Something I say to people that work for me that usually pisses them off

by Jeff Hilimire on November 8, 2011

I have this really annoying tendency as a manager. I’d say 9 times out of 10 its initially met with annoyance and a deep sigh.

But I’d also say that 9 times out of 10, it works. The other 10% of the time the person walks away likely thinking that I’m just an a$# that can’t or doesn’t want to help them. And I know people that have fallen in that 10% have quit because of it, even recently.

So be it.

Here’s the gist: I fail to believe we don’t have control over our destiny. I won’t believe it. Every part of me believes that if you want something to change, you can change it. Especially when it comes to your job.

Entrepreneurs, or at least the successful ones, have this mentality already. I’m currently reading the biography on Jobs, which is amazing by the way and putting the fanboy in me aside, I think everyone should read it. Its so clear that Jobs never thought anything was impossible and never accepted that answer from his teams.*

But I also don’t believe that this ideal should be limited only to entrepreneurs. It’s why I wrote a while back, “How to be an entrepreneur with a job“.

Perhaps an example would better explain what I’m talking about. Assume this story to be completely fictional.

Brian leads a department of specialists within our organization. The group is a very important part of our business, but its not the only part and Brian feels like the rest of the company doesn’t appreciate what his group brings to the table.

“I can’t believe we weren’t involved in that project! How could they be so ignorant to not realize that if we had been involved, the project would have gone much better? I just don’t think this company appreciates what our group brings to the table”, he says to me.

Now at this point I have two possible directions to go. I could join in with him, bitching about how dumb everyone is for not realizing how much his group brings to the table and vowing to go and make sure everyone started using them immediately.

Instead, what I prefer to do is put it back on Brian to figure out how he can change the current status quo. How can he make sure that the rest of the company understands the value that his team brings? How can he help them see that they will be more successful if his group is involved?

“I shouldn’t have to do that”, is the typical response.

“Why not? It’s not the rest of the organization’s job to sell your services. Its their job to do great work. And they do great work by looking at their available resources and using their experience and knowledge to put together the best idea. If they aren’t aware of how beneficial your group is to helping them do that, they’re not going to use you”, is my typical response.

See, if I can get Brian to think this way and understand that he can affect change, the result will be far greater in the end. First, there’s the “teach a man to fish” idea that if he can overcome this obstacle on his own, he’ll be more likely to overcome the next one on his own. He’ll begin to control his own destiny and stop seeing “obstacles” and start seeing “challenges to overcome”. There are no obstacles, Neo.

But the real benefit in this example is that Brian will have to prove why his team is invaluable to the rest of the organization. He will show them how they’ve been successful in the past. He’ll show them why working with his group is going to help them be successful. That is a far better way to get them to involve his team than the boss running around forcing them to try to use them.

Or, he’ll simply quit.

* To be clear, I am not nor will I ever compare myself to Steve Jobs. He really did push people to do what many at the time thought was impossible. And he also beat the hell out of everyone that worked for him in order to do it.


  • Andrew Jones

    Yes, you do that a lot. And yes, it’s part of why I quit.

  • oliviamck

    Westley: …A few more steps and we’ll be safe in the fire

    Buttercup: We’ll never survive.

    Westley: Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one
    ever has.

    – The Princess Bride (1987)

  • Joe Koufman

    In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts; nor the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of a deed could have done better.

    The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends oneself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he or she fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

    Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

    – Theodore Roosavelt

  • Jeff Hilimire

    AJ, appreciate your honesty as always and I think I knew this contributed to you leaving.

    But we had some good times and you’re still my favorite artist ;) Speaking of which, I just flipped through the old notebook with your StatusThis stuff. Still classic. FTW

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