We hold these truths to be self evident, that …
- No one (managers, other employees, etc.) really knows how long a specific task takes at work.
- No one really knows what most people do at a given job.
Lot of different angles I could unpack here, and I won’t go super-deep into it — because who am I, really? — but none of this should really surprise a person. By some studies, only 50 percent of employees know what their own responsibilities are. If people are unclear on what they do, how can we expect them to be clear on what other people do? Plus, I mean, everyone is always slammed…
A couple of random observations on this general topic, in no particular order:
- Comedy Routine Story: Couple of years ago, at a job I had, I had to make changes to this website, right? Thing was, it was a separate website. My company at the time owned the domain, but no one was sure who managed it. I asked the lady who asked for the changes. No idea. I asked some tech people. No idea. I asked some other digital people. No idea. I went and asked accounting to see who was getting billed for the domain. No idea. Across about 14 people, no one had a clue who managed this site, who paid for it, who had ownership of it, etc. People just kept sending me in the same circular route of “Talk to So-and-So” or “Talk To Who’s-And-What’s.” It went on for about 2-3 hours. No joke. If someone observed my life that day, they’d think I was in a Three Stooges sketch. Sadly, I bet this stuff is pretty common day-to-day in a lot of offices.
- Knowing Roles Is Actually Valuable: If you legitimately know what other people do, it can actually make you more effective at your own job. When cluster-fuck situations arise, you generally know who to e-mail/go talk to and resolve it quicker. Not to mention: defining roles is actually a good call on starting team projects, too.
- Value V2: To learn what someone does implies you care about them, at least in a small work sense. It’s akin to legitimately listening to someone. When you show you care, that person is invested back in you. You may need help from them down the road. You’ll be glad you took a few minutes to learn what they do.
- Value V3: At some point, most organizations have a ‘rubber-meets-road’ moment in terms of money and finances and being more effective. (Maybe not Apple or Exxon, no.) Honestly, a ton of jobs that presently exist don’t need to exist at all. If you know what people do and really understand where the overlap is, you could be a value-add to the CFO in that moment. I almost guarantee you the CFO doesn’t know where the overlap is. If you want to understand why the CFO might not, read this.
I could be really misguided here, but I think a lot of the problems at work stem from those two core problems I outlined above: no one knows (a) how long things take or (b) what people actually do. Much of the “communication” stuff we complain about emanates from those concepts. Here’s what I’d say:
- Go against your own human nature, stop being selfish, and take time to learn about others.
- If you lead a process, learn the process.
- Replace the formal meeting with the informal check-in.
- Learn about people. It doesn’t mean you’re best friends. It means you’re work colleagues who know a bit about each other.
- Learn how the pieces fit together to make the whole of your organization.
The problem is, of course, that most people get comfortable with their team and their people and their responsibilities and their ideas and their function, and they only want that to change if there’s a promotion in play, or some extra money, or something along those lines. But because we’re so reluctant to understand others, we create all these problems for ourselves.
Don’t believe me? Read this.