“Just do your job!”
Do you recognise that? When crucial decisions are not made at essential moments. Until that moment, it’s clear who has the responsibility. Sometimes that person has made it known multiple times. But at the crucial moment, the same person remains silent. Or puts everything back into question. Or allows everything to be questioned. Whether packaged as a “challenge” or input.
And everyone accepts this. No one says, “enough is enough.” Where is the person responsible for the project? Is it the project leader? Is it the project owner? The sponsor? I said it wrong. Where is the person taking responsibility? Who is making the tough decisions?
I know I already approved it, but I’ve thought about it and want it different now.
But why do we collectively accept all of this? Where does this apathy come from? That go-with-the-flow attitude. I miss the entrepreneurial spirit to get things done. That requires a sense of urgency and, therefore, holding each other accountable for mistakes or negligence. I rarely see this in projects. The introduction describes a project as innovative and top-notch, but when I see the people in action, it’s dull. A project team’s workspace, where it should buzz with energy, feels more like a reading room in the library. Where is the ambition of the people, which they claim to have but hide so well? It seems like there’s a mindset of “don’t make it too difficult for me, and I won’t do that for you either.”
Of course, there are teams trying to work differently. They adopt LEAN, ADKAR, or… And yes, at first glance, you might see a difference from the library setting. But if you listen closely, you hear that the agreements are not always very tight there either. How can that be? Are the schedules too full? Is it challenging to set priorities? Or is it in people’s attitudes? Probably a bit of all the above. When it comes to keeping agreements, being on time is also one of them. Some of us are casual about it, while others are very strict. Being late, however, can have various causes, as Diana DeLonzor (2002) notes in her book “Never be late again.” She identifies 7 different types of latecomers. “Although most latecomers will recognize themselves in more than 1 category.”
- The Deadliner: Thrives on completing tasks last minute, needs pressure to perform.
- The Excuser: Finds it difficult to admit chronic lateness, constantly seeks excuses outside themselves.
- The Hedonist: Avoids sacrifices, believes life should remain enjoyable, prefers immediate pleasure over long-term results.
- The Rusher: Wants to accomplish as much as possible in the shortest time, underestimates the time tasks take.
- The Rebel: Dislikes conforming, occasionally disregards societal norms, sees lateness as a way of asserting control.
- The Forgetful Professor: Easily distracted and forgetful, often lives in their own world.
- The Avoider: Feels anxious, values routines due to a poor self-image, finds it frightening to arrive somewhere alone and prefers being late.
If we use lateness as an example for keeping agreements, these types can be applied to the previous situations.
What type is “in control” on the project? If we take lateness as an example for the project leader, project manager, or program manager, it’s predictable how they will lead the project team. But not only the project team, also the forces around it. There will always be people trying to grab attention from the project members, distracting them from their work. Project members might also have other duties besides the project, causing further distraction. It’s up to the team members whether they allow themselves to be distracted by external factors, but it’s the project leader’s responsibility to intervene. If your team members lose focus due to external disturbances, you must support them. You must assist them in daring to say “no.”
“I can’t give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: Try to please everybody all the time.” Herbert Bayard Swope
If team members don’t deliver on time in a different way, you address them. This is an important role as the project’s responsible person. Conversely, if a project “boss” doesn’t take responsibility, other members must tell them. In a team, you are called out for your behavior, and you call out others for their behavior.
And that’s difficult. Few organizations have a culture of holding each other accountable for behavior. Of course, somewhere in a PowerPoint or other presentation, it’s mentioned that this is done within the organization, but that doesn’t guarantee it actually happens. It’s not these words that make it happen. It’s about culture. If your organization believes this is the culture that fits, then you must work on it. Not with a newsletter or posters in the elevator but with a cultural program. Although I have a slight allergy to the word “program.” I see many programs that have evolved into bureaucracies full of rules. Where documenting and registering have become more important than the subject’s origin.
“I see many programs that have evolved into bureaucracies full of rules. Where documenting and registering have become more important than the subject’s origin.”
But the concept of a program is necessary to nurture a culture in an organization. Attention to what you stand for together. Creating recognition and pride in what you want to achieve together. An essential part of that is holding each other accountable for behavior. Giving feedback to each other. And that’s harder than you think. However, there’s a nice way to give good feedback, which I’ll briefly highlight. We also train this with clients, finding it to be an executable way to provide feedback.
And it helps the speaker and the one being spoken to clearly and completely describe or understand the message. This focuses on behavior and consequences. We like to use the 4I feedback. This feedback method, whose founder is unknown to us, helps build up feedback in steps, getting progressively more serious without escalating the conversation. You can structure your feedback, addressing each G separately or combining multiple I’s.
Inform: It strikes me that…, I see that you…, I notice that you…, I hear you say…
Inspire: What you do triggers in me…, The effect of your behavior on me is…, What I see happening is…
Inquire: I notice that I…, I find it difficult to…
Involve: I assume that from now on…, Would you please…
Giving feedback is necessary to make (each other) stronger. I assume that it’s done correctly. Many people find it challenging to give feedback. They beat around the bush or avoid it. Managers, responsible individuals, or leaders must be able to provide good feedback. That’s an essential part of their role.
With proper feedback, you clearly state what you see in behavior. What you think the consequence is. What the behavior does (to you). And what you think the desired behavior is. You address someone’s behavior, not the person. You must speak up, clearly and to the point. Don’t try to navigate through or spare both sides. In successful teams, it’s normal, a habit, to hold each other accountable. You have a goal, a vision, together. At this ambition, it’s your responsibility to give feedback in a respectful but clear manner. Every time.
For us, feedback knows no hierarchy. That certainly doesn’t mean everyone can freely express their opinions at all times. With good agreements, it’s clear who is responsible for what. And what you’re responsible for, you must express your views at the appropriate time and in the right way. If you’re not responsible for something, you don’t offer your opinion unsolicited. If you do, you’re undermining the project or process, consciously or unconsciously. Often unconsciously and from a sense of involvement. This energy is invaluable to the organization but only comes to fruition after proper training. Without training these forces, they become unguided projectiles that can cause significant damage.
Start building up feedback by giving a compliment. Do this with the 4I’s. Remember? Inform, Inspire, Inquire, and Involve
By the way, in my book, it’s still possible to tell people who meddle in everything, want input, or want to express their opinion to just get to work. I’ve used the phrase “Just do your job” on projects, both against the opinion waterfalls and against the responsible ones.
What a soft approach When discussing a change plan with a client, we sometimes hear that addressing each other in our way is “soft.” Often, these are more conservative managers who come from a time when hierarchy was a significant element in management. Successful companies today have flatter structures but with a clear division of roles. With those roles, also within a project, come responsibilities. And those responsibilities must be taken, regardless of the position in the organization.
Want to know more about giving feedback and what it can mean for you? Feel free to contact me, and I’ll tell you about the possibilities of a strategic session for you and your team. During the strategic session “Roles, responsibilities, and feedback,” we often receive feedback that people initially expected it to be soft. That perception completely disappears during and after the training.
Have a great day!
Do you have difficulty taking the right position with your team regarding negative influences? Or would you like to reflect on your team situation and the balance between understaffing or continuing with toxic employees? Contact me today, and together we will find a solution that suits you and makes you more future-proof.
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Edwin is not just a visionary expressed through his longreads, but also adept at conveying his ideas through presentations and real-world client interactions. He is a lover of Scandinavia and that's noticeable. Through an array of examples and metaphors, his infectious enthusiasm becomes a catalyst for inspiring, motivating, and fostering connections among individuals. Collaborating closely with his wife and partner, Mirjam, Edwin leads individuals through periods of change. Their shared mission revolves around forging impactful connections – connections that ignite leadership inspiration, foster team cohesion, and catalyze organizational transformation.
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