Today, I was returning from my manager’s office to my own when I nearly collided with another manager-type in the hall. As I was approaching a hallway intersection, a manager emerged in a bit of a hurry looking to the left while she was turning to the right. She prolonged her view to the left for so long that her path was diverging directly into mine. In motorcycle safety course several years ago we were taught while taking a corner that we should look in the direction of the curve. Looking to the opposing direction could often cause us to veer off course toward the direction of our gaze. Referring back to my manager-turned-missile, of course, I scrambled to get out of her way before she hit me. This was rather awkward to do and by the time the manager looked back at me shuffling around, she look at me like I was the stupid one and didn’t as much as say “oops, sorry”.
Nothing in this world enrages me more than managers with an inflated view of their own self-importance. But this is rather indicative of the problem I think we face in our company. We know where we want to go, and if we just focused on our own goals, we would get there in spectacular fashion. This isn’t the case, however. We fixate on what other companies are doing and what else we could be doing instead of directing our gaze at what we are working on until it is completed. Couple these misguiding glances with all of our team meetings, morale events, office sharing and quarterly group/org/company ra-ra meetings that do nothing more than tell us what we already know — or tell us more than we care to know — and it’s no wonder we cannot get anything done.
I encourage Microsoft to start training our managers — and our non-management employees for that matter — to stay focused on the direction of our company. Stop worrying about what every other company out there is doing and start worrying about what we are NOT getting done on time. Our customers depend on us. You want to drive up customer satisfaction rates? How about delivering a product for them to be satisfied with! You want to drive up revenue? How about filling some warehouses with some freshly minted retail bits!
Obsessing over our career options at myMicrosoft and worrying about work-life balance cannot continue to be our main focus. Putting our focus in that direction will only take us off course from our real goals. Trust me, when we deliver quality products to our customers on time and under budget, our career options will open up for themselves. And nothing makes work-life balance easier than getting performance bonuses that we can spend on our nights, weekends and vacations or put toward our children’s college education fund.
I should clarify that I am also guilty of this very same problem. While re-reading my annual review, my commitments are filled with goals that aren’t in my direct line of responsibility. This is as much of a criticism of myself as it is of anyone else. Furthermore, my managers up my direct line have been pretty wonderful, supportive and have kept me fairly focused on my tasks.