What if management doesn’t get it?

challengesThis is easily one of the more common question that I get. Whether I am talking about authenticity, diversity and inclusion, creativity and innovation, social media or social capital…this is one of the questions that always shows up.

I use to have several soft, mushy, sympathetic answers for this question. I use to say things like “do what you can,” and “take baby steps,” etc. But I eventually came to realize that I was only contributing to the problem with those answers, so I am now wanting to respond differently.

Let me test drive my new response on you:

Do YOU get it?

That is my response.

some person: “Joe, this is great, but what do you do when the senior leadership of your organization does not get it?”

me: “Do YOU get it?”

some person: “Yeah, absolutely.”

me: “Awesome, that is probably why you are there, to help that organization find its way forward. Now go pick a fight. That is what change is, it is picking a fight with the status quo, it is being at odds with the world in its current form and there is always risk involved, so go pick a fight. You either have to go pick a fight, or you have to go find another place to work that is more closely aligned with your values and aspirations. If you want to say that you are a person that “gets it,” you have to go do one of those things. Or you have to stop saying that you get it.”

There are certainly conversations to be had about how to effectively drive change, about how to build influence, etc. Scott Berkun just posted a great piece on convincing your boss to try new things. But you have to choose to pick a fight first, simply saying that you “get it” does not put you on the right side of things…you have to act accordingly.

The reason this question became frustrating for me is that I realized people were generally just wanting to be seen by others as someone who “gets it,” or were maybe wanting to help their organization change, but without any risk.

No such thing exists.

Know what matters to you and find it or fight for it.

Be good to each other.

  1. Jeffrey Cufaude

    Love your new response.

    For me, “picking a fight” versus “fighting for what matters to you” resonate differently. Others’ mileage may vary, but “picking a fight” hits me as going into something having framed it as a battle, a likely contentious encounter. Immediately that means my approach is likely to reflect that belief.

    Fighting for something that I believe that matters emanates more from a sense of conviction and meaning, a deep desire that this is the right thing to do and that I am willing to persist despite potential challenges and setbacks.

    The latter is more positive and makes me want to get started. The former sounds a bit more reckless.

    Again, others may react very differently, but words matter since they shape our actions. For me your final words mattered the most and are the ones most likely to get me into action.

  2. Joe Gerstandt

    Thanks Jeffrey, I agree that there is a pretty important distinction there.

  3. Symbolist

    […] post the other day was called “What if Management Doesn’t Get It?” and it focused on how to respond to someone who, after listening to Joe’s message on […]

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