Monday, June 9, 2008

Best career advice. Ever.

Best career advice I ever got - from a past president: "Don't tell us the canoe tipped over, tell us how to get to shore."

Seriously, no one ever wants to hear only the problem, they want options for solutions.


Jeff De Cagna/@pinnovation said...

With all due respect to your past president, this very clever saying is incomplete career advice, since simply being able to satisfactorily solve the consequences of problems or mistakes isn't enough for leaders.

To continue with the metaphor, leaders have a responsibility to figure out why the canoe tipped over in the first place, and adjust accordingly to keep it from happening again. After all, if we continue to make the same mistakes or confront the same problems, we may find one day that we aren't able to get back to shore safely.

Anonymous said...

Well, Jeff, I think you're being optimistic. We'd LIKE for leaders to want to find out what went wrong, but frankly, they really do want to know most about the 'shore and safety' part. So from a staff management point of view, I agree with Cindy: get 'em to shore. Then, it might be well for the staff manager (the one with the experience and the history) to encourage a retrospective...knowing full well that the transient leadership may learn an object lesson but won't rebuild the canoe.

Jeff De Cagna/@pinnovation said...

Gertie, I certainly hope it isn't misplaced optimism to expect something more of leaders. I cannot, in good conscience, call someone a leader if he or she is interested in only the most superficial and expedient learning.

At the same time, I think your comment pragmatically reflects the dysfunctional reality within many organizations in our community, and it is just one of various wicked problems we're going to have to address head on if our associations are going to seize the opportunity thrive in the 21st century.

Cindy Butts said...

Jeff: Not sure why you'd believe the quote couldn't encompass the idea of checking the source of the problem as part of crafting a solution? Or why any one quote could ever include everything? However, I believe, as Gertie does, that there can often be external factors that create serious problems - such as natural disasters (e.g., Katrina), death, the economy - i.e., causes that staff or officers can't "fix"; as well as recognizing often when a problem is from human error that leadership expects the CEO to fix without having the officer finding they personally need to "own" the problem too. I don't believe that creates a "superficial" response, but rather a response appropriate to the cause. There are staff who don't define their role as problem solvers, only problem reporters - and that's the situation my post attempts to address: That it's more effective to solve than to just identify problems. CB

Anonymous said...

And to continue this, I think it's easy to forget that in membership organizations the leaders are often working practitioners of their field of expertise, and that and personal priorities come between the problem and the solution. As a staff manager, I am the expert in fixing and solving, much link the janitor of an apartment complex. Elected leaders are in fact renters, not long term tenants or vested-interest owners.