How many times have you not taken action for fear of losing your job? One of the things I’ve always appreciated about being an external consultant is that I don’t have to play “office politics” the same way internal employees do. In fact, my clients pay me not to play politics, expecting me to speak my mind and call it like I see it. In essence, I show up and do what I get paid to do.
That’s a rare privilege that, unfortunately, many employees in organizations don’t experience though. I was coaching a senior leader the other day, and it became very clear that for months she had been holding back and waiting for permission to do what she felt she needed to do. Her boss was not the most supportive or empowering leader, so this woman literally didn’t take action for fear that she might be fired for being insubordinate or for taking action that had not been authorized by her boss. Who would stick their neck out there under such tenuous circumstances?
If you ask me, I’d say that’s just crazy! This woman knew exactly what needed to be done – she even had the capabilities and resources available to her to get the job done with her team – yet she paused like a deer in headlights because her boss was not sufficiently engaged to lead the work. Not surprisingly, this lack of action put the organization at tremendous risk, and they are now well off their numbers heading into fiscal year-end – simply because a talented leader was too afraid of losing her job to actually do her job!
During our conversation, we then had that breakthrough – the one that you never expect and will never happen until you are present in the moment. What if I act like I’m going to lose my job anyway? With that mindset, I can be bold and act decisively – and quite likely produce very different results!
It isn’t about “being good” or following the rules per se. It’s about delivering what you are capable of and addressing your organization’s true business needs. In this woman’s case, she is already producing tremendous results more in line with her capabilities and more importantly in line with the organization’s needs. It just took recognizing that losing her job was far more likely to happen from not taking action and being perceived as underperforming than from doing what needed to be done.