It was a bit disappointing and hurtful that I wasn’t asked to help with the event — much less direct it. After all the project fit perfectly in my wheelhouse and I would have been brilliant in the lead spot — or at least in my opinion I would have.
So why would those handing out the assignments not pick me? Surely they didn’t realize what they had done. It had to be an innocent mistake.
I decided to prevent the blunder from happening again by alerting those in charge that I was interested and skilled in that particular area.
‘We’ll keep you in mind’
Right on cue they thanked me for my interest. They said they would definitely keep me in mind for future projects. I walked away feeling good about what must have been amazing communication skills on my part to have worked out everything so quickly and easily.
But when the next opportunity came I was overlooked again. And again. And again.
Then it hit me. The group had worked with me once a few years prior. They had brought me on to assist with a project because of my skill set and had asked me to serve in a support role.
Once the assignment got underway, I looked around and realized we were not working efficiently nor effectively and we could do a lot better job if they would do it my way. I elbowed my way to the top spot, took over the project and completed the assignment.
The end result turned out well as far as quality of the project was concerned; group morale not so much.
Overstepping the role
It may be true I had a higher level of experience and training in the area but that wasn’t the point. I was not selected to be in control of the project. I was asked to serve a support role. When I didn’t honor what I had agreed to do, the group took note and made sure never to invite me to help again.
I’ve also been on the other side of the situation and not appreciated when someone who thought they knew more than I did — even if they did — took over a project that was mine to lead. If I were chosen to manage the project, then those assisting should play the specific roles they were asked to do even if I seem to be missing some important insights, right? Not exactly.
After all a leader should want to be challenged and sharpened by his or her team. That means allowing team members to have the right to make suggestions for improvement. It doesn’t mean the leader has to do all that is suggested, but encouraging feedback and then sincerely listening and considering the concepts suggested help make sure the leader is thinking around all sides of the subject.
At the same time, team members must remember to be respectful of the leader and the leader’s decisions. Discussions, debates and even disagreements can happen while a topic is being decided, but once a decision is made, the team needs to be unified around the decision in order to function smoothly and healthily.
Working with a mismatch
Of course the difficulty comes in a situation when the leader is a mismatch for the project and no one wants to tell him or her. Or when a team member can’t handle not being the one in control and continuously causes issues for the team because he or she won’t cooperate appropriately. And no one wants to tell this person either.
I often wonder why we are so afraid to speak truth to one another. Yes some people make it hard because they are offended easily and end up pouting about it. Others don’t know how to deliver truthful messages with compassion. They only know one style and it cuts deep.
We all should do more self evaluating and determine what we are doing to make people afraid to be honest with us. We also should welcome honest feedback and not be so easily offended.
At the same time we should work harder at sharing (with grace and love) our concerns with those in our lives rather than avoiding them or humoring them with fake responses.
The truth hurts sometimes but it hurts more to discover that someone you trusted didn’t tell you the truth.
—Jennifer Davis Rash