was this not what you wanted? (business version)

====

“Was this not what you wanted?”

remnant-thoughts

===

I saw this quote/question posted on a-thousand-words.tumblr.com and I had to stop and think. And, ultimately, the phrase got stuck in my head like a bad 70’s song with a catchy beat.

Ok.

want need sign hard easyEven worse than a bad song I associate this phrase with a typical incredibly stomach churning feeling.
The words “was this not what you wanted?” more often than not creates an angst driven internal churning. Needless to say … not many good feelings get tied to this phrase.

That said. My thoughts crisscrossed between business and Life.

This is the business version of “was this not what you wanted?”

Ok. I don’t care if you are just starting out in business and are sitting in your manager’s office handing them something or you are the most senior of senior managers if you are faced with a situation where you find the words “was this not what you wanted?” coming out of your mouth it is, well, not good. It generates a sinking feeling which is a combination of real tangible <I wasted my time and will now have to work on this more> and real intangible <I didn’t meet expectations>.

This all may sound oddly surprisingly – the fact that doing what someone wants is a perilous path in business. You would think that following orders could never be perilous. But, yet, it indeed often is.

First.

The main peril resides in the fact many people do not really know what they want <hence the stunningly tortuous “I will know it when I see it”>.

Secondly.

Sometimes … well … the initial ‘here is what I want’ is very wrong. Sometimes even frightfully wrong. And I say that on even the most basic tasks you are tasked with. Managers are humans too <although they sometimes act like aliens> and many times they unthinkingly <or less than thinkingly> want some specific task checked off a to do list and set you off on your merry way to ‘do what I want you to do.”

Now.

All that said. It would be incredibly easy for me to suggest that giving people what they want is a business career destined for failure.

I will not. And I cannot.

Consistent delivery at work is most likely the most valued attribute an employee can offer. Without it you provide less tangible value as well as maybe the most important failure – your manager has less trust and therefore knows they have to invest more energy & focus on you. That is the kiss of death for an employee.

While doing what is wanted taskwise can be a surprisingly movable target, if you can master it, you become an extremely valuable employee or business partner. Yeah. Valuable <do not ever completely commoditize or devalue the importance of consistency>.

However.

Consistent delivery can also be a negative to an employee. <insert a mental “yikes” here> That is because it does have a nasty habit of nearing ‘commodity-like’ behavior. The implication being “anyone can do that.” And while that is more often than not a wrong perception … it is a perception nonetheless.

what want need giveThere is a bunch of advice, some good and some bad, with regard to how to avoid the ‘was this not what you wanted’ scenario but that’s not really the point. The point is no matter how good the advice you are stuck in the wretched hollow in between need and want. And in that wretched hollow you are guessing. You have received specific direction on what is wanted tangibly <uh oh … is that just the ‘basic delivery’ – and I want more – or is this the ‘desired actual delivery’?> in addition you have most likely also received some open ended “don’t just do … I want you to think about what you are doing” thereby creating some nebulous ‘want’ objective.

To be clear on the latter.

Some managers cop out on that by saying “I didn’t need you to think on this one I just needed you to do what I told you to do on this.” It is a cop out. And if they are honest with themselves … it is a lie. If you have said once, at any time and any place and within any project scenario, “I want you to think an offer some additional thinking” that creates an unsaid halo over everything else that comes after. And, frankly, managers grab this halo and shove it in your face whenever they choose.

Anyway.

Unlike in Life <where this can be fairly resolvable because it is internally driven> in business this is not resolvable despite what experts may suggest. There will always be a wretched hollow in between need & want. In business terms that is most likely called “added value.” In business you are constantly navigating value provided. And that value is always partially need and partially want driven.

What I can tell you unequivocally if all you do is give someone what they ‘want’ more often than not you will end up far too frequently delivering stupid shit that doesn’t help the situation. It would be simplistic to suggest that success in business resides solely in giving others the things they need, and not the things they want because , as noted earlier, business truth typically lies somewhere in between.

—-
“Don’t give them what you think they want.
Give them what they never thought was possible.”
Orson Welles

Not knowing exactly what you want is actually typical. Most of the time business people don’t know what they want. And while that may sound like want need expectationsthey are stupid … it is not driven <most of the time> by stupidity. It is more often than not driven by an inherent belief that everything can be better. And it is also driven by an inherent belief that ‘better’ is something they have either not thought of or have not had time t think of <hence the desire to have you think because somehow you have the time to think when they don’t>.

Not knowing exactly what you want is actually typical. This is because … well … there is a bigger picture and a smaller picture. Some business people have a grasp of the bigger vision but are sketchy on the details of how to attain the bigger picture. Some business people have a grasp of the littler vision but are sketchy on how to attain the more nebulous panoramic bigger picture.

Not knowing exactly what you want is actually typical. That is because most business people are not particularly good at navigating big and small at the same time. and by “most” I mean junior, middle and senior business people.

This is not to suggest you should simply accept “was this not what you wanted?” as standard operating procedure. This is also not to suggest that you shouldn’t feel the sinking feeling every time you say it in business <because that feeling NEVER goes away … and I kinda think it shouldn’t because it is a reflection of meeting expectations which is a good measure for a good business relationship as well as personal assessment>.

This is to suggest the phrase is a reflection of the constant line you walk between the head and the wallet in business. I will also suggest that walking the fine line between need and want, sometimes this is the line between strategy <future value> and execution <present value>, means you are constantly teetering between good performance and bad performance.

And that is … well … harrowing.

It is harrowing not just personally but in the larger picture. You cannot have a long term strategy without delivering on a short term strategy. And you cannot want need clever clicks combe successful long term if all you do is deliver day in and day out focused on a short term strategy. This is true of a larger business as well as personal career.

I do not have any simple trite expert advice to offer today <unlike some of the tripe you will find online from so called experts>. Personally I have always focused on “what they need” without sacrificing what they want. I feel I can do so because in my experience most business people rarely are 100% wrong in stating what they want because most times they now more than I do about what they are in the business of doing.

And even that said, I have sat in hundreds of offices and businesses and said “was this not what you wanted?” … painfully I may add. I may have figured out a way to say it differently but in the end it is all just the same.

And it sucks.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce