They aren’t “a project.”
I must start this posting by saying that I greatly admire the gentleman I’m going to quote shortly. I’ve read all his books, and have implemented several of the suggestions he makes within his expertise of GTD productivity, blogging about them extensively in past years. However this beginning to his recent newsletter sent up such a red flag with me:
I decided to make it a project (and priority) over the last few months to sit down with each and every employee in my company. I heard feedback (positive, plus improvement opportunities) and a ton of creative ideas (amazing what others see who are positioned in a different way in front of the fire hose!) I am now culling all of that intel. and looking at a stack of creative ideas. Interestingly enough, dedicating so much time to that process threw the rest of my personal workflow way out of my comfort zone of being in control. But what a great opportunity to creatively see how we can grow and adapt as a global company.
I challenge you this month to consider doing something that will take you out of being in control—even just a little bit. As long as you know how to regain composure and balance, and that you will get there, soon enough, you’ll be fine. There may be an unseen opportunity waiting for you to grab.
~ David Allen
The red flag is CEO detachment. Makes me think back to the first time I saw Undercover Boss (I never made it to a second episode).
If you believe in the overall philosophy of Managing with Aloha, and you decide to adopt it, this good intention of sitting down with each and every employee in your company cannot be ‘a project.’ It has to be your everyday m.o. I don’t care how big your company is.
David Allen needs the Daily Five Minutes.
I am sure Allen does have all kinds of conversations with people on his staff, and on a daily basis. However his project approach described here is a recipe for disaster at worst, and workplace mediocrity at best. Unless he is an exceptional delegator, the likes of which I’ve never seen, and able to delegate to a truly stellar network of Alaka‘i Managers, I simply cannot imagine how Allen can possibly follow-up on what he’s described as “a ton of creative ideas” — not to the extent where each person he spoke with feels valued versus filtered.
His aside is what he is consistently missing within the better context of their operational presence: “amazing what others see who are positioned in a different way in front of the fire hose!” Umm, yeah, you think?
Talking to your people, — Your. People. — cannot be an occasional project. To say this in the words that Allen himself taught me, conversations with your people are “Next Actions” for a whole slew of projects, probably every single project you can possibly think of. Conversations with staff have to be an integral part of your everyday life as a manager, for then valuing their ‘intel’ is part of your everyday life too. Following up gets less stressful, for it also becomes a smaller, more nimble bit of something daily or weekly. Like all the rest of it, delegation gets easier, and more timely. There’s less clutter: I’ll bet a lot of what Allen heard was stage play for that rare opportunity people got with the big boss.
In his newsletter, Allen goes on to feature what he’s ended with in this quote, the urging to get out of one’s auto-pilot, and “Stretch, disrupt, regroup, stabilize” your personal system. I agree with that part, but if you seek to be an Alaka‘i Manager I must insist on this: Talk to your people daily to Care for your people daily, even if your Daily Five Minutes translates to seeing each of your 800 employees once every 3-4 years. You will be setting up a great habit, and a highly visual one, where keeping your people as Job One inspires them to help you keep your common causes as their Job One.
No Archive Aloha of related reading will be listed with this post. I’ve embedded several links already in a sincere hope you will check them out, and they will encourage you. If you feel you are usually more of a project with your boss, share this link with them, and then work on being a gracious receiver the next time they approach you.