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“Management works in the system; Leadership works on the system.” Stephen R. Covey

Is your experience like mine? In the world of work all the front line staff know better than the higher management, but only having access to immediate supervisors spend a lot of time whining to them oblivious to the ‘fact’ that those supervisors probably have the same concerns as you, but are more informed about the divide between the senior leadership’s perspectives and your opinions, than you?

I’m not saying your opinion has no validity, but working with an excellent manager years ago made me realise that there is a better way to approach the reality gap between what the staffer thinks is wrong and why the SLT’s view may be different.

Most objections, in my narrow experience, are focused on how a system is working, be it I.T, a protocol, the paperwork (ooooohhhhh, the paperwork!) or some other procedure that just gets on your nerves and, you feel, is dragging you away from, rather than towards your objectives. And this is where directing your whine to a manager is pointless – because managers don’t create the system, they are responsible for making it work. So your intention to change things must be directed past them and at the bosses, who do design the system, or at least approve the one that someone (a consultant?) designed. But the approach to a ‘boss’ requires a change of tactic.

This does involve a little reframing. I’m not talking about compromising one’s values – quite the opposite, I’m talking about learning how to communicate your feelings, needs and viewpoints in a way that the SLT can understand. It will involve using management speak, but it means identifying the views of your target audience and phrasing your proposal in those terms. And you don’t need to bypass the manager – if your proposal is in leader-speak the manager will often just be happy that the need for their input is reduced.

So leave the whining behind, justified as it is, and see if there’s a better way.

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