I was talking to a client (director in a Big 4s consulting firm). He shared that Of late he has observed a growing tendency in his stakeholders, of not fulfilling their commitments on time and also being unapologetic about this. He was very frustrated and upset about these behaviors of the people around him. I asked him, “What’s the bigger concern out of the two, not keeping up to the commitment or being unapologetic”? He reflected for some time and then said with a heavy breath, “Being unapologetic.”
It’s not just this client, I have seen this as a common concern of many leaders. And it’s obviously very frustrating especially when you are accountable for their deliverables.
Here is what I asked my client, “So let’s first understand what could be some of the possible reasons for him not fulfilling the commitment”? He came up with the following points:
- The person didn’t understand the expectation.
- He thought that if he asks clarifying questions, he will come across as incompetent
- He had too many other tasks and was not competent at managing time and priorities
- He couldn’t realize the significance of his contribution to the given work.
- He was not the right person in terms of the competence needed for the job.
- There could be a personal emergency/mental or emotional disturbance in his personal life.
- And finally, the most obvious one, he was too casual in his approach. Etc. Etc.
The list can go on and on. The point is, the essence of any communication is in the response that you receive. If you are not getting the desired response, you need to change your communication as per the other person’s needs. And for that, you need to understand Why they are not keeping up to their commitment before making opinions/judgments.
We as leaders, sometimes jump to a conclusion very fast and be judgmental, without getting at the root cause of a person’s behavior.
And then I asked him, “What could be the reasons for being unapologetic?” These were some thoughts that came out from him:
- The person was too ashamed to even talk about it.
- Fear of being reprimanded
- Fear of being dominated if one admits the mistake
- Unconscious behavior of not saying sorry emanating from deep cultural background etc.
There could be many reasons for being unapologetic however mostly we tend to assume that the person is rude.
This post by no means endorses either of the above two behaviors (not fulfilling the commitment and being unapologetic) as that unacceptable.
This is just to create awareness that there could be more to what is visible and hence a good leader always asks questions before concluding. A hallmark of a good leader is he /she is slow in making opinions and always understands the other perspective before concluding.