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“Take Control, Deliver Results”

Many years ago (ok, not THAT many) I used to work with an Operations VP, let’s call him Bob, that used to use this expression all the time. He used this expression with his direct reports as well as anyone in charge of a support function. I initially characterized “Bob” as a bit of an old school kind of guy. He was very direct, bottom line oriented and he certainly didn’t suffer fools lightly. When I first started working with him I was a bit put off by his approach. I felt he was direct to the point of being rude and condescending and it seemed like he was never interested in hearing about the challenges that his Directors and business partners were experiencing. Anytime he approached his staff about why certain metrics weren’t met, a sales opportunity was lost or why we weren’t able to hire enough people for his teams it seemed like he didn’t want to understand or accept the challenges we were facing in an outsourced call centre environment. His simple response to everyone was, “Take Control, Deliver Results.” Week over week, month over month we heard that mantra deadpanned at every meeting we were a part of, so much so that I really got to hate hearing it and resented the man and what I perceived to be this flippant response to our challenges.

ControlI (finally) took a step back and realized this could all go one of two ways. I could continue to get P.O.’d by this response and lack of feedback and my managers and staff in turn would continue to get upset and suffer, or I could think of a better way. I really tried to get into Bob’s head space. I mean, why would a very educated man in a senior position constantly respond with this kind of an expression? Was he really just trying to be a jerk about things and make everyone’s lives miserable? I finally had my epiphany moment – maybe he wanted to hear about what we were doing to resolve the issue- duh. Maybe it was about “owning” the issue/situation/problem and finding out a way to deliver results in the face of adverse circumstances? Bob didn’t want to know about the “why.” i.e. why things weren’t working or why results weren’t being met, he wanted us to own the problem and come to him with the solution….a.k.a. deliver results. He didn’t care about all the other stuff – just deliver, deliver, deliver.

So I changed my approach with Bob. Instead of trying to educate him on labour market demographics, unemployment rates or how our competition was paying more/hiring as much as we were, I decided my team and I would own the problem and deliver results. So my Recruiting Manager and I put our heads together and put together a brief, but pointed plan on what we could do to fill the proverbial pipeline and help Bob grow his team. We identified the various pipelining activities, branding initiatives, recruiting campaigns and process improvements that we felt would get us there….and then we also put together a reasonable, well thought out budget that we knew would be required to get us there. We approached Bob with our plan, our budget request and our projected metrics in the form of an ROI on our campaigns. After about 15 minutes of discussion and clarifying questions from Bob, he signed off on the plan and the budget and we (HR) never heard the expression, “Take Control, Deliver Results” from Bob again.

So what is the morale of the story here? Well, I really don’t think I was some sort of genius for figuring out Bob’s cryptic message. I think as HR professionals, managers and leaders we often have to take a step back from the fire and really listen to what others are saying as opposed to responding emotionally. There is a bigger lesson in all this though. That is, if we truly want to be strategic in our roles, be seen as effective business partners and add value to our organizations than we need to OWN the organizational challenges we are faced with. We need to TAKE CONTROL – stop focusing on the problems, obstacles and other things that are out of our control. We need to own the issue, come up with a solution (instead of rationalizing why something is what it is or why it can’t be done) and then DELIVER RESULTS. This where and how we truly add value in our role(s).

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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