The longer I’m alive the more often I discover problems that are someone’s failure to get the basics of their job right. We all love to believe our problems are advanced: it’s rare that any of us admit that we’re terrible at some of the things we’ve been doing for months or years.
One reason is hubris. It takes humility and confidence for a boss to say: “This project did not go well and it’s my fault”. It’s far easier for them to say something like “Our innovation infrastructure needs to be redistributed to support the new rate of change”. Or some other jargon soaked verbiage that sounds complex, makes them seem smart, yet distracts people away from what might solve the problem: identifying the problem in the simplest terms possible, including fundamental incompetences the leader is responsible for.
We habitually hide the core problem under layers of noise and complexity because it makes us feel safer, and feel more competent than if we confessed to the truth. Even the best baseball players strike out hundreds of times a year. Yet they don’t explain it away or invent jargon for it in the way people in the professional world do for unavoidable failures of a simple nature.
Worse, once we have been doing something for 5 or 10 years we convince ourselves we must be experts. And to admit we got a basic wrong would be fatal to our reputation. But honesty is so rare among experts, to call something what it is would likely enhance someones reputation way more than hurt it, especially if they know how to go about fixing this basic problem.
Example #1: What percentage of people in every profession do you think are bad at what they do? 10%? 20%? 50%? There has to be a number. What do you think it is? I say it must be at least 25%. People whose peers would never ever hire them to do what they are paid to do.
Example #2: I’d guess half of all professional managers have not earned the trust of their team. It has to be at least half. Now if you don’t have the trust of your team, no budget, no brilliant plan, no clever organizational model, is going to save you. Your team will always under perform if they do no trust their leader. End of story.
So regarding the working world: want to fix 50% of the projects out there? Forget all the fancy stuff. Convince these managers to find the guts to trust their own people, and then in reciprocation, the team will grow to trust the manager.
And on it goes. I’m convinced you can take any challenge a manager believes is intractable, impenetrable, something so complex they believe a PhD in 25 disciplines is required just to understand it, and slice it down to one or two fundamental problems that if called out could be solved and transform the situation.
What do you think? Does everyone need a reality check at the basics of their craft? Or am I just being cranky?