Every leader has experienced it….the end run game. One of their direct reports takes them out of the loop and heads straight to the next level leader or peer. From experience as a Church Executive Pastor I can tell you this is a regular occurrence in churches, and a real organizational challenge to navigate.
In football, an end run is a running play in which the ball carrier tries to avoid being tackled by running outside the end of the offensive line. In a metaphorical sense it has come to mean an attempt to avoid a difficult situation by dodging it without confronting it directly, or to attempt to circumvent someone’s authority by appealing to a different authority. For example, there is in a Star Trek episode where the character states: “You need to take it to the Captain, fine – through me. You do an end run around me again, I’ll snap you back so hard you’ll think you’re a first-year cadet again.”
John Haldeman, Chief of Staff to Richard Nixon, describes “end running” as: what happens when someone with his or her own agenda meets privately with the President without going through the Chief of Staff. All too often the result is a presidential edict that has not been well thought through, communicated, or coordinated. Haldeman then adds a caution to future Chiefs of Staff: End running is the principle occupation of 98 percent of the people in Washington. Do not permit anyone to end run you or anyone else on your team, and don’t become a source of end running yourself.
Blocking the End Run
An end run is typically something that you do to avoid doing something else, usually something that makes you uncomfortable. It is an evasive or diversionary attempt to maneuver around some accepted norm rather than through an obstacle, person, or difficulty.
People are people. Sometimes we are just not comfortable in confronting things with our peers or supervisors. Sometimes we don’t like them and are actively trying to undermine them. At other times we are just too busy to take or make the time to communicate appropriately. Regardless of the circumstances, most leaders who are victims of end run behavior suspect surreptitious motives. And, their concern is for good cause, as end running can result in negative consequences for both individuals and organizations, such as:
- Loss of trust
- Poorly vetted decisions
- Poorly communicated decisions
- Poorly executed decisions
So, when this happens what should a Supervisor or Manager do? First, don’t play the end run game yourself…..model following the chain of command and accepted patterns of communication within the organization. Then, consider the following:
- Clearly and frequently communicate that employees jumping ranks and communicating to whomever they feel is unacceptable and the reasons why.
- See that employees know who they report to and understand the organization’s chain of command.
- Train employees to recognize what an end run looks like with specific examples.
- Establish the expectation that any individual that practices end running will be confronted.
- Establish the expectation that supervisors will be immediately notified of what was communicated when end run conversations take place.
Posted on November 26, 2019