’t take a vacation without anxiety.  You loose your trust in your managers.

These are just a few examples of the damage that can occur when you neglect to follow the lines of authority.

You believe that you are better.

You just can’t stay out of things.

You can’t trust anyone to get it right.

You have to get involved in everything.

You want everyone to rely on you.

You have no real confidence in your managers.

Your opinion is the only one that really counts.

You may be telling yourself that you are just “helping out”.  Well, if that’s the case, then ask them if they really want your help.  Remember, if you truly want to help and be productive, then you need to take complete control of the issue and follow it through to the end.  You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.  You can’t bail out when it’s not fun anymore.

Be very careful.  Being a meddler is addictive. When you are involved in everything and you drift in and out of things responsibility suffers.  Who really has the ball?  Should you really carry everything?  Push everything back through the chain of command.  It’s there for a reason.

Empower your managers.  Support them.  And, most importantly, stay out of their business!

So what do you think?  Have you witnessed this behavior before?  Do you believe that you are entitled to do whatever you want when you are the boss?  Click on “Leave A Comment” and tell me what you think! 

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Can Your Weakness Be Your Strength?

This past year we engaged a behavioral consultant (Dr. Charles Coker- link to his website HERE) at our office to develop personality profiles to help us understand each other better.  This process has been a real eye opener and has resulted in significant self-realization for our team and has helped us to really know each other and how we are wired differently.  I have been amazed at how this process has helped unify our group.  It’s like advancing the clock ahead several years!  What I’ve realized is that we often misread each other.  The reality is that we all see the world through a different lens.  It’s really fascinating stuff!

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My personality profile was no a big surprise for me.  I have a strong desire to be organized, orderly, successful, follow the rules, and put others first.  I have very strong empathy for others.  Dr. Coker called it a servant leader profile (again no real surprise to me).  However, Dr. Coker cautioned me that my profile makes me susceptible to being taken advantage of, and not holding others accountable.

I think the classic leader profile is a driver.  A leader is perceived as “strong” when they push hard and take no prisoners.  They know what they want and they figure out a way to get it.  They focus only on results.  They may leave wreckage in the road, but they get there.  The ends justify the means.

I also believe that the typical servant leader profile may be viewed as weak leader.  A person who cares about others first and may take an entirely different route to get to the finish line.  A person who may motivate and finesse instead of confront and order.  A person who is concerned about collateral damage.  A person who knows that life continues after the goal is reached.  Is this really a weak leader?

How can you put others first and still be an effective leader?  Is this leading from behind?  Are you weak when you care about others?  Can your perceived weakness actually be your strength?

I think it can.  Remember, life is not a single battle or accomplishment.  You may make it to the finish line using the whip, but they will remember how they were treated, and next time they may not respond.  Eventually, the horse may throw you off!  If your team trusts you and you can help them visualize the goal, they will march with you to the ends of the earth.  They will accomplish the extraordinary.  I’ve experienced this first hand!

So if I’m seen as weak or soft, I am OK with it.  I still believe in myself, but I truly believe in my team.  I care for each of them.  They will always come first.  I cannot separate the goal from the team.  They will always be my focus.  They will always be my strength!

So what do you think?  Do you believe that caring about others is a weakness?  Can it hinder your progress?  Click on “comments” and let me know what you think!

The Why Theory

When I first starting working in the building trades, the guys that I worked around were a real cast of characters.  I was a youngster so most, if not all, of the guys were older than me.  The one thing that I noticed was that the majority of the guys really had fun at work.  There were plenty of practical jokes, laughter and comic relief so the day went by quickly.  This wasn’t because the work was easy.  Construction work is hot, dirty, sweaty and tiring. There is nothing easy about it.  Yet, surrounded with the right cast of characters, the day went by pretty quickly and we really had fun.

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The other remarkable thing I noticed was the way the older guys would take the time to teach the younger guys how to properly do the work.  There were no hidden secrets or protecting of territories.  The older guys would openly share their knowledge and take the new recruits under their wings.  They taught, nurtured and celebrated when the youngsters began to excel in the work.  They took the time away from their work and actually showed them how to do it.  And most importantly they explained why you must do the work in a particular way.

Sadly, I think we are losing ground in both of these areas.  I see tradesmen today who are addicted clock watchers who are simply counting down the minutes to the end of the day.  There is less laughter and more tension on the jobsite.  Many of the most skilled tradesmen are reluctant to share their knowledge of the trade because it takes additional effort or they have the warped fear that they may be training their replacement.  It gives me great pain watching this occur when I know how it can be.  How it was. They don’t realize that you can actually have fun at work.   And most importantly, they have lost touch with the satisfaction that comes from training up the next generation.

I have a new recruit at work.  He is young and bright and has an excellent future in front of him.  He is learning and is very inquisitive.  We are extremely busy so I have been confronted with the tension of just giving him the “What” and not the “Why” because it simply takes more time. 

See- the “What” is easy.  Do this, do that.  Don’t ask why just do it! 

I know there are managers who feel like the “What” is enough.  They will figure it out.  I don’t have time to explain everything.

They are so wrong!

You must do the why!  You must take the time to explain the why!

This is the way I see it.  Life is a puzzle.  All the pieces need to fit together.  If you fail to give the why, it is like trying to shove a puzzle piece in a spot where it doesn’t belong.  You fail to see why something is important and how it fits in the overall system.   You are simply following directions.  Yet when you do the why- it’s similar to reaching the end of the puzzle- when you can quickly put many pieces in place very quickly. 

It begins to make sense.  You can see the big picture.  Once you have the big picture you can also begin to see beyond the picture– you can expand your horizon.  This is how innovation occurs.  This is the why theory.

The why is the pathway to growth.  I tell my gang at work that I can’t think for everyone.  It’s just impossible.  They must think for themselves.  They must take ownership and be the author of both problemsolving and process improvement.  Yet, without answering the why questions, they are unable to comprehend the complete picture and ill equipped to make quality decisions.

So take the time to do the why.  Put away your agenda and pour into others.  They need the why.  We all need the why.  When I started out, the old guys understood this.  They knew they were making us all stronger by sharing their knowledge.   Don’t underestimate the importance of your role in this! 

Do you struggle with taking the time to give the why?  Let me know your story!  Click on comment below and let me know what you think!  If you like the post PLEASE press “Like” and post on Facebook or Twitter!