Been listening for about 2 years now, first time posting though.
I'll try and keep my question brief:

There seem to be a systemic lack of self disipline with many in upper/senior management.

In Detail:
I have been given a new role where my responsibility is to lead efforts to correct many issues/problems across a number of departments. The issues typically involve (lack of) planning, workflow and adherence to new policies/procedures I am tasked to enact and enforce.

It has been stated many times that I have the support of management including upper and senior levels. At best, when push comes to shove, my supporters disappear - at worst, my supporters deflect or deny they had backed the proposals to begin with. Either way, I am left "holding the bag" and making many enemies inside the business.

Management, many of which stated their support in writing, go back on their word with comments such as, "well, we'll fix this on the next project" or "I didn't understand that this would mean X".
I liken the situation to someone that states a desire to diet and get in shape and then on the first scheduled gym day, decide to put off the gym and instead go on a binge at the local ice cream shop.
In my view, my management is essentially not allowing me to do my job and the results are hurting my career. Worst yet, I've begun to receive negative feedback from my immediate manager for attempting to do what has been asked.

My management and I have met several times over the last few months to discuss and resolve these issues. Each time it is agreed that the policy changes and role-out schedules proposed are reasonable and in the best interests of the business. Yet this still continues to be an issue.

Please reply with any feedback or advice, thank you.

bffranklin's picture
Training Badge

Mark has said in the past that when there are problems, start by looking in increasingly sized concentric circles centered on your desk.

In my opinion, it sounds like senior management is doing to you exactly what you were trying to do to them -- cleanup duty with a lot of upset people.  You talk a lot about how you're tasked with sweeping change, but you don't mention at all what you're doing to build consensus or get buy-in from the groups that you're affecting.  You sound like a high D in a china shop.

I think you need to take a step back and realize that this isn't about you implementing what is right and being the hero.  This is about building real relationships with the groups you are affecting, actually understanding why they do what they do, and getting buy in and cooperation on change.

I apologize if I come off a little too high D in my response, but I was doing the exact same thing three years ago, and I really wish someone would have told me what I just told you.  You need to get this stuff implemented using relationship power, not role power.  It's your over-reliance on role power that is hurting your career.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 I agree with BFFRANKLIN, you need to build relationships.  The further up the organisations the less role power means and the more relationships count.  This may be difficult.  I'm making an educated guess from the language you use in your post that you're most likely a High-C/High-D, like me and many of the people I work with.  We find it very hard to build relationships, inparticular ones based on collaboration, we're more happy with relationships based on hierarchy.  But, you know what?  I've discovered that shooting the breeze with someone every now and then, a chat over coffee and even the odd game of golf isn't actually lethal (although with my slice the latter can be some what dangerous).  A bit of self deprecation, difficult for my High-C side, can go a long way to getting people on side.  You don't need to turn into a High-I fluffy bunny party animal but softening up a bit could help.

When you're trying to get these senior people to back actions or to do something for you (e.g. enforce a procedure in their area) how are you approaching them?  Do you start with "This is what I need you to do" or do you start with how it will benefit them?  People typically like to know what they're getting out of what they're being asked to do, if you want me to do something I want to know what's in it for me.  If you can tell me how what you want me to do is going to benefit me then I'm going to be more interested than if you just tell me you need me to do something.  There's a quote, can't remember who from, to the effect that most people miss opportunity because it shows up looking like work.  Your job here is to make the work show up looking liek an opportunity.  You haven't specified what the policies are you're trying to enforce so I'll pick one my employer has recently dealt with, off contract purchases.  This is bascially where the company as a whole has negotiated a contract with a supplier for a product or service at a preferential rate based oh a certain minimum volume over the year but local managers have bought that product or service from another supplier.  Say this is for office water coolers so there's rental of the plant, maintenence and consumables (the big bottles of water).  You could go in with "Your department managers are buying half of it's water coolers off contract.  This is against policy and unacceptable.  You've got to stop them!"  This probably wouldn't be very effective.  A more effective approach might be "You know how managers in your department have spent $300,000 on off contract water coolers?  If they'd bought them through the corporate contract they could have saved over a third.  That's about $112,000 budget saving from sticking to policy on just one product line.  We've produced some communications on this, could you cascade it to your staff please?  Thanks."



Skype: stephenbooth_uk (Please note I'm on UK time)

DiSC: 6137

Experience is how you avoid failure, failure is what gives you experience.

MAnon's picture

Let me first thank both of you for responding with some valuable insight.

I honestly laughed out loud when I read that both of you (correctly) guessed my High D/C leanings, (7-4-2-6), your DISC reading skills are quite good. However, despite my DISC leanings being what they are it seems my hands are tied and perhaps I didn't explain my situation adequately. For that, please accept my apologies.

Please understand that the guidance and time requirements I’ve been given to implement these changes were not set by me. I have been told by management to proceed and 'push' these departments ‘asap’. From managements point of view, there is no want, need or desire to ‘consensus or relationship build’. (Hopefully you can read in this that my senior management are not MT listeners)

When looked at in a conceptual way using the 3 types of power/influence as illustrated in the podcasts, this is what I seem to have:

Reputation & Expertise
Many, if not all department heads do not see me as expert in the matters I am pushing. Additionally my reputation often precedes me (as would-be enforcer).

In some cases I am peer level with dept heads, in others I am below. As such, many pushback or refuse outright to enact new  policies/procedures. I have been told (by seniors) that I am acting on behalf of senior members of management, and can 'push' with their backing.

My directive from above, "Get it done. Tell the dept heads to do it." And timelines I have been given do not allow for the amount of relationship building that would be needed to get their buy in, that is, assuming I could ever get it.

Thoughts? And thank you again for your assistance.

Singers's picture

The advise is still the same, no matter what position or how much role power you posses, you CANNOT drive this kind of change without the relationships, maybe the have chosen the wrong guy that didn't have the needed relationships it would take to carry this out - this is possible, however looking at the moment at failure, you should start building relationships, understand people's needs and business and work with them to find out what should be done to improve the current process etc. 

No matter what, if all you do is burning bridges with no result what's the purpose?

Remember it's all about people, dont just work with department heads, sure they have a lot of role power, but essentially they will look to their people, so it's essential you know a number of people that can support you efforts in rolling this out.

Kind Regards
Mads Sorensen
Disc 4536

stephenbooth_uk's picture

OK. It's a problem that you don't have the relationships already but not fatal. You really need to sell the advantages to them. How will this make their life better, what is in it for them?? If you can help them to make their life better, lead them to a better situation (e.g. budget savings, fewer problems, easier to get home on time to their families &c) then not only do you stand a good chance of getting them to do what you've been instructed to get them to do but you also have the basis for a future relationship. 

Something you could try is to find someone you know who is a High-I. They could be a peer, a direct or a senior who you get on with well. Doesn't matter so long as they know the situation at least in general. Explain the situation to them and ask them how they would handle it and what you can do to get to where you need to be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for advice from someone who knows the situation. When you've got the advice work out how to apply it then apply it. DISC remember, is how you behave when you're not thinking about how you are behaving. Your behaviour is something you can control and change. My DISC profile is 6-1-3-7, my I score literally could not be lower and my S is pretty pathetic as well. By concentrating I can, however, be sociable and caring and supportive, despite my normal inclinations to be otherwise. The main way I've done this is to observe people who are High-I and High-S and try to model their behaviours as best I can. It's hard. In one of the casts Mark talks about a High-C (a friend I think) who liked nothing better than to lock herself in a room and work on figures. During an M&A she had to be more social and attend events, which she did and she 'sparkled'. The she went home and threw up from the stress. I so know how she felt. It's difficult, but you can do it and when you find it doesn't kill you it gets a bit easier. I will never be a High-I and probably will never be entirely comfortable playing the role of one, but I can do it long enough to get the job done when I need to. 



Skype: stephenbooth_uk (Please note I'm on UK time)

DISC: 6137

Experience is how you avoid failure, failure is what gives you experience.

NickA's picture

There's a very good book out there called "The First 90 Days" which has some very useful content about recognizing the management situation that you're in and working out what your strategy will be.  The STaRS model says that all management situations can be categorized as one of the following:

Startup  "We've got this new thing we want you to do"

Turn-around  "This operation is going to die unless somebody saves it"

Realignment "This operation has problems, but nothing is being done about them"

Sustaining success "This operation is going well, and should continue the way that it's going"

To execute a turnaround, you need to make hard calls, act quickly, kick heads, all the things that you've been doing.  The problem is that you're in a realignment situation, not a turnaround situation.

The basic strategy in a realignment is to shine a light on the problems.  You don't put your energies into fixing them, you put your energies into helping people understand that the problems are real.  Once they accept that the problem is real, you can help them fix it.  Until they accept that the problem is real, you can't make any changes that will last past the point when you turn your back.  (Unless you manage to get them excited about the possibilities of the new way of doing things, in which case you're in a Startup situation, which is all about helping people to imagine the bright and wonderful future while building a path to that future.)

Regarding your basic point, I'm in the transition from junior management to senior management at the moment, and I'm finding it extremely difficult to maintain the levels of discipline I used to have.  Achieving anything at all often seems like a desperate struggle.  I became successful as a junior manager when I didn't need the help of senior management anymore.  Those successes I've had at 'senior management' stuff have come from training my people out of relying on me for help.  Senior management will not save you, they have a difficult enough time working out what to ask for, let alone doing much to help you achieve it.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

You're in good hands here, I think.  Build relationships, and stop saying ANYTHING about senior management not doing what you think they ought to. 

And apologize for your previous behavior when you can.  Do a visible, verbal reset with those you're working with.

It's all about people, and more communication is better.  Invisible third law: relationships rule.

Merry Christmas all,


VanessaUmali's picture

"You don't put your energies into fixing them, you put your energies into helping people understand that the problems are real.  Once they accept that the problem is real, you can help them fix it.  Until they accept that the problem is real, you can't make any changes that will last past the point when you turn your back. "

I am in a new role leading the three test groups in Manila.  These three groups have been supporting different product lines.  Despite being part of one division, the way the processes are implemented vary significantly.  Two of the groups (A & B)  have been supporting one location and are essentially aligned process-wise.  The other group (C) supports a different location and use a different set of tools and processes.  I have been leading the smaller group (C) for several years and know it's processes and tools inside out.. I am only now starting to know and understand the operations of A & B.

I have been struggling to find ground where we can start getting these groups aligned and my initial attempts have failed.  In hindsight, these attempts failed because the alignment focused on process not people.  Of course people would resist! 

I am still pondering where the best place to start is (smallest adjustment that creates a big impact) but like Mark said: "There's good guidance here".


Peter.westley's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

You could try reading Marshal Goldsmith's "What Got You Here, Won't Get You There: HOW SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE BECOME EVEN MORE SUCCESSFUL" It has some great practical advice on overcoming some of these obstacles.


-- Peter

DISC: 2564

asteriskrntt1's picture

What did you really want to ask?