Have you ever received a request / task from someone higher up the leadership chain that, at first glance, seems to make absolutely no sense to you? Have no fear, everyone above you is much smarter than you and you should just shut up and get it done.
OK, hopefully you’re reading on to know that I’m joking. Let’s face it, those requests come every now and again and it’s important to think through how to deal with them. Here are a couple ways:
- If it’s something with an incredibly short implementation time and has no impact on anything else long or short term, just do it. Much like the rules of GTD.
- Ask probing questions. Try the ‘5 Whys’ trick to get an understanding of what you’re really being asked to do. Maybe you’ll develop an entirely different solution than the one being requested, or be able to better understand it and recommend something already in place. The other benefit is that with all of your questioning maybe the requestor will just get tired of answering the questions and cancel the request.
- Hurry up and wait. Lots of time these requests are merely reactions to something urgent. Giving lots of attention immediately and outlining a plan lets the requestor know that you’ve heard him/her and respect the request. That being said, when you understand it, wait a little while before you actually do it. Sometimes (you’ll get better at understanding which ones are which) the request will actually go away and you’ll get a note that it’s not needed anymore.
- Inform others up the chain of command. The more people you tell, the more people you’ll have either backing up the request or agreeing that it’s not necessary. If they agree it’s not necessary, without you telling them that of course, usually they’ll be the ones to go back to Senior Management. If enough people agree with the request it’s probably worthwhile.
Take a minute to think it through when you receive those type of requests, just please don’t be a robot and do it because some senior leader asked. If they’re any good they’ll usually appreciate the fact that you thought it through first.