How does your boss influence how you work? A short list of questions to get you started:
- How often do they tell you what to work on?
- How do they promote working as a team?
- How often do they want status updates?
- How do they support your professional development?
- How open are they to feedback from you?
- How do they react to failure or a bump in the road?
- How do they communicate the strategy and vision?
- How do they help make your work product better?
So clearly it’s a question of how, not if.
The more interesting question, then, is “Why?”
- To please their boss?
- To meet commitments (deadlines, budgets, etc.)?
- Because this is how they learned to be a boss?
- Because of the organization’s culture?
- Because of the organization’s performance management approach?
- To climb the ladder?
- To earn a bonus?
- To demonstrate their value?
Of course, it isn’t only our boss who influences how we work.
So do our colleagues.
And the employees who call us the boss.
And the projects we work on—is it urgent?, is it political?, is it high profile?, have the stakeholders bought in?
And the (increasingly just software) tools available for use (has Zoom changed how you work? Slack? Epic? You get the idea.).
And our assumptions and beliefs—often learned long ago, ingrained into our very being, and unchallenged until now—about human behavior at work.
And then, perhaps most importantly, the management systems (I don’t mean software, but thanks to software it’s becoming easier to visualize them) in your organization. To name a few from a very long list: the budget, strategy planning, goal setting, performance reviews, compensation, bonus programs, project approvals, project monitoring, policies, procedures, committees, meetings … all together, all of the processes, formal and informal, written and unwritten, (needed and unneeded), your organization uses to ensure it delivers its services.
(It’s a lot, I know. We’re almost there.)
All of the above (and that’s not everything) combines to create … a system.
This system is what we recognize as the organization we work for. (We can also replace the word organization with: department, team, division, project team, etc. … because, guess what, systems are everywhere. They are inescapable.)
Here, finally, is why all of this is so hugely important. We must understand the system we work in if we’re interested in making real change happen. There’s a perfect Deming quote, as there often is when discussing systems, that establishes the point: “Each system is perfectly designed to give you exactly what you are getting today.”
Want it to be different? The change you’re seeking to make must happen in the system(s). Do it there. That’s where your influence is needed.