The Good Solider

Ever hear of the “Good Soldier Syndrome?”   

He’s the one who asks “How high?” when a superior tells him to “Jump!”  He’s the can-do guy, the one with the sterling reputation as the ultimate team player.  

Describing a colleague as a Good Soldier may sound like a compliment, but it isn’t.

According to experts who study managerial behaviour, Good Soldier Syndrome is one of the biggest silent killers of projects.  

An unremitting inner drive for the constant pleasing of people inevitably leads the Good Soldier to making commitments they (and their team) can not handle.  The Good Solider often succeeds in the face of long odds, which leads to a perverse reward.   More challenges come his way, with the ever-increasing expectation of pulling off even more small miracles.  In fact, unchecked, this leads to a downward spiral and eventual burnout.

Any of this sound familiar?

According to a US-based expert in project management, the most effective project managers follow these steps:

1. Confirm the request by playing it back in your words

2. Take the time to analyze the impact of the request

3. Return with fact-based information.  (“It can be done. It will add £50,000 to the project cost and take about 12 weeks to complete.  We will have to redirect 3 people to do this. That means we will have to reassign their work to other staff, or delay completion of those assignments.”)

4. Have alternatives and make a recommendation.  (“Let’s do it this way, with these cost and timing implications …” Or, “My recommendation is not to proceed. Here’s why … But what if we looked at the problem this way …”)

5. Affirm your commitment.  (“We want this to be a success.”) 

6. If efforts to shape the request to your requirements fail, accept it.  But constructively  – and diplomatically – spell out your views on the details associated with the delivery of that request (risk, required resources, deadline, etc.).

The agency business is a service business, and one of Ketchum’s greatest strengths is its collaborative, swarming, aim to please culture.  So it’s not surprising most of us are preconditioned to say “Yes.”  

But saying “Yes” when we need to say “No” or “Here’s a better way” puts the organisation and profits at risk.  

Just a thought.