Managing the Mess: Pass A & B, Go Directly to C
As you encounter and then face a personnel mess, I would like you to consider that your first instinct is going to be fight or flight. Depending upon your bias, your instincts will tell you to “steel” yourself and take the matter head-on, or they will tell you to run “like hell.” Either response is probably going to be inappropriate.
Unfortunately, most management situations are counterintuitive. Your intuition will tell you to do one thing, but usually that one thing isn’t going to be correct. And, management by trial and error can be very costly in money and time. I suggest you create plans A, B and C and then disregard the first two in favor of the third.
When you’re faced with a management mess, your first reaction will be to formulate plan A. Plan A is usually the “path of least resistance” and something that will work in a perfect world. Sometimes, as we get into plan A, there is a need make midcourse corrections because the world isn’t perfect, and things are rarely an easy fix. This we can essentially call plan B. When this plan or strategy doesn’t work, we are generally left with the most radical or least attractive alternative—plan C. Plan C is that thing that we really didn’t want to face as we didn’t want to have to work this hard or take as much time. It’s not that we want to run from our problems; it’s just human nature that we hope they will solve easily and that plan A will work.
My experience tells me that plan A is related to that flight or fight response, not thought out or very realistic. As you get into plan A, which has inherent flaws, plan B emerges but it is little more than attempting to jam the round peg deeper into the square hole. Plan C will probably be the most effective way to solve the problem. My recommendation for you is to go ahead and make plan A, even plan B. Put them down, either on paper or compose them at the keyboard. Look at them closely. Then be realistic, take a hard swallow, and set both aside. Now draft plan C.
Once you have a realistic plan, identify someone who you respect and trust. Remember that you cannot take an unpolished idea up, and you cannot vent down. If you take an unpolished idea up to your board or your boss, its flaws will be identifiable, and it will be a poor reflection on your skills and judgment. If you take your ideas to the next level down or below you in the organization, you could be creating another problem for yourself. Unless you’re really careful about whom you select, communicating down can undermine your position in management. Under certain circumstances, conversing with a trusted subordinate is perfectly fine. However, if that “trusted’ subordinate turns on you or acts in a predatory manner and takes the information out of context, it could undermine you.
What I’m suggesting is that you identify a mentor or, better yet, several mentors to assist you in polishing your ideas and planning your moves. Napoleon Hill, in his landmark 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich, urged his readers to establish what he described as a mastermind group. Everyone needs an individual or, better yet, a group of individuals to assist him or her in polishing ideas and establishing plans of action.
When faced with personnel messes, you need to have the wisdom and courage to identify, and then implement plan C. You should present your dilemmas and concerns to your mastermind group and gather their inputs to gain confidence in the plans and strategies specified. Again, plans A and B will not be good enough and, in most cases, will inhibit your ability to solve the problem. As much as you want and wish for the first plans to work, my suggestion for you is to go directly to the implementation of plan C after working with a mastermind group to help polish, clarify and perfect it.