If you're responsible for monitoring compliance with organizational policy or government regulation, you sometimes tell people who have organizational power that they must stop doing what they're doing, or that they must do something differently. This can be risky or even downright dangerous. How can you manage it safely?
Even if your organization is serious about dealing with noncompliance, those not in compliance can see you as the problem. Instead of taking corrective action, they might try to curtail your authority, restrict your resources, attack you personally, or even terminate you.
To be most effective, become a tugboat captain.
Tugboats are small, powerful vessels that maneuver ships much larger than they are.
Large ships can apply tremendous forces fore-and-aft. But most large ships have relatively little ability to exert transverse forces — the very forces they need if they want to change direction.
If you monitor compliance
with policy or regulation,
become a tugboat captainTugboats aren't powerful enough to start or stop a large ship quickly, but they can control the large ship's direction. They rely on three strategies. They work with the harbor pilot on the bridge, they work in teams, and they focus on direction, not speed.
If you monitor compliance with policy or regulation, what does it mean to be a tugboat captain?
- Know your vessel
- Know that you're on a tugboat, not a large ship. You can't float the weight they do, and you can't survive the high seas like they do. You do have tremendous power for your size, and you're very maneuverable. Knowing your strengths and limitations is a key to survival.
- Know the harbor
- Know every shoal, channel, and wharf in the harbor — and every mistake other tugboat captains have made. Know just as much about the ships you maneuver. This means that you know the regulations or policies that you're responsible for monitoring, and you know the strengths and limitations of the managers who must comply.
- Work with other tugs
- Tugs usually work in teams. They rely on each other and use each other as resources. Work closely with others who monitor compliance. Share techniques and learn from each other. Coordinate action.
- Get cooperation from the bridge
- During tight maneuvers, a harbor pilot commands the ship, coordinating with tugs. Secure the cooperation of management at all levels near the level of the manager you're monitoring. Especially important: a solid and trusting relationship with your own manager.
- Focus on direction, not speed
- Tugboats aren't so good at starting or stopping large ships — instead, they try to steer them, while the ship provides fore-and-aft power. Let the manager you're monitoring provide the impetus and power for change, while you focus on the direction of the change.
The article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenOypFjBACAIKJTDiEner@ChacGohokYPcotKtcqHOoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Decisions, Decisions: I
- Most of us have participated in group decision-making. The process can be frustrating and painful, but
it can also be thrilling. What processes do groups use to make decisions? How do we choose the right
process for the job?
- Accepting Reality
- Those with organizational power can sometimes forget that their power is limited to the organization.
Achieving high levels of organizational and personal performance requires a clear sense of those limits.
- Deciding to Change: Trusting
- When organizations change by choice, people who are included in the decision process understand the
issues. Whether they agree with the decision or not, they participate in the decision in some way. But
not everyone is included in the process. What about those who are excluded?
- Workplace Anti-Patterns
- We find patterns of counter-effective behavior — anti-patterns — in every part of life,
including the workplace. Why? What are their features?
- Workplace Memes
- Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our
notice. Here are five examples.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenGRzhuMWbWHnGyxXJner@ChacfEzlBEUpighjDDdpoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
- You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
- I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
- A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
- …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.