Mark Hammer

Thanks Henry and Danielle. I would not expect anything less than sage articulate advice, and that’s what I got.

I honestly can’t say, Danielle, that things are getting worse (i.e., relationships have deteriorated). Not that they are improving in any sense, but I have no evidence that they ever used to be fabulous. I’m sure our parents and grandparents could supply us with plenty of examples of the same frustration I’ve voiced.

However, what I do think may be happening a little more these days, is churn within the management/executive community. Folks in leadership roles tend to move around more than the rest of us, and with the hiring freezes of the 90’s, many governments found themselves with an older workforce, and eventually a wave of retirements at the top over the past half-dozen years. That, in turn, opened up a lot of positions at the top, and a lot of movement and career hopscotch ensued.

The landscape that results is that more of those in leadership roles may have less knowledge about just who IS “the expert on X” within their organization. And even when they have some nominal awareness, they may have never interacted with that person so as to be persuaded of that individual’s expertise, by witnessing it firsthand. I know I’ve sat in on, and contributed to, meetings where you could almost hear management muttering under the breath “Holy crap! The guy’s right. How could we have missed that aspect? Glad we caught it now.”. But those who have only recently landed in a leader’s seat won’t know me from a hole in the dirt, and I imagine that is a scenario played out many thousands of times across hundreds of organizations. I don’t know how long it takes to learn who the “authorities” are within an organization (and it will probably vary by size, and where one is in the reporting hierarchy), but it doesn’t happen overnight.

So one of the big challenges, as I see it, is to instrumentally connect new leaders with the authoritative expertise within their organization, rather than simply wait for time and coincidence to run its course. I’m talking formal organizational protocol. Note that this is entirely different than “talent management”, which is diffuse and prospective in nature. It’s more a question of “When I need to make a decision about X, I need to speak to person/s Y and Z”. And as my meeting example in the preceding paragraph illustrates, it’s more than a matter of handing someone a list of “she knows a lot about A, he knows lots about B,….”. Consultation in management is always a matter of trusting that someone else’s purposes align with your own; that there is some stewardship involved in their reasoning. So the connecting of authority and authoritativeness will necessarily have to involve bringing the experts into some decision-making exercise so as to illustrate why their judgment should be trusted. Otherwise they will not be consulted any more than if there was no such list of experts in the first place. If there is to be a bridge between authority and the authoritative, it must be built on the voluntary actions of those in authority. The challenge lies in how to instill and entrench that reflex, and build it into the organizational culture such that the thought of appearing weak (by virtue of consultation) never enters the authority-figure’s mind..