I try to steer clear of discussing politics with friends, family, and coworkers. Except for my dog, who is interested in the discussions when I have a snack in my hand.
A recent comment I read was from presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who said:
“My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”
Sounds a lot like what Jim Womack describes as modern management compared to lean management. Pick an arbitrary number, decide longer hours is the solution, and the kicker… tell people, “That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut.”
The only way? Really? Why not work smarter and eliminate the waste?
This reminded me of a time I attended a meeting at a manufacturer. The meeting was with a plant manager, a shift manager, a front-line team of about 12 people, and a few people from corporate. It was a meeting to discuss ways to improve flow of the product they were building. I was excited to see the line workers so involved in improvement discussions. You could see and feel the passion of improving the work, their work.
That’s when it happened. One of the folks from corporate who was facilitating the meeting (and who was new to the company) said, “That’s a good suggestion. But I’ve got a better idea…”
In a blink of an eye the passion left the room and a dozen sets of eyes rolled. Just five words and that was it. “I’ve got a better idea”…
Just these five words can kill engagement. Perhaps second only to the most deadly five word sentence of all: “We can still be friends.” As a result of this person’s words, people left the meeting feeling defeated when the goal had been the opposite – to get them energized.
Choosing your words wisely is always a hard thing to do, especially when you are in the spotlight. I’ve put my foot in my mouth so many times that I can tell you that Reebok tastes different than Nike. But a person can get better at it, a manager can get better at it. My former boss gave me great advice I try to use, to “not react, and just sit with your thoughts for a moment.” Sometimes that moment needs to be an overnight.
So is working harder the solution? Is working smarter? Are they sometimes one and the same?
My vote is still up in the air for the next election. My guess it that if a candidate offers to ask questions instead of telling us that their way is best way, they will get my vote.
So what’s the worst thing you’ve accidentally said, while trying to make things better with your team or at your organization? What might you have done differently?