Do I advocate insubordination?
However, when I read that definition, I don't see any mutual problem-solving. I also don't see any mutual purpose or respect.
I don't see how that form of management makes sense these days.
I do challenge people directly. You might not have seen the framework from Radical Candor. The upper right quadrant is what Scott calls “Radical Candor,” where we both (people) care:
- About the outcome
- And the other person
- And we both want the best for the situation.
When we're congruent, we take ourselves, the other person and the context into account. We balance all three to find a way forward.
When my bosses told me to multitask and I asked them questions about what was most important and did they really want me to waste time switching tasks, was I insubordinate?
I am an eye-roller. I am sarcastic. I am sure I have not always been politic in my words. (Okay, I can guarantee that last part.)
And, my bosses never fired me for the way I discussed the problems at hand. They all realized I had the best intentions for the customers, my colleagues, and them. They realized I wanted the company to succeed.
Effects of Positional Power
Sometimes, my managers' bosses didn't feel the same way about my comments as my direct boss did.
Those people suffered from several problems—most of which was based on the system of rewards in the organization (part of the context):
- Because of their power, they were “on the hook” to deliver something we could not deliver. (Think about multitasking and trying to do “all” of it.) Their bonuses depended on us delivering. (See Courage Required.) Their bonuses did not depend on managing the project portfolio.
- These otherwise nice people thought they were more important than other people in the organization. (Mostly because of their positional power and the reward system.)
- If you'd asked these people, they would have said they respected the people who did the work of creating products. I would have disagreed.
At times, I have used my positional power. And, it's the weakest form of power. I have been much more successful when I used my influence, based on how other people see my competence and how other people see me as trustworthy.
We develop a shared goal when I was blunt, direct, and frank. And, possibly impolitic.
Shared Goal: The Best of a Difficult Situation
If we have a shared goal, is it insubordination?
I don't think so. We need ways to disagree with respect.
Should I frame my remarks better? Gotta say, I've tried that and had no results. I needed the sarcasm and eye-rolling to get the other person's attention.
Can we disagree so both of us see each other's perspectives? Of course.
When we both care about the outcome—a shared goal—and we treat each other with respect, we do not have insubordination. I will have to figure out how to write about this, especially for managers invested in positional power.
Thanks to my reviewers for making me think!
(And, if you're interested in exploring influence, please join me at the Influential Agile Leader. In 2020, it's in Boston, May 6-7.)