Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Management Judo

I faced a slightly testing situation this week at work. A client needed something from my company. This client is a sister company in the same group as my company’s major shareholder, and we have common board members.

The same day that the request came in, the client’s CFO emailed one of those board members to ask him what he could do to expedite the request. He in turn forwarded it to me.

Effectively, she went over my head. My ego was bruised. I was not happy.

As soon as I received the email, I drafted a response to the board member responding with a status update. I also added a deadpan, but undeniably snide comment to the effect that the CFO could have gotten the same information from me had she simply asked.

Then I put the email in my drafts folder, telling myself that I would decide in half an hour whether I still wanted to send it. I ended up letting it sit overnight.

When I came back to the issue, I realized that had I sent it I would have been guilty of the same thing that had pissed me off – I was complaining about her to one of her directors.

I also realized that this was a very time-sensitive issue for her and she was trying to pull out all the stops to do her job. Yes, she was thoughtless in how she went about it. This could have been because the urgency caused her to overlook the niceties, or it could be because she’s simply one of those people who don’t have a strong sense of empathy (I know lots of them).

But at the end of the day her intentions weren’t important. What was important was to solve her immediate problem, and also to improve our relationship.

So I deleted the draft, and emailed the CFO directly. I gave her a status update, explained why this particular process was necessary, and gave her my best estimate of when we’d be ready for her. And I told her she could call me if she needed. 

It’s not that I’m not still irritated with she did. But that is done and I can’t change the past – I can change the future though. The best way to avoid this happening again is to make sure I’m her first port of call when there is an issue. And the best way to do that is to make it more efficient, effective, and pleasant for her to come directly to me.

So that’s what I tried to do. Whether it’ll have the desired effect, I don’t know. A lot of management is about doing and saying the right things and then hoping that it has the desired effect.

More often than not, it does.
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