By Steve Moran

You’re the boss — C-suite, regional, or executive director — and way more often than you think, you are causing people to fail.


You ask one of your team members to do or stop doing something. You ask this because it makes perfect sense to you, or because someone else has made a request of you — another leader, a lender, a family member.

Or maybe you’re not making a request: You’re visiting the community — for a specific purpose, or simply because it is time.

You have every right to do so — more than a right, even an obligation to do this thing.

But …

Do you take any time to think about the impact this will have on those you are leading?

I hear the frustration, particularly from executive directors and marketing directors. Some examples:

  1. They get asked to generate a new report or gather new data that will take hours out of an already packed schedule.
  2. Corporate folks walk through the door without notice, and even if the purpose is benign, it is stressful and disruptive. It is worse when they walk through the door without explaining the goals.
  3. Corporate folks decide to implement a new program without talking to local leadership. It’s a new plan that makes sense to corporate but that may or may not make things better at the local level.

I am not suggesting that the things you need or want to accomplish are not good and should not be done, but you will be a lot more effective if you ask these two questions (from the book Right Kind of Wrong):

  1. Who and what else will be affected by this decision?
  2. What additional consequences might this decision or action cause in the future?

It’s Mostly Simple

By stopping and asking yourself those two questions, things will go so much better. In practice, this means that when you ask for something you, say:

“I need this report so that ….”

“I need this report because _________ asked for it.”

“I am coming to visit next week so that ….”

“Here is what I am hoping to accomplish.”

And if it is spur-of-the-moment: “I am so sorry to just drop in on you like this, but [I was in the area, I wanted to say hello, I was telling my friends about what you are doing].”

Not doing those things is your right, but it is horribly demoralizing.