“Where there is chaos, seize control”
One of my early bosses and mentors, Gail Parsons, said this to me almost daily.
I was young and newly promoted in an HR role in the midst of a big merger. There was much organizational realignment. Everyone had a new boss and a new team. Most leaders were in the midst of relocating their families.
We were merging systems, policies, programs–you name it.
Every time I walked into her office with an idea, she would say the same thing: “where there is chaos… (and looked at me expectantly to fill in the blank)”
When I questioned the political ramifications of not getting the right buy-in she would offer these questions:
“Do we need this? Uh, yes.
“Is it a sound business decision?” Yes
“Do you have a strong implementation plan?” Of course
“Is your team behind it?” Yes
“Has anyone told you not to do it?” No, but
“Karin, look by the time everyone figures out that we need to do this, your team will already be doing it nd have great results to prove it in. Just do it well and tell me if you are going to break any big rules. I’ve got your back.”
So, this weekend, I called on Gail to offer some perspective on this time in our careers–and to ask what advice she would offer to new leaders today:
“It’s all about understanding the corporate culture. In newly merged companies there is often the opportunity to redirect the culture in an expedient manner. There is usually so much confusion that one can seize control while no one is looking. Control in this scenario is about getting things done– not looking for power.And“Where culture is well defined, get buy in to your ideas up, down and sideways. Never crticize. Be known as a builder. Weak leaders tear things down. Strong leaders build toward a better vision. Be patient and resolved.”
“Where there is chaos seize control,”
A once sentence mentoring program which encouraged me to:
- Do what needs to be done
- Not wait
- Take risks
- Be empowered
- Ask before breaking the big rules
- Do it well
- Have their backs
More of Gail’s advice for young leaders:
- Focus on your work and don’t worry about posturing and self-promotion. People notice good results
- Be observant of effective and ineffective behaviors. Recognize those which you exhibit and adjust accordingly
- Be a good listener. Sometimes silence can be a very effective tool, especially in a confrontational situation. When there is an opportunity to speak, rely on facts and not emotions.
- Go to where the problems are and find a resolution. Do not sidestep them. People take notice of strength in tough situations.
- Build a strongly connected team. If you have remote supervision maintain regular contact with your direct reports. Make sure everyone knows what everyone is doing.
- Demand teamwork. When direct reports don’t see eye to eye, tell them that their appraisals will reflect the lack of cooperation and teamwork. It is their job to resolve their differences.
- Respect the position even though you may not respect the individual who occupies it. We don’t get to choose our bosses. We all work for jerks at some point in our careers. Learn from their mistakes.
- Maintain balance in life. The job is not the end-all of everything. You need to clear your head to get a proper perspective. Family, hobbies, exercise, rest and faith. The job is just one aspect of your life.