A Riddle That’s Not Funny
When is a job requirement not a job requirement?
This may be a riddle, but it’s no joke.
When there are no consequences for consistently missing a job requirement, then it is by definition NOT a job requirement. It’s an item on the employer’s wish list.
When a leader says, “Barry, you must X, and you must not Y,” and then nothing of import happens in Barry’s world when X doesn’t happen… If Barry does Y, and there’s no negative impact for him… Then the leader is communicating indirectly but very clearly that, “X is optional. I wish you’d do X. Y is not preferred. I wish you wouldn’t Y. Do whatever you want.”As we go forward here, I’m going to be drawing a pretty hard line. Bear in mind, we support servant leadership here at The Yes Works. We stand powerfully for love of our team mates in the workplace. We champion human dignity. All that follows — hard-lined as it may be — is in service of a culture of respect, of dignity, of caring, of love, of human potential, of performance, and of fulfillment.
In fact, is is our fervent belief that without this hard line, it is impossible to build a culture of performance, humanity, respect, and pride. Principled boundaries are a foundation upon which to build a healthy company culture and working environment.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Communication isn’t limited to speech, to notes, to words. Actions speak louder than words. Because of that fact, we undermine the idea that X is required every time we TELL people that X is required, and then don’t back that up with ACTION consistent with the idea that X is required.
The action of “requiring” X without providing a consequence for NOT X is permitting. Naming a job requirement without backing that up permits missing it — reinforces missing that (so called) requirement. Without allowing impact to arrive on each person’s doorstep, it’s mechanically impossible to build a culture of accountability.
(While the video below does overlap with the content of the written part of this blog, it also provides significant additional perspective.)
Are you finding places where you’ve been permitting what you’ve said isn’t allowed? Well, that’s a gap in integrity — an incongruity between thought, word, and action. You’ve confused matters by sending mixed messages.
Welcome to the club. We all do it.
The solution starts the same way any attempt to close an integrity gap should — with an apology. And then it moves into the remedy, setting expectations for the future of that job requirement.
- I owe you an apology because I’ve been unclear about expectations between us. I’ve been telling you X is required, and then I’ve been permitting you to neglect X. I know that sends a confusing mixed message about what’s a job requirement and what isn’t.
- That’s on me. I’m sorry.
- I owe it to you to unify the message so you have clear expectations going forward.
- Here’s what you can expect. From now on, X is absolutely required. You have my commitment to hold you to X.
- Can I get your commitment to X?
- Thank you. Then if I don’t see X, here is what you can expect from me. I will ________. (Insert natural, logical consequence here.)
Here’s what must come next.
You must keep your promise.
You’ve guaranteed X is a job requirement. You’ve named that there will be a consequence. You must follow through.
Without follow through on this, you degrade a lot of what you want to build. You degrade dignity — both yours and theirs. You degrade trust. You degrade your team’s cohesiveness, because resentment builds for having to adhere to requirements others aren’t adhering to.
If you do follow through, you strengthen team cohesiveness. You build trust and respect. You improve the odds of great results from your team. You preserve your dignity. And get this…
You also help to restore their dignity as well, by removing the cognitive dissonance and internal tension that naturally arises from being out-of-step with excellence.
Before you go…
One last thing… This isn’t about being a dictator. It’s not about officiously throwing the rules around as a barrier between you and your direct report, shielding you from what may be legitimate questions about the wisdom of a job requirement.
If there are sound reasons for letting go that requirement, then you can (and should) consider creating unity and clarity by ending that requirement. If it isn’t the best use of your team member for the good of the whole, then jettison the job requirement.
4. Here’s what you can expect. From now on, X is NO LONGER a job requirement. I won’t ask you to X again.
In the end, the guidance here is all about returning to integrity. Because integrity is like cheese. It makes everything better.
High-Performance Accountability Culture: Imagine your team operating with high-level EQ. Trouble is, reading an article doesn’t often change behavior. That’s why we help leaders like you engineer a strong culture of performance and fulfillment. Would you like to strengthen a culture in your company where people and profits both thrive?