‘They should know what I’m doing’ The voice of frustration from someone who has had their head down, perhaps for years, bent over their tasks and their teams only to discover that ‘they’ – not their immediate boss – but ‘they’, the wielders of power and decisions, don’t know, understand or seem to care what’s really been going on.
Equally frustrating for those at the top of an organisation for whom the idea that they can know everything that’s happening down below is laughable. What they do know is that they are desperately reliant on being told what they need to know.
The realisation that doing a good job needs to include letting others know about it comes naturally to some but as surprising news to most and gets rejected by not a few. For evidence, look at the bad press that surrounds anyone who is good at promoting themselves and their work. For explanation, register that, for the opening fifteen to twenty years of our lives, first parents then teachers track our performance in detail and with interest. For good measure, throw in parental injunctions not to ‘blow your own trumpet’. Then it all stops but no-one points out that you are emerging into a different world and different behaviour is required.
For some, just pointing out the changed world is enough. For one director I dealt with, he was about to present to the board on a crisis that had developed in his division. In the dry run there was an undertone to his performance of ‘you should bloody well know all this’. On the day, after realising the ‘childishness’ of what he was doing, the board congratulated him on his mature approach.
Mostly, people who have never practised the art of keeping ‘them’ aware of what’s going on in the engine room need coaching until they have built up that missing piece of their repertoire.
And for a few, for whom keeping ‘them’ informed is still distasteful, it will require a more therapeutic approach to find out what belief system is keeping that attitude locked in place. A partner at a global accounting firm had inherited a tremendous work ethic from his parents but it carried with it powerful injunctions to ‘know his place’. Some years ago he worked with me to re-examine this. He is now sent in to reinvigorate underperforming parts of the organisation, drawing down the attention and backing of ‘them’ as part of his skillset. In turn, ‘they’ point to him as a model for others to learn from.