The Boss was Frustrated Until Communication Improved

The Boss was venting to me regarding his frustration with his top performer, who was his assistant manager. I let him speak and when he calmed down, I asked if we could do a simple exercise with the assistant manager. He agreed, so I asked each of them to list the assistant manager position’s top eight duties, without collaborating and without sharing their lists until we were ready. They both had a hard time listing eight, but we waited until eight were on the page. Then I asked The Boss to put his eight on the whiteboard in the conference room, and then I asked the assistant manager to write her top eight on the board. As you can imagine there was not a consensus.

Actually, these two did better than most when I did this exercise in other organizations. They had five duties listed the same, The Boss’s frustration was coming from the three duties that were different between the two lists. This made for an excellent discussion and by the time we were finished, they were both on the same page regarding the top job duties of the assistant manager’s position. The assistant manager was thrilled about the results but she was also frustrated with The Boss because she felt she was doing her best. She knew she was an excellent employee, but she stated, “Sometimes she just couldn’t make The Boss happy no matter how well she performed.” The Boss always wanted something different, but she couldn’t figure out what!

When we were done, The Boss was curious about the other key positions in his organization, so we repeated this exercise throughout his company and ended up redefining the top duties for most positions on his organization chart. This exercise led to this company reviewing and updating their job descriptions and wage scales. If you decide to try this with your organization, you don’t have to take it as far as The Boss did in this case, but it will enlighten you to what the employees perceive as their top duties and what The Boss sees as the top duties. At the very least it will get all participants aligned with their top job duties.

In today’s competitive environment with top talent so valued, better communication can be a valuable tool to retain your top performers and hopefully attract the best talent in the market. Good people will leave your organization because they can, and lower performers will stay because they fear what’s on the other side. If not addressed, you will be left with your “B” team to run your organization. And for The Boss, there are enough challenges from outside your organization to frustrate you, identify and minimize the issues within your company. They are within your control!