The Pain of Management by Objective (MBO)

It’s not an entirely bad idea.  Pick the one thing (it’s actually never ONE) and rally all the troupes around this cause to leapfrog your company ahead in the marketplace.  Focus is a great thing.  (I’m currently reading The ONE Thing by Jay Papasan & Gary Keller) Those who focus excel.  The problem is this is what MOB ends up looking like in real life.

The alarm goes off, and with dread I realize another day has come.  Another day where I feel stress upon the moment I wake – knowing deadlines surround me, and risk taking is appreciated, unless there is an opportunity to fail- which there is, and then it’s not.  My commute builds the cortisol in my body- anticipating the reactions and challenges of the day.  I cringe at entering the building and what might be facing me in my increasingly smaller cubicle, in my inbox, and at today’s meetings.   I’ve tried to enter the office earlier and earlier to have a moment’s peace to prepare for the day, but everyone else is doing it too, and so now all we do is work longer hours.   Today – like every other day there will be challenges to my authority, my leadership and for my territory.  I must monitor my staff’s actions, positioning and even presentations to be sure we look like we know what we are doing at all times.  I can’t even trust them to make good judgments in their projects.  I have to oversee everything and insert my experience at every turn.  I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.  I can’t say anything to my boss- she’ll think I’m incompetent if I say I need help, and I can’t look bad.  If we don’t make our numbers this quarter one of the managers is gone – and it can’t be me.  I’ve got a kid going to college next year, and another in two more years.  It won’t be long before my mom’s cute forgetfulness becomes a memory care problem.  I’m just going to keep my head down and put in the hours- they can’t let me go if I keep meeting my objectives.  It’s just a high cost to pay…

If you can relate to any of this you realize that you’ve been immersed in a culture that is skeptical at best, and resisting at worst.  You’re in protection mode, feeling a sense of combat fatigue- seeing valued peers let go- and wondering if you’re next.  In this state, we rely on our primitive brain- and can’t see opportunity or even collaborate because trust isn’t present.  It’s not necessarily MOB’s fault, but when all the decisions are made for you – the what and the how- there isn’t much room for conversations that create connection and open possibility.

Consider experiments- figure out safe situations to create trust.  Be willing to be curious and see what that opens for you.  Curiosity is the opposite of Judgment.  Our professional careers are based on applying judgment all day long.  We must remove ourselves from a position of having to be right- and consider everything else.  I challenge you to try it just once this week. 

Have a Great Week -Happy Leading!