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Strategic Lie

"Computers do not do what you want, they do what you ask them to do"
Old IT baize

"What’s wrong with this employee?! You keep telling him it is necessary to be more attentive during the project execution, but he still does not notice the article in a core magazine, which can overset our further work fully, - in fact our competitors have already announced that they use similar system and have even given patent application!"  How often do leaders face such situations? For how long is it possible to wait for employees to finally do exactly what we want them to do? Maybe it would happen if we told them precisely what we need?

Some time ago a concept appeared in effective companies: Strategic Lie. It implies that the leader is completely responsible for all actions of his subordinate including failures. Why is this "Strategic Lie"? Who lies? The leader to himself? What for?

Let’s imagine a situation: a leader sets a new task for an employee who has never executed similar tasks before. For example, he must write a quarterly report of department activity. After receiving the report, the leader calls the subordinate "on the carpet" and tells him off for incompetence, because the report did not meet his expectations. However, do leaders often explain tasks by concrete actions to their subordinates, patiently answering questions, which sometimes seem obvious and even causing doubts in the employee’s competence? Probably not often enough for employees.

Without deepening into causes, which are few, let’s try to answer following questions - what is the basis for the leader’s behavior? Why do directors and department heads act this way, often unconsciously condemning employees to fail?

Once there was an IT joke: "Computers do not do what you want, they do what you ask them to do."

Of course, people differ from computers by their ability to self-educate, but humankind invented schools and mentors, who help not to “slip up” on questions, which people have long ago answered, and to immediately choose the correct decision, confirmed by experience.

After all, no one asks pupils to prove the theorem of Pythagoras from scratch, without providing tools to solve the task. And a school teacher would not blame the pupil for failure before he showed him how to prove the theorem and has ascertained that the pupil can do it. Teachers (especially good ones) know that the success of students determines their own success. A good teacher assumes responsibility for ensuring that the student achieves success, believes that if the student failed - it is the teacher who made a mistake!

Are there negligent students unable to learn who missed too much at primary school to prove any theorems? Yes, of course there are. This is the essence of the notion in the title of the article! Even if it is true, teachers and experienced managers, all those, whose success depends on the work of subordinates, believe in the opposite:

- It depends on me whether my employee will succeed;
- I am the only one who can explain everything to the student so that he was able to prove the theorem even being wakened up in the middle of the night;
- I will not blame my subordinate for my inability to set the task so that he could fulfill it.

Can it be reverse? Perhaps it can. And that contains the premises for failure. Because when manager, teacher, chief will find an opportunity for themselves to point with their finger and say:

-It’s all my employees’ fault! Where can I find good people?
-Students at present time are not interested in anything, and know nothing, and don’t want to know.
then, such leader will act like that constantly and will blame the whole world that doesn’t let him work properly.

Conscious following of such belief in your behavior with subordinates during 1-2 months, for example, shows that satisfaction of employees from such behavior of their manager starts to drop a little bit and then it sharply grows. Because mistakes are possible at the beginning, when manager doesn’t define well whom he/she has to give the task and what degree of specification this particular employee needs.

Some employees start to take offences when they are told “obvious” things, some – ask for more details, in order not to make a mistake. But then, after 1,5 months of conscious work under the change of this belief, managers surprisingly start to notice that the amount of mistakes in the department steadily goes down, productivity of employees grows up and they don’t have to extinguish the “fire” as often as before.

This only proves that our job as a manager, to the considerable degree, is based exactly upon our beliefs and only afterwards upon our knowledge, skills and abilities. Skillful work with consciousness of personal beliefs and changing them to more effective ones raises the productivity of employees and whole departments sometimes for dozens of percents, which allows to release some time for more interesting tasks.


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