Bring Me a Rock – A Popular Management Game You Don’t Want to Play

Bring Me a Rock – A Popular Management Game You Don’t Want to Play

You’ve probably had the experience where your boss has asked you to do something but no matter what you produce, it doesn’t seem to be acceptable. You then fall into a less than productive cycle of redirection, rework, and redirection until the task is eventually accomplished to the boss’s satisfaction. Let’s look a little deeper and see how you, as a leader or manager, can avoid having your people suffer this experience.

In the management world this behavior is described as “Bring Me a Rock”. It describes the behavior of a manager or leader who assigns a task to a subordinate but never seems to be satisfied with the result. I recently came across a good examination of this subject while reading, “Turn the Ship Around” by L. David Marquet. In the book, Marquet recalls an example of this behavior (along with many other fascinating leadership tips) and the effect it had on some members of his crew.

I’ve experienced this in the workplace as I’m sure many of you have. I’ve even had a boss say to me “you should know what I want”. Who am I, “Carnac” (for those of you old enough to remember Johnny Carson)? How in the world am I supposed to know what you’re thinking? Consider the following four points to help you avoid this behavior as a leader or manager:

  1. Clarity – This refers to clarity of direction. When directing someone to accomplish a particular task you need to be very clear on exactly the result you expect. You also need to be sure that the person you’re directing has the same understanding as to the result that you do.
  2. Result – When directing, focus on the desired result, not the method. Unless the method is specifically important to that particular task, as a leader or manager you should be focused on the result rather than the method used (within obvious reason) to attain the result.
  3. Trust – You need to trust that the person you are directing has the knowledge and skill to accomplish the task. The person you are directing also needs to know that they have your trust to make decisions and that they have your support.
  4. Acceptance – You need to accept the idea that while the solution your subordinate comes up with may be different than what you would have done, it’s probably fine and will achieve the desired result.

Achieving the above is part of creating a healthy work environment, which is a primary objective of an Enlightened Project Manager. Another consideration is the effect that “Bring Me a Rock” has on morale and productivity.

One of the elements of motivation for many people is autonomy expressed as control over one’s work. The effect that “Bring Me a Rock” has on autonomy is that it reinforces the individual’s belief that he or she has little control over the work. Less autonomy equals less motivation.

“Bring Me a Rock” has an equally devastating effect on productivity. The thinking that develops goes something like this: “no matter what I do it won’t be acceptable so why put any more effort into this than necessary”?

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this subject with us and consider the following:

  • Do you play “Bring Me a Rock” with your people?
  • What can you do to ensure that you don’t play this game?


©2016 Joseph T Drammissi

2016-10-08T19:00:53+00:00 October 5th, 2016|Categories: Enlightened PM, Leadership, Management|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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