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Spiritual Breakthroughs in Difficult Work Situations – Part 2

May 17, 2010

For the past several weeks, I have been leading a team in a transformational project pivotal to our company’s future. The President himself had entrusted me to navigate the treacherous paths of this new venture: “Everyone else has failed, so why don’t you go and try to figure out this mess,” he said to me one day.

My little team spent hours and hours sweating inside a makeshift war room. We schemed up new flowcharts, process designs and org charts. We researched industry trends and best practices. We gathered feedback from dozens of managers. It was an intense and invigorating process. It was just like being part of Jim Collins’ Chimpworks team.

Eventually we had developed enough substance to present a serious recommendation to the other executives, and get their approval to move forward with our brilliant plan – one that would completely transform our organization, forever and ever.

By the way, it’s not like the other execs were unaware of our work. No, I made a point to be super extra sure in checking in with the key players from time to time, to bounce off their opinions and ideas, to show our progress, and basically to make sure they were bought in all along the way. Because, dear reader, I am no schmuck, and this is how a politically astute leader gets it done.

A meeting was finally scheduled to present the Big Reveal.

At the appointed time, I marched in to the Board room with my team, all smiles and greetings, carrying nothing more than a few handouts to frame the discussion. “How exciting!” I thought to myself as I watched my fellow executives taking their seats. “A turning point for the organization, all thanks to my leadership! They will owe me big-time for this.”

First thing, I passed around Exhibit Number One: a visual depiction of the New World Order, which basically summed up our entire life’s work over the past four weeks. With casual confidence, I began to speak with great fervor of our stunning new vision for the company’s future. 

 Unfortunately, my speech did not get too far. Within approximately two minutes of the opening comments, I was abruptly interrupted by one of the more forthright Vice Presidents.

 “This will never work,” he said with all the tact of a blunt instrument. He was looking intently at the handout. “You can’t do it this way.”

I chuckled lightheartedly at my moody comrade, and ever so deftly addressed his objections while steering the conversation towards a more pleasant direction. As I was reminding him of the very conversation we had two weeks ago when we had covered this exact issue, the VP of Sales jumped in.

“Wait a minute – what is this big thing in the middle?” he asked, pointing to a colorful orb centered on the sheet, designed to depict a critical strategy. “That’s not what we had talked about before. I had a completely different idea for that part.”

“Well, you see –“ I shifted the discussion away from the grumpy VP and started up an explanation to address this new line of questioning, when suddenly the Chief Operating Officer chimed in with a completely new suggestion. It was hastily resisted by the rest of the group.

Three differing opinions in five minutes.

Voices were now being raised, and I could sense a good deal of tension mounting. Once again, I tried to make my point, to get the meeting back in order, pulling the team back to the greater vision. But things were spinning out of control.

The temperature in the room was getting hotter. Arguments volleyed back and forth across the table for the next twenty minutes. No one was agreeing with my plan. No one agreed with anyone else’s plan, either.

Where had I gone wrong? The discussion was going in circles. Nothing was getting resolved. Although I could not exactly put my finger on it, I had the feeling that a foul spirit was hovering there with us in the conference room that afternoon.

Eventually the President said, “Why are we even looking at this proposal? I liked Joe’s idea from last month better.”

It was here that I knew that my meeting had finally gone down the crapper.

I burned with frustration all the way home from work that night.

Click here to continue.

(Thanks to Nance from the Poems and Prayers blog for the terrific photos!)

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2010 7:38 pm

    I was once involved in something much simpler and nowhere near as transformational for the organization — a redesign of the web site. Our team worked it, and hard. We talked through changes with everyone who had a stake in the outcome, we did usability testing and shared the data. We showed poeple what the new prototype would look like and how it would work, we incorporated suggestions, we got approval across the board — and when the time came for launch, people freaked. It was the moment that the theoretical had become operational, and that’s when the real engagement happened.

    The next time, we just did it — didn’t work it politically at all. And it sailed right through. Go figure.

    • May 20, 2010 5:11 am

      Yes, with most other initiatives, we will create smaller teams to make the decisions and then implement, otherwise it can go in circles. In this case, since it was a major directional shift that was being pushed by the President, I needed input along the way from the exec team to make sure they were going along with some of the details as they were being worked out.

      People are funny, aren’t they?

  2. Michele Corbett permalink
    May 17, 2010 7:47 pm

    Way to write a cliffhanger! Like Glynn, I’ve learned to not ask anyone their opinions. Just kidding – sort of. Now I’m all stressed about this big project I’m working on. What if it gets shot down in the first 5 minutes!

  3. May 17, 2010 8:08 pm

    The only people who gripe are the ones who don’t have any ideas, they don’t ever ‘ship’ and they don’t produce diddlysquat. THey don’t want to lead, but they don’t want to follow either. This sounds painful. Makes me appreciate what my/our husbands go through career wise.

    You’re the camel, you store your own water and make it across the desert with ease. Sounds like you need a drink at a deep well.

  4. May 17, 2010 8:24 pm

    Is a camel’s hide as tough as a rhino’s?

    This post brings to mind all the reasons I am so glad I am “retired”.

    Still, my guess is this is going to end well. Why else would it be a cliffhanger?

  5. May 17, 2010 9:20 pm

    oh, man!
    that sounds as fun a being blind-folded and put in front of a firing line.

  6. May 18, 2010 3:41 pm

    Why is it so easy for me to look at your situation and think of several pat answers, but forget them when I hit the same place?

    I’ll be watching for Part II.

    • May 20, 2010 5:13 am

      Your right – it’s much harder when we’re in the spotlight, caught off guard, and expected to deal with the pressure on the spot. In this case I was able to think about it overnight and come back the next day- keep reading!

  7. Melo permalink
    May 20, 2010 8:27 am

    I realize I should not be smiling. It is comradely smiling, if that helps. I almost started laughing hysterically.

    When folks sit at a board table, I think they just naturally get all snarky. I think it’s something about the room, and sitting on your bottom with nothing else to do except shoot. Should I say that?

    I think if you had to walk and talk at the same time, it would be harder to shoot people… but you’d have nothing to write on or point at except each other.

    Am off to read pt 1. Stories are so interesting backwards.

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