I am at my limit and hope you can help.
I am a senior team leader with a very high performing intact team. We have a new, very inexperienced board who is wreaking havoc with the way I run my business. They are putting nonrealistic pressures on me to generate numbers that are simply not possible given our current structure.
My boss is changing my results presentations to the board without informing me or gaining my agreement so now we have a situation of overpromising and underdelivering. She will be protected, well, because she has powerful high-level sponsorship and she will be able to make it look like it was all my fault.
I have already pushed my team members beyond their limits, and I am literally having heart palpitations.
I think at this point I am so stressed that I can’t even think straight, what advice do you have for me?
Dear Heart Palpitations,
Ah, the joys of a new board. Everybody always thinks they can do it better than you, right? OK. A couple of thoughts for you.
First, calm down. Take a step back and get some perspective. Pretend you are viewing the whole situation from a helicopter 2000 feet up. Call up a good friend and tell the whole story as if it were happening to someone else so you can get some fresh angles on it and loosen some of the emotional grip.
Another way to calm yourself down might be to talk through the worst possible case scenario here – which may or may not be your getting fired, but let’s face it, it shouldn’t involve you actually dying. So, seriously, you have to get a grip or you are no good to anybody and the next thing you know you are having a heart attack because of work, which would really be tragic.
Once you have calmed down enough and don’t feel like you have a fire alarm going off in your head at all times, sit down and think about alliances. Who do you have alliances with in the organization—or who can you create alliances with who can provide counsel or other forms of support right now? This is when you really need help from your friends and if you have been having success in the organization you definitely have some.
Don’t try to go this alone, get some help. If this is happening to you it is happening to others too and there is strength in numbers. The fact that your boss is lying and misrepresenting your presentations is deeply concerning and I think you just might have to ride that one out.
You might think about sending your correct presentations to folks you have an alliance with, who might share them with their own bosses. Just in the spirit of information sharing, but also so you have a dated record of the truth. Or even escalate to HR. Yes, she has protection, but it is possible that some behaviors are beyond the pale, and she will get what’s coming to her.
Of course, you might wonder why I am not suggesting that you just talk to your lying cheating boss; that is certainly a good idea, but I guess I am assuming you have tried that or think it won’t make a difference.
Finally, you say you can’t achieve the deliverables with your current structure, which implies that you might be able to with a different structure. What if you were to come up with the structure that would allow you to hit the required numbers and make a case for the resources to build a new structure? Be creative and pro-active. If you review your worst possible case scenario, you might see that you don’t have anything to lose.
But first…get that stress under control, it is no joke. Once you lower your adrenaline and cortisol levels you will find that you are much better at creative problem solving. Put your hand over your heart, tell yourself that everything is going to be OK and take a deep breath in. Deep breath out. Deep breath in….
About the author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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